Label is a term used to describe or categorize a person or an object. A label is just another word for a symbol that is used to identify or communicate about an object or concept. They are a natural consequence of our brain activity as we seek to understand and categorize the world and our interactions both personally and socially. However, they can also be used in a prejudicial and hateful manner.
In our past an important function of our brain was to protect us from danger and to do so quickly. As a result it needed to identify dangerous situations quickly. However, dangerous situations are not easily discriminated so the brain, which categorized and labeled any unknown, different, or unusual situation, as dangerous, survived better. The result is humans are fairly quick to label unknown, different, and unusual situations as not good or being a part of a they group or out group. Today most of our decisions do not require quick responses and we would be better served if we would slow down, use critical thinking, and make an informed decision. Alas, that is not what usually happens.
Labels are always context specific and used to group people mentally according to the assumptions or characteristics of the label. This improves the efficiency of our thinking for both: beneficially (generalizations) and detrimental (stereotypes) affects. Contexts for labels include: objects, people, structure, academic, ... They
- Can be negative
- Cause stigmas
- Create influence
- Stifle growth as a person cannot move beyond the label
- Stereotypes such as factory, school, church, low-achiever, high-achiever, dropout, nerd, gangster, teacher's pet, druggie, skater, jock, prep, clown, know-it-all, loser, techy,
- Labels help people make sense of things
- Make people, ideas... more visible or less visible
- Labels and symbols give students personal meaning
- People believe the labels are accurate
- People begin to see themselves as others think they see
- We must actively seek to distinguish personal characteristics of people both between and among people and those relationships to labels. Most of which have already been constructed to describe students in various ways.
- We must be aware to use labels only in ways that are responsive to personal and individual needs of students and benefit students.
- We must be aware to push definitions or descriptions of labels to include more rather than fewer distinctions among students.
- We must remind ourselves that labels are generalizations that influence student behavior, create expectations, build self-fulfilling prophecies, and establish sub-culture for students.
Excellence occurs when individual students achieve to the best of their ability.