Skip to main content

Reply to "Claude Steele Discusses How Group Stereotypes Can Influence Intellectual Performance"

Originally posted by Faheem:
Topics such as the ability for many youths to memorize rap lyrics verbatim and how those skills can translate into academia, are discussed along with more general issues, including peer pressure, media, sexuality, career development, and gang activity. Written in an adolescent-friendly style, this much-needed book for educators seeks a different way of approaching students.

Granted Kunjufu should be credited for making education more accesible to Black students and helping us to better understand the academic and social needs of Black students; however, Claude Steele, trained as a social psychologist, is interested in investigating the ways in which racism and stereotypes, particularly the stereotype that says "Blacks are intellectually inferior" has influenced Black students' attitudes toward education and their competence as students.

This fall, I attended a seminar held by Steele at Reagan National in Washington, D.C. I was very impressed with his research. I'll never forget one experiment that he and his colleagues had conducted which revealed the negative consequence of gender socialization. The purpose of the experiment was to discover how women would perform on a difficult mathematics test when they are under the stereotype threat "Women are less competent in Math than Men." Essentially, there were two groups of participants involved (male and female college students) and two comparable math tests. Both groups of women and men were straight "A" Honors students, majoring in computer science and mathematics.

The first test was administered to the male and female participants, in separate rooms. The women were tested in one room and men in another. However, before the first test was administered to the women participants, they were told that both women and men tend to do well on this exam. After the first test was graded, the women performed with success. Their scores were much higher than the men's.

For the second math test, however, it was explained to the women that men tend do much better on this exam than do women. The researchers then asked the men to join the women in the testing lab so that both the women and men could take the second exam in the same room. Can you guess how the women scored on the second exam? On the second exam, the women's scores plummeted. They did much worse on the exam than the men, even though the second exam was no more difficult than the first.

Steele believes that what happened to the women in this experiment is comparable to what happens to Black students in public schools and other academic environments. Because Black students stay under the constant threat of people thinking they are dumb and incompetent, their learning suffers and their academic self-esteem remains low.
Last edited {1}