The essay was originally written for his civics class. The topic was "What problems in your school have to do with intergroup conflict or prejudice and what solutions do you recommend?" In the local contest, Melissa Andrie placed second and Rachel Hanson placed third.
In the picture, Ingalsbe, along with Rachel Hansen and Melissa Andrie, receives the local award from Paynesville Human Rights Commission member Jean Soine.
The following is the winning essay.
By Adam Ingalsbe
I think that the most common causes of inter-group prejudice are things that are beyond a victim's control. Our school is not very diverse, so many of the causes of problems are not as obvious. This also means that groups are less clearly defined.
Usually the problem is between one person and one or more people. The person or group causing the problem will find some imperfection in the other person, or just make one up. They will call the person gay, or they will say any number of put-downs about being short, overweight, not intelligent, or a "suck up" for getting good grades. They will then mention something, hoping to get a loud or angry reaction. If that is what they get, they will laugh and use that remark or comment to taunt the person until the reaction wears off. Most of the things that people are bothered about are unchangeable. Because of that, none of the people who are being bothered can just fix whatever it is perceived to be wrong with them.
I think that one thing that might help to alleviate problems in school between individuals and groups is to institute a school uniform policy. This would take away a lot of problems between people whose families cannot afford stylish clothes and those who buy designer clothes. I don't mean that a school should make everyone dress up as if they are going to a funeral. I think that a school uniform can allow some flexibility so that it is not boring while still maintaining the advantages of having the uniform.
Also, a peer mediation program, which we recently started at our school, can help to solve a lot of problems because the person mediating can better understand where each side is coming from. That way they can help determine why the problem happened and have better ideas for what steps can be taken to remedy underlying tensions in the school climate.
Another idea I have to solve problems is to do some role playing by classes, with one class doing its own activities where everyone would take turns being discriminated against. It might help students understand discrimination by having a fun activity or privilege each day that only certain kids could participate in. The other kids would be required to do something that is not enjoyable. I think that after everyone goes through this a few times, they will think twice before they say anything mean to another person and, hopefully, learn to respect others.
I can start to discourage others from saying mean things to anyone when I am around, which would probably help people enjoy being around me more. I also think that if I could get more people to do that, it would improve the overall school image and behavior. Although most people would think the opposite, you actually feel happier after you compliment someone or after you take criticism out of your relationship with others.
I would like to say that if any school is going to attempt to take prejudice and conflicts out of the school environment, it has to involve a concerted effort by everyone. Parents, as well as students, need to be involved in finding solutions. I strongly believe that if each student cooperates in promoting harmony, great progress toward ending prejudice will be achieved.
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