Playing fair

A series of four National Film Board videos for children aged 7-12

By D Atkins and J Young (reviewers)

"Carol's Mirror," "Mela's Lunch," "Walker," and "Hey Kelly," are all useful for initiating classroom discussions about racism and equality. Each video is about fifteen minutes long and tells a story of a child from a minority racial group who experiences difficulty because of racial sterotypes. In each video, as the problem reaches a crisis, a pause is suggested so the class can discuss the issues raised

It is also suggested that educators choose the dramas "most age appropriate for their students." Since all four videos deal with similar problems, it is unlikely that more than one would be shown to a class; however, teachers may prefer to choose the video most relevent to a particular racial group or situation.

In all four videos the children work out their problems with minimal adult help. Only in "Walker" are parents seen in a supportive role, and these are foster parents who have only six months' experiance with their son. In "Carol's Mirror" an older sister helps Carol to understand the racial sterotypes that prevent an aspiring black actor from playing Snow White. The portrayal of teachers in "Hey, Kelly!" and "Carol's Mirror" does little for the teaching profession. Does this almost total absence of adequate role models depict the true story for today's children of working parents, who are herded into classrooms with a pupil: teacher ratio as high as 36:1?

Hopefully classroom discussion will cover other noticeable sterotypes: in all four videos the villain of the piece, the child who refuses to "play fair" with a member of a minority group is a white male, while in three of the four the victim is an attractive female from a visible minority. Peer pressure at first forces the nice white female child either to go along with or to ignore the situation, but later she comes to understand the position of the minority child as they work or play together, and she supports her friend publicly.

This rather simplistic solution is probably suitable for the intended age group, but does it reflect verifiable behavior differences between male and female children? If so, does such a tendency to non violence and tolerance in the female of the species reflect cultural conditioning? Is it innate? Does it occur because because women, being generally smaller and more vulnerable, have learned about the advantages of negotiated settlements? Young people need assistance to understand and control their own behavior, in order to avoid having that behavior manipulated by others.

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1993

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1993, page 30. Some rights reserved.

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