The 2005-2006 Essay Contest:
Honorable Mention

High School Division Honorable Mention

Lia Albini
Grade 12
Chase Collegiate High School
Waterbury, Connecticut

Each day, when we turn on the nightly news, we are bombarded by images of violence, civil unrest and disaster. We are informed of the goings on of celebrities, what they are wearing, who they are dating and how much they weigh. We hear of rapes, burglaries and fires. Sometimes it seems as though the only news worth reporting is bad news. The media reports the stories that they feel will garner controversy, thereby securing them viewers and making them money. Many times, an issue receives little or no coverage because the media feels it is simply not worth reporting. An issue like poverty in America, which affects millions of people, received very little news coverage until very recently. It takes an issue like the Hurricane [Katrina] to reveal the devastation that had been going on for years and years, but was given very little media attention.

Prejudice and bias skew much of what is reported in the news. The news media reinforces racial stereotypes by constantly featuring cases in which the criminal is a minority and the victim is white. An instance that occurred during the coverage of Hurricane Katrina featured two pictures of people carrying food. The white person in the first pictures was labeled as finding food for his family. The black person in the second photo was labeled as a looter. You are more likely to see stories featuring criminals who are minorities than those with criminals who are white.

Extremists and fundamentalists often receive attention for their actions when they represent only a small demographic of the population. More media attention needs to be directed toward people who are working to better their communities and society. Local events organized by members of the community to benefit charities or help a cause often receive less attention than they deserve. By featuring stories like these in the news more often, the media would be providing more realistic positive role models for children. Instead of looking up to celebrities, they would be able to see more positive, realistic mentors in their community.

Not only does the media need to change the kind of news they report, the consumers need to change their attitude about the kind of news they want to view. We are surrounded by messages promoting luxury and excess, when we should be trying to promote core values like honesty and integrity. In this day and age, however, many people demonstrating these values are no longer considered newsworthy. It is true, they aren't groundbreaking or controversial, and don't necessarily need to be front page headlines. But perhaps reminding the American public that it is commendable to be a good person, and to value your family and community, would bring us all back to earth after a night of news coverage of murders, disasters and rapes.

Ankur Bhargava
Chase Collegiate High School
Waterbury, Connecticut

The media in today's society is supposed to be the unbiased, objective source anyone seeking information about current events worldwide can turn to. The media, inherently, is supposed to be "for the news, and just the news," presenting all aspects of a story, giving equal credence to each. However, in today's times, such is not the case. In today's times, the stories that get the most coverage are those that will garner the highest ratings for the news station or will give the most viewers tuned into the station at any given time—generating higher revenues for the station through increased advertisement exposure.

Every five to seven minutes, an advertisement is shown on television. The typical newscast format generally begins with the more commonplace stories and gradually segues into increasingly sensational ones (ones involving connotations of death and violence, etc.). This segueing is designed such that viewers are "glued to the set" eagerly awaiting the more "exciting" articles and, in that time, they are delivered an increased amount of advertising. Pound for pound, the system can be described as "the perfect animal" because it works so well.

The stories that receive the most reportage are, generally, those that involve human suffering of any form. Stories about natural disasters such as the Pakistan earthquake, stories about the Iraq war, and stories about the latest urban uprising are always given more airtime than those of equal importance but more mundane nature. In short, the media has turned to sensationalism in reporting the news.

Racism and prejudice, while not overt in the media, does play a role in the way in which a given story is framed. Consider the example of war reporting. When the media is reporting a death toll, one generally hears "there were X number of Americans killed today." There is never any mention of Iraqi casualties and if there is, it is done in a more roundabout way—generally by saying "X number of people were killed in Y attack, including Z Americans." They leave it up to the viewer's basic arithmetic skills to figure out the number of Iraqis dead—and no one, Einstein included, can figure out that information in less than a second: the time between the end of the presentation of the statistic and the beginning of the next news piece.

Furthermore, the media has a tendency to propagate stereotypes. It is the media that has shaped our initial views about people, and all those views are the stereotypes that our society so desperate seeks to get rid of. For example, the media has characterized African-American people as criminals or poor—only extremely rarely do we see an African-American person in a prominent position on the news. In a sense, we only hear of African-American people of prominence almost as a general exception to the rule. We only hear of them during specific times, such as Martin Luther King day or Black History Month. The media essentially poses them in this way.

The media has, after the impact of September 11th, also characterized all people of Arab descent or of the Muslim faith as "terrorists," when the only reason this seems so is because we only see one side of the coin. If the media chooses to highlight Muslims, Iraqis, or Arabs, they only highlight the religious extremists and those with "negative" connotations such as the terrorists and jihadists. The media never even gives a thought toward the layman Muslim, Iraqi, or Arab—never asks for their opinion on the war, or even spends a moment addressing how they live, especially after September the 11th's impact on our society.

Issues that are underreported all have to do with events at home. Basically, we're all too happy to discuss other's grievances, but we don't want to seek redress for our own. Such issues that are under-reported include the poverty on American streets, the plight of Muslims and Arabs—both in America and worldwide, the case of racism in America, and various abuses that occur on a daily basis in America. The reason these issues are important is because these are maladies that take place upon our own soil, and these must be resolved first before we move on to tackling the world's problems.

Media coverage can be improved through an increase in funding and through a change in news station hiring policy. By increasing funding for the media to cover underreported issues, they will ultimately be covered and the people will be informed of all aspects of the story. By changing the news station hiring policy to hire more anchors of color, it will provide a more equitable source of news. My point is that news corporations need to stop looking for money, and just give us all sides of the plain, objective news as it stands.

Christina Centore
West Haven High School
West Haven, Connecticut

Each morning I would wake up to the sound of the television. The morning news was a routine, a way of getting ready for the day and learning about the events affecting the world. It has been about a year now since I have watched the news regularly. Exaggerated stories and underreported events were a turnoff and continue to grow worse, justifying the reason I now turn off the television.

Much of the news being reported each day centers around violence and destruction, but I guess that is what many people want to see. Not only is the media's focus negative but also there is a bias playing a role in the way the news is being reported. News reports tend to prejudge minorities, such as African-Americans, women, and non-Catholics. For example, Hurricane Katrina recently brought much devastation to New Orleans, Louisiana. Floods and high winds caused thousands of people to lose all of their possessions, homes were ruined, entire neighborhoods were destroyed, and lives were lost. The area hit hardest was inhabited by a majority of poor African-Americans. Many criticized the media for underreporting the tragedy, stating there was an underlying prejudice behind it all. It seems this trend has been present for many years. The media concerns itself with only selected pieces of information.

In 1994, a civil war broke out in the African nation of Rwanda. Over one million people were murdered within six months of the conflict. The Rwanda massacres were unknown to many citizens of the United States. The United States media chose not to become involved in the fight and, with that, the American people were cut off from the issue as well. The lack of media coverage may have been due to the United States' foreign policy, but it is evident that a racial prejudice also caused the lack of action. How often can Americans turn on the television and see reports done on the economic situation in Africa? Not very often. Also, in Africa, the spread of AIDS has been overwhelming due to the poor financial and environmental state of the continent. Yet, the American media does not feel the need to report such devastating issues. The American people become alarmed when knowledge is presented to them. The importance of such events as the Rwanda massacres and the global issue of AIDS tend not to be a concern for the media. These issues affect the entire world. When people are dicing each day, all should be concerned about the health of the nation and the solutions available. The media should not care about which country this is happening in, just the fact that it is happening and it needs to stop. Ignoring the situation does not provide a solution.

Hundreds of children go missing each month. The American people are only familiar with Lacey Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and all the other attractive white females who have been taken from their homes. The American media sheds a blind eye towards stories that do not foreshadow weeks of news coverage. The prejudice towards minorities is most evident in these situations. The media should not neglect those who do not look the best on camera.

Media coverage must be changed through the consensus of all. Reporters and editors should exert the energy needed to report vital stories to the public. The United States prides itself on its diverse culture; now it is time to provide an opportunity to all. It is the media's responsibility to report all news and events that affect the country and the world. Improvements occur when care is present. The importance of such events as the Rwanda massacres and the global issue of AIDS tend not to be a concern for the media. All issues must become a concern for the media. The media has a huge influence on the opinion of the general public. The bias and prejudice found throughout media coverage can be stopped, affecting the world, each and every individual.

Each morning I would wake up to the sound of the television. The morning news was a routine, a way of getting ready for the day and learning about the events affecting the world. The television must be turned on, all eyes must be opened.

Work Consulted: Ten years after genocide, Rwandan children suffer lasting impact. United States Fund for UNICEF.

Nick Dekker
Grade 9
Central High School of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A Night with the Americans

John and Martha American are your typical married couple. They drive a large S.U.V. They're upper middle class. They have two children and a cat. Every night, they eat dinner in front of the television set. Tonight, over Martha's macaroni and cheese, they watch the evening news. This night, the anchorman Roy Burger takes his place and begins to discuss the latest developments in the Laci Peterson saga. The Americans are captivated by the struggle and pain which Laci faced, and tormented by the tragic plight of the family members who survive her. They become caught up with the familiar face of Laci Peterson: she could be their neighbor, friend, their sister or their daughter. The half hour newscast continues with sports and a local weather report. Roy Burger wraps up the show with a feel good news story about a cat fashion show. After the news ends, the Americans watch prime time television shows and then head off to bed with sequined cat vests, sunny skies, NASCAR and Laci's face swirling around their brains. Halfway around the world from the Americans is a small country in Africa called Sudan (surrounded by Chad and Ethiopia about which the Americans don't know). In this little country, there is a region called Darfur. In this area, ethnic cleansing is occurring. Janjaweed militia attack civilians and kill thousands of innocents because of their non-Arab descent.

In America today, the stories that gain the most attention seem to be about only a certain type of victim. When reporting on crime, victims in the larger (coverage-wise) topics appear to be mostly white women. For one reason or another, may it be financial advantage, racism, it seems to be inevitable that other issues are not getting the media attention they deserve.

The ethnic cleansing in the Sudan is said to be essentially a conflict between the two kinds of farmers in the area. The groups mainly consist of the nomadic "Arab" (Zaghawa) herdsman and the non-nomadic Masalit. Unfortunately the conflict is not as simple as this: economic differences, religious intolerance, and social inequalities, as well as a very tense history in the area, are all major players in the recent genocide in Darfur.

The devastating turmoil is believed to have caused some extremely shocking casualties. In September of 2004, the World Health Organization estimated that there were a total of 50,000 deaths in Darfur since the beginning of the conflict. In October, one month later, the WHO updated the estimates to 71,000 between March and October alone. The UN estimates that there has been a total of 180,000 deaths in the area since the beginning of the conflict. Other statistics say that 1.8 million people have been displaced, and over 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad.

Many believe that Darfur will be a repeat of the destruction and death seen in the recent 1994 Rwandan conflicts where possibly a million innocent people were killed. Without the necessary press coverage, this problem could continue indefinitely. But, still, why is the topic not being covered? The more cynical answer is "because they're black." This theory is no doubt a possibility, but, before one can make that assumption, another question need be asked: would anyone even care? This is probably the most disturbing question: given the proper media exposure, would Americans care? Some call Darfur the next Rwanda. Most Americans only know about the genocide in Rwanda because of the recent movie, "Hotel Rwanda." But is it really the American's fault that they do not know of the brutal killing taking place in Africa? The answer can't be realized until the media gives Darfur the coverage it deserves, and, until this happens, the ethnic cleansing that is running rampant will continue. Clearly something has to be done, and the only way it can happen is if Americans surrender the Laci Peterson's that we are so enthralled by. In this case, the American media mirrors the federal government, giving less attention to the struggles of the poor, both nationally and internationally, and more attention to corporate gain. If Darfur were either white or oil rich, would the international community be this slow to act? Until these more important, global issues are on the minds of our leaders and policy makers, situations like Rwanda, the riots in France, the genocide in Bosnia, and the continued tragedy in Darfur, will continue indefinitely.

In the morning the Americans awake. John showers and uses his Pantene Pro V with the amino proteins that his thinning hair so desperately craves. Martha wakes the kids for school.

They eat Eggo waffles and Reese's Peanut Butter Crunch for breakfast. The explosion of the peanut butter infused with the sweet chocolate makes them strangely happy. They sit and eat their balanced breakfast, still oblivious to the murders taking place in the Sudan. John goes to work, and Martha begins her day still worrying about Laci Peterson, but she takes comfort in the intricately sequined cat vest she will buy later today.

The Americans are subjected to two different types of stories: stories focused on one person's struggle, or the struggles of hundreds of thousands of people. They are captivated and saddened by the familiarity of that one friendly face, but unable to see individual faces in those thousands. That is why it is said that:

"One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic." -Stalin.

Source: "Darfur Conflict"

Jace Haestad
Grade 12
Chase Collegiate High School
Waterbury, Connecticut

In all walks of life, there are prejudice, bias, individuality, and stark objectification. In my opinion, the media does not exist to overcome these human characteristics, but, instead, to strengthen them and unite distinct groups of individuals in their own prejudices and biases. Instead of giving the media's target audience an unscathed, completely true representation of life and death, at home and abroad, the media serves to add fuel to the fire of stereotyping and prejudice, making media pointless and almost like a scripted, nonsensical reality-TV show.

I do not agree with the character of the media. Especially in America, there is an overwhelming disposition among most TV journalists and editors to make their audience feel deep emotion instead of deep understanding of the world around them. In effect, people grow afraid of their surroundings because they lack the unbiased knowledge of their surroundings. People grow afraid of the world around them and soon grow afraid of their neighbors, friends, and family.

However, I strongly believe in the idea of media. The idea of providing free information for all who care is one of the greatest philosophical dreams. The fact that our technological development has moved us to the point of being able to actually implement this philosophical idea into reality is an incredible thing in itself. For this reason I have respect for the idea, yet not for the being itself.

This problem is sadly and consequentially incurable and indispensable. Even if "news" became unbiased, the audience would make it so. It's a discouraging thing to know subconsciously, but infinite knowledge of one's surroundings cannot overshadow the prejudice of an entire populace. News of "looting" in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, even if it were reported without prejudice, would still affect people in different ways. Some may look at blacks looting and whites looting and see two different things; stealing and survival. Yet some may look at these two races looting and see the same thing, applying bias to none.

While it would, on a moral stand point, be better for the media to report in a plausibly unbiased way, it will never convert already prejudiced people. But it is a step in the right direction, and it should definitely be taken. For instance, as was reported in a popular science magazine New Scientist, a study of brain activity has shown that even people who proclaim they do not hold prejudices against other races actually do. It's almost a genetic trait to be racially, sexually, and (even) intellectually biased.

The goal of the media is to speak to the people as the people. It is impossible to wipe bias out of this. So long as people are reporting news, that news will become biased. And even if unbiased news reaches a populace it will become biased in no time. We live in a world of stereotypes, of discrete and disgusting racial segregation, of imagining women in the home and men at work. Our world will evolve, no doubt, and so will the media. But you can't force development merely by changing the way news is reported. Yet it is still important to start on the path of what is right, and making media unbiased and without prejudice is just one step closer to a more unified, simple, and happier world.

Lauren Hefferon
Grade 12
Chase Collegiate High School
Waterbury, Connecticut

Last spring, at the North American Invitational Model United Nations Conference, the featured speaker discussed a crisis in Darfur. I listened carefully, trying to remember whether I knew where Darfur was—I had never heard of it. It wasn't until late in the speech, when he discussed the Sudanese government, that I realized he was talking about Africa. The speaker mentioned genocide, government involvement, and US ignorance of the situation. One thing is for sure, I thought: most of the US students in here, myself included, didn't know anything about Darfur before today. I was slightly incredulous—was this man exaggerating? Was he a member of an extremist movement that supported the "oppressed" people of the Darfur region? Or was he telling the truth—was an actual genocide occurring, right now, that I had never once heard mentioned on the news?

Late that night, I did some research on my friend's laptop and found that the speaker was absolutely accurate. A genocide was—and still is, as I write this—occurring in Darfur, Sudan. Only a little more than a decade after the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath—only years after all of the promises from various governments never to allow such a tragedy to occur again—it was happening, and I didn't know a thing about it.

I'm not religious about keeping up with the latest news. I listen to NPR sometimes on my drive to school and read the Sunday New York Times. When I check my email each day, I always read the top stories online. I consider myself to be fairly well-informed about global and national events.

As I learned that day, however, sometimes the biggest news doesn't appear on the front page of the paper, or even in the news at all. High-profile murder trials often receive daily national coverage for weeks at a time, and a single kidnapping can dominate news channels for days. Events such as the Pakistani earthquake and the genocide in Darfur, however, are lucky to receive brief, occasional coverage.

It's important to note that those news stories we do hear tend to focus on the white world: the Laci Peterson trial, the Elizabeth Smart case, and even the newest Paris Hilton scandal provide good examples. Often, the stories that involve black, Hispanic, Asian, or Middle Eastern people are brought up only because they expose a conflict over race or ethnicity, and not because they are considered inherently relevant. The last time my local news channel covered the murder of a black man, for example, the case only received attention because he was killed by a white police officer. I've never heard about a murder involving only minorities. I've never even heard of a missing child who wasn't white. The reason: the media today focuses overwhelmingly on things that affect white America.

Unfortunately, this results from the attitude that so many Americans hold towards people of other races, ethnicities, or nationalities: the belief that what doesn't affect them doesn't concern them. I know plenty of people who wouldn't waste two minutes thinking about a genocide in Africa or an earthquake in Asia—but as soon as a story affects them directly, they pay attention. Even people without prejudice tell me far too often that they "just don't care" about events occurring in the rest of the world.

I argue, in return, that we can't simply watch the news as it happens to us and believe that we have the full story. Likewise, we can't ignore what doesn't happen to us and believe that it doesn't concern us. Events occurring in Darfur and in Pakistan—or in the local Hispanic neighborhood—deserve coverage because they are shaping the face of the world—the face of white, privileged America included.

To improve media coverage of such events, though, means raising interest as well as awareness—a difficult task. The media cannot simply restructure itself to present more unbiased coverage because the media is driven largely by popular interest. The nightly news might feature Darfur, but if people do not care about the story, it will not become a high-profile issue.

The only truly effective strategy for improving media coverage begins with education. If students across America are taught to take on a global perspective and to understand the issues that affect minority groups, they will leave school with genuine concern for people of all backgrounds and nationalities. That concern, in turn, will hopefully be reflected in more balanced, informative, and relevant news.

Sam Weinstock
Grade 9
Central High School of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Today's media is part of an entertainment industry that is generating billions of dollars each year. The media component of the industry consists of radio, print, television and the internet. The media is dependent upon ratings and advertising revenue to pay its bills. The fact that the media is part of the entertainment industry, and is a business, impacts on what stories are reported and what stories go unreported.

Many of the stories highlighted in the national media this past year focused on natural disasters such as the Tsunami, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. National networks also focused on politics, sports and reality television participants. In contrast, there has been only limited coverage of the war in Iraq, depending upon whether a bombing occurred or a soldier or worker was kidnapped.

The national media appears more likely to cover a story that involves a catastrophic or "sensational" event, a person of wealth or a physically attractive person than a story that involves the ongoing occupation in Iraq, news of general crime in the area or incidents involving an "average" looking person. I believe the reason the media elects whether to cover a story is in part dependent upon who the network and its advertisers have targeted as its viewers. A network focuses on stories that it believes its viewers want to know about. In my opinion, this has resulted in stories being underreported or reported in a biased manner.

For example, the national media focused significant attention on the Laci Peterson case involving a young attractive pregnant Caucasian woman who was reported missing and then found dead. In contrast, both the national and local media focused limited attention on twenty-four-year-old Latoya Figueroa, a young pregnant African American woman from Philadelphia who was reported missing and then found dead. Why?

The national media focused attention on the plight of white residents of New Orleans trying to survive the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina who "found" food and other necessities. But, the national media coverage toward African American residents was negative by portraying them as "looters" interested in taking advantage of the situation. Why?

Additionally, international news typically receives limited attention in Philadelphia. The genocidal acts taking place in Sudan have not received front page here. Likewise, it wasn't until twelve days after the rioting first began in the outskirts of Paris that the Philadelphia Inquirer carried coverage of the unrest within Paris' immigrant communities.

I believe the coverage in the above cases involving individuals differed because the national media was focused on what it believed its viewers or readers wanted to see or read about. I think there were limited stories about Sudan and France for the same reason.

Another example of viewer/advertiser based reporting was the Live 8 concert held in Philadelphia, featuring celebrities to raise awareness of poverty in Africa. It is ironic that the concert received extensive coverage but the fact that 200,000 people in Philadelphia alone are impoverished has received little to no attention. Poverty in Philadelphia hasn't been a news story because the media believes that its subscribers don't want to know about these thousands of struggling residents. And why should the media bother if those who are impoverished can't afford to "purchase" the news?

I believe that this skewed reporting results in a distorted view of certain groups of people and it contributes to a growing ignorance of the real people and problems faced in the reader's local community and the world community.

I think that it's important that the media report on a wider variety of activities and that the media report on all persons equally regardless of things like race, economics or celebrity status. The media should adopt standards for equal reporting. A group could be formed in each city composed of representatives of each community that comprises the United States (race, religion, economic status) that would review the stories generated by each media outlet to see if the standards were being met. Smaller, specialized papers could continue to exist if they disclosed their focus. But media outlets that purport to cover all groups would have to meet the standards. Failure to meet the standards would be publicized. Hopefully, the public pressure would force the media outlet to change. But this will only work if enough paying members of the public care and if people are willing to stop subscribing to the media outlet.

Read the High School 1st Place Essay

Middle School Division Honorable Mention

Peter Brown
Grade 6
International School of Beijing
Beijing, China

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live in a world without prejudice? A world where there is no hate and no war? A world of peace? I have, but it won't happen unless people do everything they can to stop people from being discriminated against. There have been so many cases where people have been hurt, shot, and even killed just because of what they look like or what they believe in. The first step of stopping prejudice is to teach children what it is and how it can affect peoples' lives. One way to do this is to stop them from watching movies that show prejudice. In the movies Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, prejudice is shown against stepmothers. If children watched this they might think all stepmothers are mean and selfish. This is definitely not true. I know stepmothers who wouldn't even think about doing the things stepmothers do in these movies. I would not like these movies to be included in TAP's list of animated films and movies for young minds.

Cinderella has a mean stepmother and two mean sisters. One night, the stepmother and sisters go to a ball and says Cinderella can't go until she does all the chores. Cinderella gets help from animals and her fairy godmother. Then the fairy godmother casts a spell on Cinderella, making her beautiful with glass slippers on her feet, but it will only last until midnight. Cinderella dances with a prince, but loses track of time and runs off. The prince finds her slipper and says whoever's foot fits in it will be his wife. Cinderella finds him and they live happily ever after. In Snow White, there is a girl named Snow White who has a stepmother that envies her beauty. She hires an assassin to kill her, but he could not kill someone so beautiful. Then Snow White runs away and finds a little house. She cleans up the house and finds out seven dwarves live in it. The dwarves let her stay there. Meanwhile, the evil stepmother is getting ready for her plan to poison Snow White with an apple. Snow White thinks the stepmother is just an old lady giving her an apple, so she eats some and gets poisoned. In the end, a handsome prince kisses Snow White, and the poisonous piece of apple falls out of her mouth. They get married and live happily ever after. You might be thinking that these movies are harmless, but they aren't. In Snow White the stepmother poisons her daughter, and in Cinderella the stepmother makes her daughter do all the chores. If lots of children watched these, they might tell all their friends that stepmothers are evil and their friends will tell their other friends, and it will keep spreading. This may not change the world, but every little bit helps.

It is definitely not true that all stepmothers are mean. I have never met a stepmother that is mean, but that still doesn't mean there aren't any. Mrs. Georgeoff, one of my friend's stepmothers, is extremely kind and loves her child very dearly. She doesn't try to feed her son poisoned apples. She always cooks her own food that tastes very good. She would never make her child do all the work and chores while she relaxes and goes to parties. Her house is so neat it probably has no chores needed to be done anyway. The first time I went there she asked me if I believed in prejudice, and I said no. Then she said I could go in, but if I said yes, I wouldn't be allowed in her house.

As I said before, I would not like Cinderella and Snow White to be included in TAP's list of animated films and movies. I know these movies don't show a large amount of prejudice, but it is the first step in teaching children about it. I believe that if a little child is taught about prejudice and watches the right things on T.V., they will grow up to be a good person and make the right choices. If they learn the opposite, they might grow up to be people that hurt people that are different from them. You can't judge someone because they are a stepmother, or what they look like. It's what's on the inside that matters, not the outside. Remember, the children of today will be the parents of tomorrow, and if parents believe in prejudice, children will, too.

Stephen Hong
Grade 8
Wooster Middle School
Stratford, Connecticut

Cartoons: Friend or Foe?

Cartoons are some of the channels that kids watch. With all of the flashing colors and the adventures on the television, who would not be attracted to these shows? But are cartoons really the best things for little children with naive minds to be watching? Well, I am going to find out.

Out in television land, there are a variety of shows to watch. One of my favorites is Danny Phantom. This cartoon is about a fourteen-year-old boy gifted with extraordinary ghost powers. After examining it more closely, I noticed it isn't an innocent show for kids to watch, but a show with discrimination within the context of this program. Danny, the teenager with ghost powers, is repeatedly bullied by this football player. In addition, when a teacher catches the football player, his punishment is lightened because of his athlete status. I think this is sending a bad signal to the kids watching the program. The kids might think that because I am a baseball or football player, then I can get away with anything. Younger kids have a tendency to be influenced by what they see. But this show does redeem itself in a later episode. This same football player was trying to fight Danny, and they were caught by a teacher. This time they were both punished equally with detentions. I feel that by showing this episode they have fixed part of the damage of the previous show, but they should not have shown the first one at all.

Danny Phantom is not the only show that exhibits discrimination; The Proud Family does too. This show is about an African-American girl who is trying to withstand the troubles of being a teenager. Unlike the other cartoon I mentioned, this is more concentrated on stopping discrimination. In one episode, there was a boy that really enjoyed fashion designing. Many of his classmates ridiculed him for being a "sissy" except for Penny Proud, the African-American girl. She was trying to befriend the boy by telling him to release his anger by telling someone about the people mocking him instead of keeping the anger, but he never did. Finally, during the dance, he told everyone how it felt to be made fun of and bullied. After releasing his anger, he was respected. I think this show teaches little kids to talk about being discriminated. Something that increases the popularity of this show is putting the story in a fantasy setting. This way children will watch the show because it is interesting, but the show is teaching the kids at the same time.

I think that these cartoons should be put on your list of TV programs young people should see because the message that kids should not discriminate is in the context of the show. In The Proud Family, the entire show is dedicated to showing kids that bullying or discrimination is wrong and you should not support it. Even though, in Danny Phantom, there are traces of discrimination, but the full meaning of the show is not bullying. Young kids watch the show for its entertainment value not because they want to learn how to hurt someone emotionally. I don't think that young kids will get influenced just because of some pleasure in their lives.

The answer to my question, are cartoons really bad, is I don't believe they are. It is just another form of entertainment.

Madeline Kratz
Grade 7
Middlebrook School
Wilton, Connecticut

Nowadays, the channels on television have become more numerous, and there is a larger variety of content shown on the screen. However, many shows that suggest prejudice, whether they are against a different skin color, another religion, gender, or ethnicity, tend to be produced with real live people, not cartoons. I agree that some shows promote prejudice such as The Simpsons and South Park, but I would say the majority of animations aren't suggesting half as much as they are said to be.

Take the Disney films for instance. One animation named Pocahontas is a film that reduces hate and bias against a different ethnicity and skin color. Pocahontas is about an Indian girl and the time when the English settlers begin to explore her land. In one scene, Pocahontas is talking with John Smith and he refers to Pocahontas's people as savages. She turns, looks at him, and explains that "savages" are her people, and they are just like the settlers. Just with that one short, but powerful conversation, the settlers and the Indians realize how much they are similar even though they are enemies. In due course, the characters forget their differences, which helps educate people about treating others fairly. Pocahontas is one example of a film that is aware and conscious of potential discrimination against something different.

Beauty and the Beast is another motion picture in which prejudice is proved to be something hurtful and shows the watcher how much it is wrong. The main characters are Belle, Beast, Belle's father, and the friends in the castle. When her father's horse leads him to a castle, he runs inside to escape the wolves that were chasing him. The castle is owned by the beast, who imprisons the man. Later Belle replaces her father as the prisoner. When the father is back in town, he rushes to the town's people, and explains the situation. The inhabitants of the town express their prejudiced opinions of the beast, and someone suggests that they attack him. However, back at the castle. Belle discovers that the beast is harmless and actually a good person. She proves that the bad guy is not the beast, but one of their own people, Gaston, who hinted at killing the beast in the first place. Once again, this is another instance of a film in which the producers show how harmful prejudiced feelings can be.

Another prime example of an animation in which prejudiced feelings are proved to be wrong can be seen in a film created and produced by Hayao Miyazaki called Princess Mononoke. It is about the controversy between animals and humans. After being touched by an evil demon, Prince Ashitaka sets off to free himself from the cursed mark on his arm. On his travels, he learns of the war between the Boars and the humans. Princess Mononoke, the half wolf girl, aids Ashitaka in the journey to calm the boars down and stop the angry feelings that the boars and humans share. The forest spirit also aids in the courageous battle to take back what has been taken from them. This is all about forgiving people for their mistakes, and Ashitaka is the one who tries to make peace.

A final example can be seen in a film called Totoro, which is an animation also created by producer Hayao Miyazaki. This particular film is about a family who just moved to a new house to find that it has many secrets to be explored. The two girls, Satsuki and Mei, find a couple of spirits which help them adjust to the feeling of having an ailing mother. At the most, this helps prevent any prejudiced feelings toward the sick people or the rural land of Japan. When Mei runs away to the hospital, the whole town goes looking for her. Everyone helps out. During that scene, people can witness what it is like to help another family. They don't stop looking for her until, finally, Satsuki figures out that she's going to the hospital. This film is very traditional for they have Japanese food and chopsticks, but never is there a part in which there is discrimination against other people or ideas. Totoro is only one of the many films created by Miyazaki and each and every one never invokes hate and bias against something different.

In conclusion, I believe that many films might suggest prejudice feelings, but many Disney and Miyazaki productions don't. At the most they help prevent it. That is why I think many productions like Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast and Totoro help prevent prejudice. If the Teachers Against Prejudice organization decided to publish a list of films and television series, I would want to have my examples on the list, especially the Miyazaki films, for they are made by someone who is not American. I would agree to this because these films promote the differences in people in a positive way.

Von Ying Lee
Grade 6
International School of Beijing
Beijing, China

Have you ever noticed that most children's cartoons exhibit some form of prejudice, stereotypes, or hate? In my opinion, I believe watching hours of animation actually encourages discrimination, which may affect children's lives in a negative way. However, some shows may change the way children think of others in a positive way. These shows may actually discourage discrimination and beat prejudice stereotypes. There are examples of cartoons that actually discourage discrimination; for example, Rocket Power and Kim Possible. Both these shows should be included for kids to watch, because they do not encourage anything that shows hate. In fact, they show how to accept differences in people.

Rocket Power is an animated T.V. series that discourages prejudice and stereotyping. In involves three boys and one girl. These four kids adore all type of sports. Together, they make a great team. They go through challenges, and support each other. Although there is a girl joining the boys, they do not seem to mind. This way, this show rejects sexism. This girl is also superior in all types of sports. This show is good for kids to watch, because it does not show any kind of hate; instead it discourages it.

Kim Possible is another T.V. show that discourages sexism. It proves that not all girls are weak. Kim Possible is always ready to meet her challenges, like stopping the evil scientists that try to take over the world. Kim Possible is also best friends with Ron, a male. They do all types of things together, while ignoring the fact that they are different in gender.

It is also important that young children learn not to judge people by their appearance, but rather by their character. Both movies discourage sexism. We do not want children to learn to stereotype others. One day when I was walking around the park, I heard a girl say, "Do not play with boys because they have cooties." Obviously, cooties do not appear in all boys. As a matter of fact, cooties do not even exist. When I was in kindergarten, I remember that boys always said that girls were weak. For that, I could prove them wrong. It is a fact that boys and girls can be equals. Therefore, little kids could watch cartoon shows that discourage sexism, like Rocket Power and "Kim Possible". Learning not to judge people by their appearance when they are young is much easier than changing their judging habits in the future.

As noted, not all animated shows support prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes. In reality, I have just proved that through two cartoon shows, Rocket Power and Kim Possible. They are good role models for little kids so they learn not to judge people by their appearance. Like I had said before, learn when you are young, because it is much easier than changing a bad habit when you are older.

Zachariah Pappas-Fernandes
Grade 8
Wooster Middle School
Stratford, Connecticut

Prejudice on TV

TV programs are on every day, every hour and every minute. Many people watch these shows, including young children. But some of the things on TV young children shouldn't see. And surprisingly, some of these shows are cartoons.

Three cartoons that stand out are Family Guy, American Dad, and The Simpsons. These shows do not help teach kids how bad prejudice is, but sometimes actually make it look fine. In the show The Simpsons, a police officer arrests a man as a murderer even though the man didn't commit the crime. The officer says "Lock him up 'til I find someone darker." That is no doubt discriminating against African-Americans or others with different skin color. If a little boy or girl is exposed to that, next time they see a person with dark skin the may assume that they are a murderer. The Simpsons definitely shouldn't be on a list of shows kids should see.

On the show Family Guy. Peter Griffin (the main character) wants to become Jewish because a Jewish man has a high paying job. This is implying the stereotype that Jewish people get a lot of money and good jobs. This show also uses a lot of bad language, sexual reference, and violence. Another example of prejudice was when Peter found out that he has black heritage in his blood, a police man stops him for no reason and gets him arrested. This implies the stereotype that African-Americans always get stopped by the police. This ties in with the scene in The Simpsons.

The show American Dad exhibits prejudice to people from the Middle East when the main character holds his new neighbors hostage because he thinks they are terrorists because they are Muslim. If a little kid sees this, he may have the same reaction as if he saw The Simpsons and call these people terrorists or murderers.

Although there are a lot of shows that show prejudice, many do not. One good example is the show Arthur. This show actually combats prejudice by showing many different characters all having fun together.

Both types of shows are on every day (combating or influencing prejudice). There are many more shows that kids should not watch, but these shows stand out for the language, violence, sexual reference, and most of all, prejudice. Luckily, others stand out for toleration, like Arthur.

Anna Ryan
Grade 6
International School of Beijing
Beijing, China

Although many children's movies support various types of prejudice, some movies demonstrate how children can fight against it. In Disney movies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan, the negative attitudes of prejudice are exhibited. When little kids turn on the T.V. they should not be exposed to prejudice. It is clear from the events in the movies Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame that these are good movies for children, and help to fight prejudice.

How to fight prejudice is shown from the beginning to the end in the movie Mulan. In the movie, Mulan, her father is always fighting for the army. She thought it was too dangerous so she took his place. When Mulan impersonated her father, I believe that showed that women are as strong as men. When she stole her father's armor, it also showed that women are as strong as men. Also, when she ran away from home it proved that women have courage. When she went to Yao, the Chinese emperor, he showed sexual prejudice toward Mulan by implying that he was surprised. However, she proved that even though she is a girl, she can still do things men do. Therefore, I think it should be on the list for little kids to watch.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was about physical prejudice. The Hunchback's name was Quasimodo; he had a big lump on his back, and most people thought he was ugly and mean. He was crowned the ugliest person in Notre Dame.

The crowd put him on a wheel, threw food at him and called him mean names. There is also a gypsy girl who dances and sings on the streets. Quasimodo fell in love with her. Because of his looks she did not like him. At the end, everybody changed their minds about Quasimodo because they figured out that he was good inside and forgot about his looks. This is another example of physical prejudice. As a result of the end of the movie, I think it should be on the list for kids to watch.

Physical prejudice is shown in movies and in real life. An example is when students at I.S.B get left out of parties or groups because of their looks. Also, in the 1960's, white people did not think black people were the same. They thought they were different because of their skin color. It was very unfair, and later, they changed history. In both of these actions, it showed physical prejudice.

In conclusion, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan fight prejudice and should be on the list of shows for kids to watch. Just because it does have prejudice does not mean we should not watch it. You just might find out how to deal with prejudice in shows or movies that have prejudice.

Amanda Tu
Grade 6
International School of Beijing
Beijing, China

Did you ever wonder how many animated movies are made each year? In my opinion, I think some of those thousands of movies made each year support prejudice, and I believe they should not be put on the list of movies that children should watch. Some movies, however, do the opposite. Snow White, for example, shows gender bias, because they make Snow White so weak she cannot take care of herself. Finding Nemo, on the other hand, fights the two stereotypes of all small people being weak and afraid of everything, and disabled people cannot do anything and never overcome their disabilities. Compared to Finding Nemo, Snow White is actually a rather bad movie because it shows lots of prejudice.

Snow White is one of the world's top earning Disney movies. Still, it seems to me that Snow White shows prejudice. For example, when Snow White found out that the hunter was taking her out to the woods, she was not at all suspicious, and went happily with him. Also, when she lived with the dwarves, she depended on them for everything. Besides that, she was not very smart when she opened the door to her stepmother dressed as an old lady, and took the poisonous apple. The dwarves even told her not to open any doors to strangers. Finally, when Snow White was in the coffin, and she needed a prince to save her. The movie shows sexism because it shows that girls are stupid, helpless, and should wait for their "Prince Charming" to save them. On the other hand, some movies fight prejudice.

Finding Nemo, a top earning Disney family movie, does not encourage prejudice, but fights two stereotypes. First of all, it fights the stereotype that small people are weak and cowardly. There was a small clownfish that lives on the Great Barrier Reef named Marlin. At first, Marlin was scared of everything, following the stereotype that all small people are scared. But when scuba divers catch his only son, Nemo, he swims all the way to Sydney to find him. On the way he met a fish named Dory, who had a disability. She suffered short-term memory loss, but she overcame it at the end. That fought the second common stereotype that all disabled people are dumb, and cannot do anything.

In real life, sexism is shown just like that in Snow White. People always say that women are not good in many things, like sports. For instance, my own dad once said, " Ladies cannot beat men in any sports." I have also noticed that most of the high and well-paid jobs are done by men, not women. Furthermore, I notice that most of the presidents in the world are men. In addition, none of the presidents of America was ever a woman. The prejudice in Finding Nemo is also shown in real life. Many people think that small people are weak. As evidence, one of my cousins said that my friend could punch her. When he did, she said, "You punch hard for such a small person." She acted like just because he was small that he could not punch hard. Also, Dory had short-term memory loss, and many people in the world have disabilities. Some who have physical disabilities sometimes gets teased, stared at, or people whisper about them.

In conclusion, I think that many movies are good and fight prejudice like Finding Nemo, and others encourage it, like Snow White. Snow White shows gender bias against females, saying that they are weak and helpless. Finding Nemo fights two common stereotypes. One of them is judging on the physical appearance, and another is judging someone because they have a disability. Finding Nemo, I say, should be on the list for children to watch, while Snow White should not.

John Joseph Wong
Grade 6
International School of Beijing
Beijing, China

Have you ever thought about what TV shows would be good influences for children to watch? Have you ever thought about the bad influences an ordinary cartoon may convey? Well, believe it or not, some cartoons can be very negative influences on young children, and may promote prejudice, racism, and stereotypes. But every once in a while, there will be a show which will teach against typical stereotypes and prejudice.

The first show I would like to introduce is the animated film, Shrek. In my opinion, I think that this show would be a good show for kids to watch because it teaches against physical prejudice. The main character (Shrek) is an ogre and all the humans hate him because of this. Many people believe Shrek is nasty and evil. But when Shrek goes on a mission to save a princess for the king, Shrek proves that he is not a threat to anyone, because beneath those ugly ogre features, is a kind and possibly lonely character. In other words, I think that this animated film teaches against physical prejudice by saying: Do not judge others by what is on the outside; what is important is the inside.

On the other hand, the second show I would like to introduce is opposite to the first show in almost every way. This show stereotypes males and females. And what is this show? The Simpsons. There is virtually nothing in this cartoon that is "expected" because every episode is different, except that the main characters (the Simpson family) have the same personality and characteristics. Bart (the son) is a "bad-boy" and does everything from pulling pranks to skipping school intentionally.

Yet he is always the "hero" and rarely gets in trouble for doing very disrespectful things. Lisa (the daughter) on the other hand, is a smart honor roll student, yet she barely gets any benefits. Her whole family does not like her "outrageous acts", such as standing for her rights, and being environmentally friendly. Homer (the dad) is a "dumb" boozehound. And Marge (the mom) and Maggie (the little baby) are the "typical" mother and baby. This is a very negative show for kids to watch because it stereotypes that boys should be "bad-boys". They should say rude things to their parents, become a menace to society, and skip school. This show also gives the impression that girls are always smart and obedient, and they can not stand up for their rights and beliefs. And finally, The Simpsons stereotypes that dads like drinking (alcohol) and are stupid. So in my opinion, little kids should not watch this show because it has a lot of stereotypes, forms of prejudice, and very negative influences.

From my point of view, even though these two cartoons are merely "cartoons", they can affect a child's behavior and attitude. I know, because when I watch a good cartoon, I want to "be" exactly like the characters in behavior and attitude. For example, if kids watch The Simpsons at a very young age, they might be influenced by the examples when they start growing up. A boy who watches The Simpsons might do exactly what Bart does; he might disrespect his parents and teachers. But in the same way, cartoons may also give good influences. For example, a child who watches something like Shrek might learn to respect people even if they have "physical" difficulties, and may become a good member of society.

To conclude, I would like to say that cartoons can be bad or good influences. One needs to ask, "Does the cartoon show stereotypes? Does it promote prejudice?" Remember, not everything is what it seems. A cartoon might just be Saturday night fun, but it could be stereotyping and encouraging prejudice in young lives.

Melissa Zablonski
Grade 7
William Johnston Middle School
Colchester, Connecticut

TV Shows that Combat Prejudice

Prejudice. It is an ugly word, yet many people follow its meaning by treating people who are different very poorly. Acts like prejudice must be stopped, which is why movies and shows for young children are teaching them about the effects prejudice has on people and how to prevent it. There are two movies I believe help prevent prejudice, Shrek and Beauty and the Beast. Both these movies demonstrate the effects of prejudice while at the same time try to discourage it. In my opinion, these animated movies could both be placed on a list of shows for young people. They clearly tie prejudice into the story and make it clear to the viewer as to why it should stop. Think about it. Would you want the future leaders of America to grow up watching violent, prejudice, movies that teach them all the wrong things?

If approached by an ogre, most people would take one look at it and run for their lives. This is exactly what happens in the movie Shrek to an ogre named Shrek. So when a spunky donkey comes across Shrek's path, Shrek is surprised when he doesn't run away screaming. Despite Shrek's looks and attempts to scare Donkey, Donkey is able to look beyond that and bring out the good in Shrek that has been hidden. Donkey knows that there is good in even the scariest and ugliest things and totally ignores how Shrek appears. In the beginning, Shrek is bitter from being lonely and having people judge him. Soon after, Shrek and Donkey become friends as Donkey is able to realize Shrek is not a bad guy. As they go on adventures, they meet a princess, who like everyone else, is frightened by Shrek. But, as their journey progresses she is able to learn to love Shrek too. Throughout the movie, Shrek is able to trust Donkey and open up to him. He explains what it feels like to be judged. He says, "People judge me before they even know me." He also says, "They take one look at me and go Ah! An ogre! Run for your lives!" Even though Shrek doesn't show that he is hurt, people being prejudice of him being an ogre really does hurt him.

Later, Shrek and Donkey discover the Princess is an ogre too. People are extremely shocked to find out that by night, the Princess is an ogre. Some of them are able to then accept Shrek knowing that if someone as nice as the Princess is an ogre as well, Shrek may have been judged too soon. I think this movie teaches kids that no matter how someone looks don't run away and judge them. If you learn about them and talk to them like the kind person they are, you could find everyone judged them wrong. Behind the scary looking ogre could be a nice, sensitive, caring, and friendly person, who really just wants a friend.

Another movie, a Disney classic, is Beauty and the Beast. It is another great example of how bad prejudice is. The beast is under a spell that causes him to look like, well, a beast. When the beautiful girl Belle arrives at his castle, where he's been pushed away to by the town, he captures her and locks her in his castle. At first. Belle is terrified of the Beast because of his looks. But, soon, after spending time with him. Belle is able to see behind his scary features. She realizes the way people have treated him is what caused him to not only look like a beast, but act like one too. It wasn't his fault he looked like that, he was under a spell. This allows Belle to see beyond his looks and talk to him to try and understand his feelings. She is able to see that he really is a nice guy. Belle then falls in love with Beast. She falls in love with the person he truly is, the sweet, kind, and gentle person not the way he looks. Her love for him breaks his spell and he is no longer a beast. He is a beautiful prince and looks as handsome as his personality. In my opinion, this movie teaches kids to find the inner beauty of a person. It shows that, by finding the good person within will bring out the person's beauty and make them shine. I think it is a way to show kids that, by treating someone who is different from you poorly, can put them under a spell and make them pull themselves away or turn bitter. Only if you see beyond their looks and try to befriend them and discover the person they really are will the spell be broken.

All in all, I believe these two movies are a fine way to combat prejudice in young minds. Both these movies show the ways prejudice affects a person's feelings and attitude. Imagine if you had a younger sibling, relative, or friend. Would you allow them to watch these movies? I would. I would trust that the story the movies tells would show them how being prejudice towards people because of how they appear is wrong. Although there are many different ways of being prejudiced, I think one of the biggest ones is how a person appears. You may think that the best movies and shows out there are the ones that show violence, prejudice, and hatred towards people. Although that may be your idea of a good movie, shouldn't a good movie try and steer away from a plot like that? I think Shrek and Beauty and the Beast should make the list of movies for young people to see. If we want to prevent prejudice in the future we need to start now. We need to start by pushing children away from prejudice now, so they don't grow up to be prejudiced later. So please, show children the movies Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, and any other movies that follow the same story. I believe by watching these shows, it will lead to a better future.

Read the Middle School 1st and 2nd Place Essays