The 2007-2008 Essay Contest:
Honorable Mention

Middle School Division

Josh Breitman
West Hills Middle School
West Bloomfield, MI
Grade 8

Star Trek

Prejudice can be extremely harmful in schools when students judge other students based on their race, ethnicity, or gender. The Star Trek television series could be shown to students in my school to raise awareness of prejudice.

The Star Trek TV series has had many versions, starting with the original Star Trek series, then Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. From the beginning, the show had a very diverse crew, and it was created this way intentionally to show a vision of the future with all types of people getting along together. The original series included main characters who were white and black, male and female, Japanese, Russian, and Scottish, as well as an alien who was half Vulcan and half human.

They all worked together well to run the ship.

In the later series, the main characters included a blind engineer who was a valuable member of the crew using technology to help him "see". There were many aliens from other planets, including a Betazoid who could read people's emotions and a warlike Klingon. The captains in the different series included two white men, a black man, and a woman.

The second in command was often an alien, and one was a Native American. All of these diverse members of the crew were important and were needed on the ships.

In Star Trek, the different crew members have to work together toward a common goal, no matter what their species or ethnicity. In Star Trek Voyager, the crew gets sent 70,000 light years away from home. It would take them 70 years to get home, if they went straight and didn't contact anyone and they went at maximum speed the whole way. The crew on this ship are mostly Federation crewmen, but there are some Maquis crewmen from another ship. They didn't like each other, but they needed to work together to survive. When the crews on the two ships were sent 70,000 light years away from home, many of them were killed. They needed every one to operate the one remaining ship. Eventually they got over their differences, and, if they hadn't, both crews would have perished. This program shows how people can work out their differences.

Star Trek also shows how some people think differently than others. One example is one episode in which a Bajoran crew member was constantly making mistakes, and her work needed to be rechecked. She asked her captain why the captain had requested her to be transferred to Voyager if her work had to be checked over by another officer because the Bajoran brain is wired differently than the human and many other alien brains. Her captain responded that she had requested her because she wanted people who think differently, since they may be aware of other possibilities that she might not be aware of. This episode can show students that having people who think differently can be a good thing.

In another episode, there was an alien species who had black on one side of their body and white on the other side. Half of the aliens had black on the right and white on the left, and the other half was the opposite. They loathed each other and were having a war about it. The Star Trek crew didn't understand why they were fighting about what they looked like. They were hurting and killing each other over nothing more than appearances. The captain tried to help them solve their differences without bloodshed. This episode shows how pointless and harmful it is to criticize what someone looks like.

Seeing Star Trek may cause students to change how they think about people who are different. Seeing people of different ethnicities work together may show students that they should value who people are instead of what they look like. It may help break up cliques, and have students become friends with students they wouldn't normally talk to. It could help everyone share their ideas in class, where everyone listens and doesn't just dismiss others' ideas, because the ideas may be important. Students may realize that it is wrong to criticize based on someone's appearance. Star Trek might help students see that the world would be a better place if we could work out our differences.

Molly Hurd
International School of Beijing
Beijing, China
Grade 6

Bend It Like Beckham

"Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances." -Wayne W. Dyer

Most people would say that prejudice is a hurtful and appalling thing. But do they understand why it is so terrible? Picture this: You are about seven years old and you are sitting in the sandbox all alone. Nobody likes you because you were born different from the people around you—maybe you talk funny or your skin is a different color. No one came to your birthday party, no one ever sends you a get-well card when you are sick. There are times in your life when you are alone and friendless. And all just because you were born looking or being different from the people around you. The difference makes you who you are, and you cannot control it. Is it wrong to be you? Prejudice can leave people emotionally scarred, maybe forever.

Some movies and TV programs can show people what prejudice is like. I chose to write about the movie, Bend It Like Beckham. This engaging family movie demonstrates two types of prejudice, racial prejudice and gender prejudice. The movie shows how a young woman with a rebellious attitude overcomes both of them.

Jess, an Indian girl living in England, has a gift for soccer, but she has to play in secret because her very traditional parents don't approve of her playing soccer. Then she meets Jules, another girl who loves soccer. Jules convinces Jess to join her soccer team. Before long, Jess is one of the best players on the team and is loved by all members of the team—including the coach. Unfortunately, Jess' parents find out about the soccer team and the coach. They are outraged and forbid her to play—first of all because she's a girl (gender prejudice) and second because she's Indian, and the other people on the team are not (racism). Jess's parents are probably afraid of the differences and how the cultures clashing might affect Jess. They are probably also very ignorant of the fact that instead of protecting Jess they are just hurting her.

I think that this movie will affect children because it's easy to sympathize with what Jess is going through. It makes you think and it makes you want to tell Jess's parents that what they are doing is not fair, that it's prejudicial. Every kid knows what it feels like to be restricted from something they love to do—for no good reason at all. Or maybe it seems like no good reason. We can relate to Jess and yet still see that her parents' prejudice is nothing but fear.

I think that, after seeing Bend It Like Beckham, kids will understand that it's wrong to feel prejudice. But they will also appreciate how hard it is to overcome those feelings. You have to dislocate yourself from your own culture to truly understand the culture of others.

In my own life I have known people to make assumptions based on nationality and traditions. I am an American girl in a school in China where there are a lot of Asian kids. I sometimes hear people talk about the Koreans in my grade—that they are all great at math but terrible athletes. This has been proven wrong countless times—even by my own soccer team—and yet people still think it and say it, and that is hurtful. We should not judge in this way—because as Wayne Dyer said, judging keeps us from seeing the "good that lies beyond appearances."

As a final argument, I would just like to remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." Or as it is said in Islam, "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (No. 13 of Imam Al-Nowawi's Forty Hadiths.) Or would you prefer the version of Black Elk, an Ogala Sioux shaman: "All things are our relatives. What we do to everything, we do to ourselves." Or as it is in Shinto: "The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form."*

Prejudice is a dreadful and powerful thing. It hurts the victim and it imprisons the person who is prejudiced. Now I ask you, what will you do about prejudice?

From "Versions of the Golden Rule in 21 World Religions",

Chelsea Meagher
North Branford Intermediate School
North Branford, CT
Grade 7

The Media and Prejudice

Over the past decades, America has shown an overwhelming amount of intolerance. However, some people have changed, including the media. Lately, the media is broadcasting more and more shows displaying good tolerance. Although there are many shows demonstrating tolerance, I think Sesame Street displays tolerance the best.

I believe Sesame Street would impact the students who watch it because it provides a model. It's not a format. This show is the perfect example of how each country has a different culture from one another in a form that even children can understand. I also think Sesame Street displays tolerance the best because it shows people from different cultures living in the same neighborhood. This would show students that differences in race do occur often. We also need to be open minded towards other people's beliefs. Children should know that people who are different than us surround us every day, and they can't be avoided. Another thing I admire about Sesame Street is Elmo and Rosa's friendship. This inspires me because, even though Elmo is American and Rosa is Hispanic, they put their differences aside and become the best of friends. I think this will inspire students to go talk to other children with different heritages and make new friends. Sesame Street is also impacting children around the world with their documentary film: The World According to Sesame Street. This film explores the dramas, challenges, and complexities behind producing international versions of Sesame Street. This film includes places from all around the world such as Bangladesh, Kosovo, and South Africa. I also believe Sesame Street impacts the students who watch it because it already has. Around the world, millions of children are tuning in to watch Sesame Street every day for its kindness and tolerance. Sesame Street has become worldwide and is being seen in 120 countries. Sesame Street has become very popular because of the valuable lessons it teaches the children.

I think students might change their behavior upon seeing this program because Sesame Street teaches children that tolerance is not about religion; it's about kindness and mutual respect. Eventually, children will realize you have to accept differences in life; including different people. Watching Sesame Street has made children accept different cultures around the world. I also admire Sesame Street because, even though everyone on Sesame Street is from a different culture, they still find a way to work together and become friends. This will show children around the world that it's actually possible to put your differences aside and get along with other people who are different from you. Sesame Street tries to encourage young viewers that tolerance, kindness, and mutual respect are very important characteristics to have. For example, Big Bird is always trying to make everyone get long on the show. If you refuse or don't want to be tolerant, you can miss out on people who can turn out to be your best friend. I think that fact opens children's eyes and makes them realize it's important to be open-minded about one's culture or beliefs. Even though Sesame Street was first locally produced in the educational area, it affected more students by adding children of diverse backgrounds with age-appropriate messages encouraging respect for each other. I think Sesame Street breaks down the wall of intolerance and casts off a new idea of acceptance and respect. Sesame Street will inspire many people because living with different people with different beliefs in the same neighborhood is like having different pieces of the world surrounding you. I think this idea will excite the students of the world. Also, many students appreciate Sesame Street because it's like a giant link that's connecting our country with the rest of the world. This program will give students an idea of what the other side of our world is like. Sometimes, this will intrigue the students and they would become interested in another culture across the world. I think Sesame Street affects the world in a positive way, for it's promoting peace.

Over the years, the youth has been positively changing because of Sesame Street. If this continues, I'm sure that one day this world will see a day without intolerance. Hopefully, we will only get better from here and intolerance will stop once and for all.

Elizabeth Mydlowski
The Hun School of Princeton
Princeton, NJ
Grade 6


There are many television programs and movies in the world that send out messages to people. Some demonstrate why you should always treat everyone fairly, and not be prejudiced against people because of their differences. Other television shows and films, though, discriminate against people like it is not a bad thing. This gives the wrong impression to viewers, who are sometimes children. The movie that I would recommend for people to watch to try and teach them not be prejudiced is DreamWorks' Shrek. I would choose this movie because it is the story of an ogre named Shrek, who everyone hates, because they think that he is a big, stupid, ugly beast. They do not understand that he has "layers," as he says, "like an onion." For example, his "layer" on the outside may be ugly and green, but his layers on the inside are kind and caring. He is really a good person on the inside. He gets depressed because they judge him before they even know him. The movie teaches how to accept people the way they are, and not to judge them before you know them. You shouldn't judge someone by just looking at their outside, because they probably aren't anything like what you thought they would be on the inside.

I think this movie would impact the students who watch it because it gives out the message that sometimes things are more than they appear. The movie Shrek sends this message in a serious way, but also with lots of laughs and in a way that people of all ages can enjoy. As you watch the movie, you realize how upset the characters like Shrek get when they are treated differently. For instance, when Lord Farquaad says, "It's not like the Ogre has any feelings," Shrek gets upset and angry because he really does have feelings, which Lord Farquaad doesn't realize. Also, when Princess Fiona gets married to Lord Farquaad, she turns into an ogre because of a spell that was cast on her. Lord Farquaad wanted her to be killed just because she is "different" when the sun goes down. There are other characters that experience discrimination, like Donkey. When Shrek first meets him, he thinks of Donkey as annoying and stupid. But as the story goes on, Shrek realizes that he was wrong. Donkey is not stupid and annoying, he is a good friend. The movie will make you think about how you treat people, and if the way you treat them is fair.

After seeing this film, I think students will change their behavior in many ways. For example, they might become more accepting to people of different colors or cultures. In the movie it explains that just because Shrek is green on the outside and an ogre, he is the same as humans on the inside. They'll understand that if everyone were the same, the world would be boring, and it is a good thing that there are people that are different from each other. Just because somebody isn't exactly like you, that doesn't mean that they aren't perfect or they are weird. They are just themselves, and they cannot change that.

With all of the movies and TV shows today, Shrek is one that teaches you to respect people that are "different" and accept them for who they are. It is important to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Shrek is a hilarious movie for both children and adults. It has a good message and a good story; it's absolutely the perfect movie!

Vic Sun
West Hills Middle School
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Grade 6

To Kill a Mockingbird

I believe that the movie To Kill a Mockingbird can be used to raise prejudice awareness. This movie has many lessons regarding discrimination, and shows how it can be detrimental to society. To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of three children, a man, and a battle against racism. Atticus is a widower with two children; Scout, his daughter and Jem, his son. He is a lawyer, and, contrary to most other peoples' beliefs, he believes in racial equality. Jem and Scout meet a boy new to the neighborhood; his name is Dill. As their friendship grows, Dill shows a fascination with the Radley Place. Rumors say that Arthur "Boo" Radley hadn't left the home for years. As the children struggle to meet Boo, Atticus is faced with an even greater dilemma. He takes up a case in which a black man, Tom Robinson, was falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. A mob gathers to lynch Tom, but Atticus stands in their way. Just as the argument was about to break into open violence, Scout, Jem, and Dill leap out of the bushes. A couple of innocent questions about one of the men's sons caused him to have so much guilt that he dispersed the mob. Although Tom was innocent, and Atticus proves this without a doubt, the all-white jury finds Tom guilty, and he is sent to jail. Tom attempts an escape, but is shot, and dies. Despite the verdict, Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, feels that he has been made a fool of, and becomes quite vindictive. He threatens Tom's widow, attempts to break into the judge's house, and attacks Jem and Scout. Boo stops Bob, and stabs him to death.

I believe this movie would have a profound impact upon the students who watch it. Since the main characters are mainly children, the students would be able to relate with their problems and sentiments. It also shows how discrimination can turn an otherwise peaceful town into an angry mob crying out for blood. The most important lesson, however, is that even children can have an enormous anti-discrimination effect. As Scout, Jem, and Dill fight for Tom's rights, and dispel an entire mob, To Kill a Mockingbird shows the amazing power of the few and naive. It inspires students to protect every human's rights, even when it seems like the whole world is against them. When discrimination occurs, perhaps a child will step in and stop the injustice. In addition, the movie teaches students to respect each other. When Dill comes for the summer, Scout and Jem almost instantly befriend him. This encourages students to not exclude, and to welcome friends from all walks of life. If all students could befriend new students so quickly and easily, both prejudice and discrimination would surely be remedied within the generation. While adults too should not discriminate, it is more important to help children resist discrimination as well. If the adults are educated but the children are not, as soon as the adults die, the world will once again be dominated by prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice and discrimination can end in three ways: ending in one fell swoop, in both younger generations and the older generations, and slowly dissipating as the generations pass. The first option should be encouraged, as it spares innocent people the suffering prejudice may cause them.

To Kill a Mockingbird could have several effects on students. It promotes inclusion, racial equality, and above all else justice. Students could be affected in many ways, depending on their personality. A student with an aggressive personality might become more tolerant of other students, and allow them to express their ideas freely and without repercussion. A student with a passive personality could become more outgoing, and increase the likelihood of that student standing up for another student, and prevent discrimination. Students that are extroverts could use that trait to spread prejudice awareness just as well as any movie or television program. Peer pressure can be a good thing, and when the majority of students are willing to stand up against discrimination, those students who would have done such a thing could instead work against it. Albert Einstein once said, "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." To Kill a Mockingbird helps ensure that those prejudices are the right ones.

High School Honorable Mention