Intolerance in the classroom

As the media keeps gushing on about how America has finally adopted tolerance as the great virtue, and that we’re all united now, let’s consider the Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment.

Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.

She noticed that fellow students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching “inclusion,” and she decided to see how included she could be.

So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:

“McCain Girl.”

“I was just really curious how they’d react to something that different, because a lot of people at my school wore Obama shirts and they are big Obama supporters,” Catherine told us. “I just really wanted to see what their reaction would be.”

Immediately, Catherine learned she was stupid for wearing a shirt with Republican John McCain’s name. Not merely stupid. Very stupid.

“People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn’t be wearing it,” Catherine said.

Then it got worse. …

Continue reading, Tolerance fails T-shirt test.

She ultimately turned her experience in as a history report. And then as a class they discussed the issues of intolerance:

… she turned her journal into a report for her history teacher, earning Catherine extra credit. We asked the teacher, Norma Cassin-Pountney, whether it was ironic that Catherine would be subject to such intolerance from pro-Obama supporters in a community that prides itself on its liberal outlook.

“That’s what we discussed,” Cassin-Pountney said about the debate in the classroom when the experiment was revealed. “I said, here you are, promoting this person [Obama] that believes we are all equal and included, and look what you’ve done? The students were kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ I think they got it.”

In order to be more scientific, this would have needed to be a coordinated effort throughout the country. For example, with this single test, we don’t know what the reaction would have been had Catherine worn the Obama t-shirt first. An interesting experiment still.

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