Stereotype: a generalized belief about a particular category of people. A stereotype is formed by expectations people might have of this certain group of people and disregards any individual characteristics of the members. These expectations can be about things like personality, abilities or appearance.
As I’m sure all of the students in our school know, the upper secondary of KSYK consists of four different types of streams: the general stream, the society and economics stream (YT), the science and technology stream (TT) and the English stream. There is a huge amount of different types of people from very diverse backgrounds studying in these streams. Before beginning my studies at KSYK, I had heard of multiple assumptions and stereotypes about each stream and the students studying in them that have been formed throughout the years. Now, as I’ve just begun my second year here and at least sort of know my way around the school, I’ve been wondering, are any of these stereotypes actually true? Are all YT-students only interested in investments? Is coding the favorite pastime of everyone in TT? Are all of the smartest people in our school actually in the general stream? Do English stream students only speak finglish?
To find out how many of the well known stereotypes are actually true, I made a questionnaire and asked some of the second graders of our school to share their own experiences regarding the topic. My goal was to get answers from all four streams to get a good understanding of how different people perceive the assumptions made about the stream they are in. I asked my schoolmates the four following questions:
“What stream do you study in?”
“What type of stereotypes or assumptions regarding your stream have you heard of?”
“Do you think these stereotypes are often correct?”
“Do you feel that you have some sort of assumptions about the other streams and their students?”
The answers I got ended up being surprisingly unanimous and there were a few certain assumptions and thoughts that stood out the most for each individual stream. According to the questionnaire, a stereotypical TT-student keeps pretty quiet and is interested in things like natural sciences and computer programming. TT-students are also referred to as “invisible” multiple times. This allegation comes from the belief that people from TT can rarely be seen in the school hallways.
There weren’t many stereotypes that stood out about the general stream but the most popular answers had to do with the fact that this stream usually has the highest grade point average and so is the hardest to get in to. This gives the impression that the general stream has the most school-oriented students of our school.
The strongest thoughts were definitely given about the English and YT-streams. The students in the English stream are best known for their way of only speaking finglish (which usually drives any outsiders crazy). Other things mentioned include shopping at thrift stores and being very artistic and free spirited. In contrast, YT-students are thought to be very focused on money. The people in YT are also expected to be very politically involved and to have strong opinions.
The most interesting part to me personally was that out of all the students that answered the questionnaire, 86% agreed to the fact that they have formed some sort of assumptions and speculations about people in the other streams. In comparison, only 23% think these assumptions are actually correct. This is what is scary about stereotypes: without ever talking to a person, you can have a surprisingly specific image about what this person must be like, just based on what stream they are in. Stereotypes have such a strong influence on us and the way we perceive the people around us that a lot of the times, we don’t even notice it.
So, what should we all take away from this little experiment? Even though there are characteristics and traits that we identify with each individual stream, they are often dramatised or even completely false. They’re not necessarily the factors we should judge the people around us by. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t let stereotypes distract us from the fact that our school is filled with such interesting, diverse people, right?
Text: Peppi Särkelä
Images: Astrid Lehto