Perpetuating Stereotypes

Readers write

January 29, 1992

From: David Weeks

Ellicott City

In his review of the "Voices from the Streets" performance at theGlenelg Country School (Howard County Sun, "Ex-homeless share raw message at affluent school," by James M. Coram, Jan. 19), Mr. Coram hasperpetuated the kind of stereotypical thinking which school administrators and teachers had hoped the program addressing homelessness andthe urban poor would break down for students.

The plight of the urban poor and homeless is symptomatic of the deterioration of our society. The voices from the streets are crying to be heard and hoping the compassionate will listen.

Schools have a responsibility to graduate students with the compassion to attend to the suffering of others and with skills to effectively work for the betterment of society.In presenting the Washington-based "Voices from the Streets" performers to its student body, the Glenelg Country School provided an opportunity for young people to recognize the genuine suffering of the homeless and to correct the stereotypical image of the homeless as depressed, unmotivated people. The powerful impact of the performance has reaffirmed our ongoing commitment to community service.

Mr. Coram's description of our students wearing "the latest chic in coats and ties, sweaters and skirts" . . . "rushing off hurriedly -- many to expensive German-made cars," stereotypically depicts an affluent community too self-absorbed to be sensitized to the suffering of the homeless.

His report undermines our need to work together regardless of our socioeconomic position to address the roots of violence and injustice in our society.

(David Weeks is the Community Service Program coordinator for Glenelg Country School.)

NOT SPOILED, NOT UNCARING

From: Cecelia Blalock

Savage

Re your article, "Ex-homeless share raw message at affluent school" it appears your reporter approached this assignment with his own set of stereotypes about independent schools, much the way many cling to stereotypes about the homeless.

Instead of probing deeper for students' reactions to the powerful program and their attitudes toward homelessness, he snidely focused on details that seemed to bear out his obvious belief that the school was filled with spoiled children of privilege who cared only for their comfortable lifestyle.

Contrary to the implication, students were wearing coats and ties not in an effort to look "chic" or to show up the T-shirted ex-homeless performers but to abide by the school dresscode. If they raced out of school at dismissal time, it was more likely to catch the school bus (alas, not everyone drives "expensive German cars") or to get ready for one of the three basketball games scheduled for that afternoon.

My daughter has attended Glenelg CountrySchool since kindergarten. Her modest home, high-mileage, non-Germanic car and clothes with Gap rather than Gucci labels don't quite fit your reporter's image of affluence. Neither does her thoughtful, concerned attitude toward the homeless -- and people of all backgrounds.

While it is certainly true that she and her classmates have not,

and probably will not, experience the hardships presented in the provocative program, the implication that they (and anyone from affluent circumstances) are too self-centered to be concerned about the lessfortunate is insulting and ridiculous.

Glenelg Country School hasa long tradition of helping their students develop a strong set of values, including community service and a deep concern for others.

"Voices from the Streets" is a courageous effort. Its message was notlost on these students.

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