You are What You Hear. You are What You See.

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"Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that's true!" (34-36).

            It may be obvious that we learn from others and thus are sculpted by them; however, I still found this passage of the poem must thought provoking and interesting. We learn to hate, to be mean, to be racist. These are not qualities we are born with. However, as I write this I think to myself, could children be this way without being taught? Maybe children do look at each other and think they should be mean to someone else for being different from them, but is this something they learned to do?

            We are sculpted by our surroundings, the people, the environment, all that we see and experience. After every difficulty we face, we are changed. Hopefully, we use the difficulty as a learning experience, one to grow from. But regardless of whether these hardships change us for the good or the bad, the fact is, we change.  I do not have the statistics in front of me or the proven facts, so I am going to do some assuming here. I would assume, a child born into a racist family would be more likely to be racist over a child born into a family that believes all are equal. Perhaps children look at others wondering why they are different, not yet being mean to them for it though. These children may ask their parents, the teacher, other students, or the  actual student being observed, why they look different. Whatever answer the student receives will play a role in how the questioning child perceives the different child.

            We all know the saying "a child is like a sponge". Children take in all that they hear and learn, like a sponge. Maybe the same child who became curious about the different child decided to ask everyone this time, the teacher, his/her parents, other students, and the student in question, why the different child is different. Maybe the curious child used each answer to make a generalization about the different child.

            I really do not know the answer to these questions. If we are not born with the ability to be mean, but rather learn to be, then who was the first person to decide to be mean to others? I mean it all had to start somewhere right?

            Either way, Hughes had it right when he said, "As I learn from you/I guess you learn from me" (37-38). We take in what we learn from our teachers and that knowledge becomes a part of us. I believe the saying "children are like sponges" should be "people are like sponges". We never stop taking in what we see or hear. I also believe we never stop learning whether we want to or not. Good and bad experiences continue to occur throughout our lifetime and we are sculpted by them.

7 Comments

Melissa Schwenk said:

I totally agree, Brooke. Hughes was trying to show that people are taught to hate or discriminate against one another. I think the overall message was that the speaker wanted to try to reverse this by asking questions and presenting facts to illustrate that everyone is essentially the same thing, human.

Even if children are not taught early on to hate a person or a type of people, through bad experiences these things can sometimes develop. Also, as a part of our culture, it is engrained into us that decimation is either a bad or good thing. A person can't necessarily escape forming an opinion about a group of people in one way or another because of the media and other outside influences. Most of which usually falls into the negative category.

Brooke Kuehn said:

Melissa, it definitly seems like people usually construct negative rather than positive judgements of others. Televison always uses drama to entertain and how do you create drama?- Through negativity. We are taught through media that conflict is a regular ordeal which is generally true; however, creating drama just because you can is not normal. Unfortunatly, this is what we usually see in media.

Jessica Orlowski said:

Great blog, Brooke.

I agree that people are like sponges, particularly children. Did you know that, in Cambodia during the terrible reign of Pol Pot, most of the soldiers were children. Also, the size of the "Hitler Youth" group was overwhelming. So, why is it that hate spreads so easily? Can it be just as easy to spread opposite thoughts of goodwill?

Brooke Kuehn said:

Thanks Jess! i cant remember what war it was but i remember hearing that whoever we were fighting would put children on the front lines because they knew the americans would not harm children, eventhough the children were relentlessly shooting at us. I wish i could say that thoughts of goodwill could be spread just as easily but for some reason i cant. When we think one negative thought, a rush of more negative thoughts come in. It is a domino effect and it seems like it is so easy to fall into. We have to work hard to change the negative frequency and once we change the frequency into a postive one, it continues to be a challenge to maintain. It is hard work to be good and positive yet too easy to be negative.

Josie Rush said:

Brooke, I think you could be referring to Vietnam with your example. I think we have more of a resistance towards positive thoughts because it's nicer to be pleasantly surprised than let down. Ever heard "aim low and avoid disappointment"? This isn't the only reason, but it's one thing that came to mind. Another reason it is, as you said, "hard work to be...positive yet too easy to be negative" is that we tend to think we deserve nice, happy things. So when something positive happens, in certain cases, we don't feel the need to comment on it or make a big fuss. But if something bad happens, suddenly we're up in arms, because we "didn't deserve that."

I personally feel that children learn to be mean because they learn it elsewhere first. Also, I was raised in a very non-racist house and until I was 8 lived in a town that was dominantly African American. My mom once told me that I didn't realize the difference in skin color until I was 7, and it was because another kid (who's family was racist) called someone "that black kid." It's not necessarily just our surroundings that affect us, but the people we're around.

The who was mean first debate is kind of like the question "what came first: the chicken or the egg?" There's really no solution. I suppose it's human nature, but the way you are raised determines how that will affect you.

That's very interesting, Jess! I remember you mentioning that in class and I was impressed that you know so much about that period in time.

Brooke Kuehn said:

Karyssa, i can relate to your childhood because i went to a fairly diverse school district and was raised to be accepting of all people. I think it wasnt until middle school that i noticed a distinction between who hung out with who and the relationship between that and race. I like your reference to the chicen and the egg concept. That is a perfect description of how to answer the question of who started the cruelty.

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