Archive for Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Changing Lanes: People should not be labeled

September 3, 2008

Labels are great when they're on food cans and jars - but not when they're slapped on people.

Food labels give us an idea of what's inside those cans and jars. Although we might have a great idea, we could be totally wrong. Those labels let us know exactly what's inside.

For people, though, it doesn't quite work in the same manner.

During Friday assemblies at Tonganoxie High School, Danny Hoyt and Andre Anderson of R-5 Productions spoke to all high school students about being careful not to label their fellow schoolmates. The two spoke about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as domestic abuse and the importance of treating everyone with respect. And the duo presented their message with real-life material with a bit of humor sprinkled throughout their programs. In addition, Hoyt had a backpack of shoes belonging to people whose troubled stories he's heard during his work in R-5 Productions.

As Hoyt pointed out poignantly, we can make all the assumptions in the world, but if we don't step back and think about what others might be going through, we're unfairly "labeling" our peers.

It was a message that seemed to stick to the students who listened to Hoyt and Anderson's messages in two sessions - freshmen and juniors and then sophomores and seniors - at the Tonganoxie Performing Arts Center.

Too often, we don't think about where other people are coming from and what they are going through.

Warning: this column is now approaching a reference to a 1980s movie about teen angst. I am quite fond of that decade. I turned 2 a week after calendars turned to 1980, so it was the decade of my childhood.

In 1985, John Hughes directed a little movie called "The Breakfast Club" about a group of students, all from different backgrounds, who had to serve a day of detention at the same time one Saturday.

As the narrator in the movie's trailer indicates, the group is made up of a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse. They came into the day with nothing in common and left with a much better understanding of each other.

I'm not promoting that students do something that requires detention so they can get to know people who are different from them. But it's important that people have respect for others, whether they're of different race, religion, political view or sexual orientation. That's just a short list of differences people can find among each other.

The key is to hold off on throwing labels on people and calling them names. Getting to know others is the better route to take.

After all, we're not some jars of food on a shelf in the supermarket.

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