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Sample Student Essay—Summary-and-Response—Example #1

A summary of, followed by a response to, Robert Heilbroner’s essay “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgments.”

            In his essay “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgments” Robert Heilbroner discusses the many faces of stereotyping.  Heilbroner reminds us that stereotyping affects many areas of our lives from how we view the world as a whole to how we view each individual we meet.  According to Heilbroner there is nothing positive about stereotyping.  He states that it makes us lazy thinkers and that it harms both the people we are stereotyping and ourselves.  Heilbroner gives us three ways we can eliminate stereotyping behavior from our lives. 

     The first suggestion Heilbroner gives to eliminate stereotyping is to “become aware of the standardized pictures in our heads, in other people’s heads, in the world around us” (36). My father believes that all French people are stupid, rude “Frogs.”  I don’t know why he believes this; he doesn’t even know that many French people.  I have never heard my father say anything positive about a French person.  He must have had a negative experience with one French person and so now judges all French people by the same yardstick.  This judgment on my father’s part is very unfair.  He has not met every French person in the world, so he cannot say that all French people are stupid and rude.  He could say that one Frenchman he met was that way, but as Heilbroner suggests should not judge all men by one man.

     Heilbroner’s second suggestion to eliminate stereotyping people is that “we can become suspicious of all judgments that we allow exceptions to prove” (36). He describes a situation where an older person says that all teenagers are wild, and when he meets a teenager who is responsible he says that this one particular teenager is an exception to the rule.  When I was in high school we did a lot of studying on Nazi Germany, and I specialized my essay writing on the extermination of the Jews.  It would have been so easy for me to fall for the idea that all Germans were monsters, but because I took German as a second language from an amazing older German man, I did not believe this stereotype.  I could have looked at him as an exception to the rule, but chose instead to believe that there were many wonderful people in Germany during this time that were trapped in a terrible situation they could do nothing about.

     The third suggestion is that “we can be wary of generalizations about people” (Heilbroner 36). How true this is.  I am Canadian and while working in the tourist industry in Canada, many people I worked with looked at Americans as being very rude and opinionated.  It was true that some of the tourists we met from America were rude and opinionated, but just as many were not.  We cannot make generalizations that include a whole nation of people.  If we were to do this, we could say that all Muslims are terrorists, that all Asians are afraid of snakes, (that one was from my neighbor just last week!!) that all Canadians say “eh” and that all Americans are rude and opinionated.  These are excellent examples of generalizations to be wary of.

     There is never an all or nothing situation with people.  “People” breaks down into an individual person, and each person is unique and original.  Each person is as individual as their DNA or their fingerprints.  Not even identical twins have the same fingerprint.  And the “fingerprint” we each leave on this world is an individual thing, and cannot be lumped into a stereotype of any sort.  Heilbroner’s essay is a good reminder that we were all created equal . . . but very, very different. 


Works Cited

Heilbroner, Robert. “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp Your judgments.” National Relationship Review 22 August 2002: 34-37