Site icon Liesl Garner

Classify, don’t Stereotype – Sort, don’t Judge

Classification of Animals

Over dinner we got into a big discussion of not judging a book by its cover.  We talked about the people we met at the Art Gallery, who were disabled, and how some people would look at them and think that their life is difficult, and they wouldn’t take the time to get to know what is inside that person. We don’t want to look at a person and think we know what they are all about just because of something we see on the outside.

Everyone has a story. Everyone is a mixture of lots of different influences. We don’t want to judge people. The other night we were talking about diplomacy and how even if we disagree with someone, we treat them with respect.

Then, for Science night, we were talking about Classification of Animals and how scientists look at certain visible clues to categorize things into different groups. Vertebrate or Invertebrate.

Is it just me, or does that get confusing? Categorize, classify this with that because those two things are similar. Both either have a backbone or don’t. But when you look at a person, you’re supposed to keep your mind from trying to classify them into a category that makes sense to you so that you know how to understand them, you are to hold off placing them in one category or another until you’ve gotten to know them. Until you’ve heard their story or gotten a chance to see their heart.

It is human nature to want to put like things with like things, and separate things that seem different from one another.

That just made me realize that herein lies one of our biggest challenges as humans – to understand when it is appropriate to classify, and when it is not. Buttons can be sorted into groups of metallic and nonmetallic, big blue buttons, or tiny fragile buttons. You can make informed guesses as to their ability to hold up to pressure. Some buttons will work on kids clothes, others will fall to pieces. We cannot look at people and decipher their strengths and weaknesses just by looking at them. We cannot, at a glance, know what they are made of or what they can handle.

This is so obvious, but yet, when I’m talking to my children about it, and we happen to talk about these two very different outlooks in one night, I am floored that I’ve never seen it quite this way before.

The one side – the scientific, sort, classify, code side of things is just rationally putting like with like. The more intuitive side has to be taught when to hold off classifying, when to wait for further information, when to fight the urge to put like with like, and let similar be just that. Two people may look very much alike, but be worlds apart inside.

And just like that – it looks like it’s time for a discussion about heart and soul and the thing that separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. I don’t believe I’m ready for that talk. But right here is where it would make sense. Not a talk about religion, but a talk about soul. At least there is poetry, and that may help.

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