From Where Does Prejudice Come?

6, 7, 8

This lesson will focus on recognizing and examining learners perceptions of others, differences and prejudices. Prejudice is a learned behavior with fear and lack of knowledge at its root. Learners will discover how prejudices are learned and will be able to demonstrate how prejudice endangers and limits society. The learner will gain strategies to become more accepting and understanding of others for the common good in a civil society.

PrintTwo to Three Forty-Five to Fifty Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify and recognize prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping in history, society, community, school and literature.
  • listen to and discuss the song Carefully Taught, and evaluate how his/her own prejudices reflect the prejudices of others (i.e. environment, family, society).
  • evaluate how the plot of the musical South Pacific is built around the shared human experience of learning acceptance of others.
  • identify how prejudice denies human dignity and has historically fostered persecution.
  • recognize and identify legal and ethical laws that are violated by prejudice.
  • One copy of South Pacific (movie or music)
  • Lyrics to Carefully Taught (Attachment One)
  • Five pictures of diverse people from different ethnic, socio-economic, and/or age groups.

Rodgers, Richard. South Pacific. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein III. Columbia Broadway Masterworks. Original Broadway Cast rerecording. 1998


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask students to give their definition, examples or feelings about the words "prejudice, discrimination and stereotype." Write some of the key responses where learners may see the responses. Have the class draw a common working definition of these terms. Give each learner a piece of paper and an envelope. Have each learner privately write the answers to the following two questions, seal them inside the envelope, and write his/her name on the outside of the envelope. Collect all envelopes. Question One: Does anyone you know have prejudices, feelings of fear or distrust of people who are different? Question Two: What/Who are the target(s) of the prejudice or discrimination? What prejudice do you know exists in this school or community? (If a learner answers no to question number one, s/he should answer "nothing" to question two.

  2. Have learners number a piece of paper from one to five. Display one of the pictures. Ask learners to write the first thought that comes to their minds when they see that picture. Leave the picture on display for no more than thirty seconds. Repeat this procedure for each of the five pictures you select.

  3. Divide the learners into groups. Direct learners to share with one another the things they wrote down about each picture, and discuss whether or not stereotyping or prejudice affected their first reactions to the pictures.

  4. Return to the whole group. Have volunteers share what they discovered about their own prejudices. Discuss.

  5. Explain to the learners that the Arts (theater, music, visual art) are a reflection of the times and cultures in which they are produced. South Pacific is a musical play that explores prejudice. It is set in 1942 on a Pacific island. Two of the characters, Nurse Nellie Forbush (from Little Rock, Arkansas) and Lt. Joseph Cable (from Philadelphia, PA.) are forced to face their prejudices. Nellie falls in love with a French planter who has two half-Polynesian children from a former relationship and Joe Cable falls in love with a Tonkinese native girl. They explore their feelings in the song Carefully Taught.

  6. Discuss the historical perspectives of discrimination, explaining to learners that throughout history different groups of people have been discriminated against. If necessary, have learners research this area. (If Lesson One: Respecting Diversity has been completed, learners should already have some prior knowledge.)

  7. Discuss why Nellie at first has a problem with Emille's children.

  8. Play the song or video clip Carefully Taught. Direct learners to listen to the song with the plot in mind.

  9. Explain sarcasm. Pass out the written lyrics to Carefully Taught (Attachment One).. Return to small groups. Instruct each group to discuss and appraise the meaning of the song. Share ideas with the rest of class.

  10. As a whole class, discuss and list from where learners' own prejudices have come. This can be done as brainstorming. As the teacher, make sure that family, society, environment and the media are included in the list.

  11. Return to small groups. Have learners rewrite the lyrics to Carefully Taught to reflect acceptance and tolerance. (Example: "You have to be taught to love and share, you have to be taught to truly careā€¦") Have learners share their piggyback songs with the rest of the class.

  12. Remind learners of the questions they answered in the anticipatory set at the beginning of this lesson. Discuss what they have learned about themselves and prejudice in this lesson. Return their envelopes to them.


Have each learner write a journal entry discussing what they have learned from this lesson. You may read or write on the board the following questions for thought: Do you believe society teaches us to love or hate and give an example from history and the literature/video we have read and watched. Describe the ways in which groups or people have influenced the way the learner views others. Evaluate the daily logs. Instructor recorded observations of participation in group and class.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.