Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:  Triangles Are Not Bad!

AUTHOR:  Brenda Heredia, School Psychologist
Oklahoma Child Service Demonstration Center
Adapted from Tiedt, P. L. & Tiedt, I. M.  Multicultural
Teaching.  Allyn and Bacon, 1990.

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  4-9        in any social studies subject area.

OVERVIEW:  We must teach people how to operate in a world that is
diverse and pluralistic.  Schooling is not effective if it doesn't
have a multicultural component.  This is true now and will be even
more so in the future.  By 2000 AD, 1 in 3 will be minorities.
80% of the labor force will be women and minorities.  By 2010 AD,
1 in 2 will be minorities.

PURPOSE:  By not recognizing and teaching diversity, minority
cultures are devalued with the implication that they are less
significant.  The message becomes "You are not okay if you are
different from the majority culture members.

  1.  to develop a sense of "shared humanity"
  2.  to question stereotypes of others and of themselves
  3.  to discern the difference between fact and conjecture
  4.  to grasp the complexity of historical cause
  5.  to distrust the simple answer and the dismissive explanation
  6.  to respect particularity and avoid false analogy
  7.  to recognize the abuse of historical "lessons," and to weigh
the possible consequences of such abuse
  8.  to consider that ignorance of the past may make us prisoners of it
  9.  to realize that not all problems have solutions
 10.  to be prepared for the irrational, the	accidental, in human affairs
 11.  to grasp the power of ideas and character in history

   For younger students:  assorted colored construction paper, glue,
poster paper (14" X 22") and scissors.
   For older students:  Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions,
by Edwin A. Abbott, 1963, B & N Imports, would be read.  They
would then construct models of planar figures as well as the three
dimensional figures that "pass"through Flatland.  Changes in the
three dimensional figures as seen by the Flatlanders would be
described and depicted. Any materials that could be used for
constructing a model of two-dimensional figures (points or dots,
lines, triangles, rectangles, polygons, circles) in a plane.  This
planar world becomes Flatland.  Additionally, three dimensional
figures (cubes, spheres, cones, etc.) would be constructed out of
cardboard, toothpicks, or anything the students can come up with.
The only important guideline is that the three dimensional figures
must be able to pass through Flatland.

ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES:  For younger students:  The teacher
assigns one speaking part to each student and the poster for that
part.  Speaking parts might be one paragraph per student.  After
the students have created their poster for squares, circles,
rectangles, and triangles, they will perform the play.


  Here are the Squares.  They live all by themselves in Square Town.
  Here are the Circles.  They live all by themselves in Circle Town.
  Here are the Triangles.  They live all by themselves in Triangle Town.
  Here are the Rectangles.  They live all by themselves in Rectangle Town.
  The Squares do not like the Circles.  The Circles do not like the
  Triangles.  The Triangles do not like the Rectangles.  The Rectangles
  do not like the Squares.  They do not like anyone but themselves.  They
  think the others are stupid, lazy, and mean, and bad!  Bad!  Bad!
  The Squares say this:  "If you want to be smart and beautiful, and
  good, you must have four sides exactly the same.  If you don't have
  four sides exactly the same, then you are stupid, and ugly and bad!
  Bad!  Bad!
  The Circles say this:  "If you want to be smart and beautiful, and good,
  you must be perfectly round, and if you're not perfectly round, then you
  are stupid, and ugly and bad!  Bad!  Bad!
  The Triangles say this:  "If you want to be smart and beautiful, and
  good, you must have three sides.  If you don't have three sides, then you
  are stupid, and ugly and bad!  Bad!  Bad!
  The Rectangles say this:  "If you want to be smart and beautiful, and
  good, you must have two short sides exactly the same, and you must have
  two long sides exactly the same.  If you do not have two short sides and
  two long sides, then you are stupid, and ugly and bad!  Bad!  Bad!
  One beautiful summer day the little Squares, and the little Circles,
  and the little Triangles, and the little Rectangles went out to play.
  But not together.
  While they were playing, a terrible thing happened.  The little Circles
were playing on top of the hill.  Some of them slipped and went rolling
down the hill.  Faster and faster, they rolled to the very bottom of the
hill where the little Rectangles were playing.
  The Rectangles were very angry.  They thought the Circles were very bad
to roll into the Rectangles' very own playground.  They called the
Circles bad names, and threw rocks at them.  The Circles were frightened.
The Squares and Triangles heard the yelling and crying.  They ran as fast
as they could to see what was happening and they started yelling and
throwing stones.  There was more and more yelling and more and more
crying.  It was terrible!
  At last one of the Rectangles became so angry that he leaped into the
air and came down right on top of the Circles.  Oh, Wonder of Wonder!
Everyone was absolutely quiet.  No one said a word!  They just looked
and looked and looked.
  The Rectangles and the Circles had made a wagon!  A lovely beautiful
  And then everyone became excited.  They all wanted to make something.
The Squares and Circles made a train.  A Rectangle made the smokestack.
Some Circles made smoke.  The Triangles and Rectangles made trees.
  They all worked together and made a lovely house.  They made things
that were pretty.  (e.g., sun, boat, Jack-in-the-box, houses, and
flowers).  They made things that were fun.  Everyone had a wonderful
marvelous, beautiful time.
  When it was time to go home, they all sang a little song!
"We are glad, glad, glad!  Being different isn't bad!" and they sang
it over and over, all the way home.  The End

  (Script adapted from University of Oklahoma, A Basis for Exploring
Citizenship and Law (Norman, Oklahoma:  Southwest Center for Human
Relations Studies, 1979), p. 10.

For older students, the activity would be modified to follow
the societal order of the planar world described in the book
Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:  Questions for younger students:
  1.  What is the definition of Stereotype?
  2.  Who was the smartest and most beautiful in the play?
  3.  Are you a square, circle, rectangle, or triangle?
  4.  Is it okay to be different than someone else?

  For older students, after reading Flatland, concepts that can
be developed and discussed are:
  1.  People of all groups have a contribution to make.
  2.  People are more alike than they are different.
  3.  Differences in customs and attitudes can be an asset to society.
  4.  Prejudice and stereotyping is usually based on lack of information.
  5.  Understanding others will enrich our own lives.


Questions Teachers Should Ask Themselves 
  1)  What are my expectations of students?
  2)  How do I convey this, verbally and non-verbally. Compliments
can be back-handed such as "You're particularly articulate for a Black."
  3)  How do I deal with silence?  Is non-participation of minority
students ignored?
  4)  Do I call on minority students less than on majority students?
  5)  Do you look at the seating arrangement?  Where are the minorities
sitting?  Are they in groups separated by race?  You could use an
alphabetical seating chart to overcome this division.  Also, you could
assign group tasks to get students working together.
  6)  Do I perceive minorities as experts on minority issues, but
assume they don't know anything else?  Minorities may not know about
their own culture.  Don't ask them the Black view.  Ask them their own
opinion on an issue, but don't ask them to represent all Blacks.
  7)  Do I give feedback promptly and immediately so students can
accurately assess their progress.

Source:  Dick Richardson and Zelda Gampson.

5 Stages of Incorporating Cultural
Diversity Into the Curriculum
  1)  Exclusive.  Minorities are ignored; the instructor "treats
everyone the same."  No minorities are mentioned in the curriculum.
(Example given of literature courses taught with no required
reading from minority authors.)
  2)  Exceptional Outsider.  The curriculum is the same, except
that 1 or 2 minorities are added, as an aside or afterthought.
Tokenism assuages the guilt that "Now I've covered minorities."
  3)  Understanding the Outsider.  Courses on women and minorities
are taught as separate entities.
  4)  Getting Inside of the Outsider.  The course may incorporate
the strategy of looking at the world through the eyes of a minority.
Sims' book, Custer Died For Your Sins does this.
  5)  Transforming the Curriculum.  New views are incorporated and
infused into the curriculum.  New knowledge is reviewed, analyzed,
and incorporated into the existing curriculum.

Source:  Peggy McIntosh, Wellsley College.

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