• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Non-traditional names linked to teacher discrimination

Zofia K Stanley · 18 Sep 2009, 16:24

Published: 18 Sep 2009 16:24 GMT+02:00

According to the study released this week, which is based on an extensive online questionnaire, the great majority of teachers make assumptions about the academic performance and behaviour of children based merely on their first names.

Around 2,000 elementary school (Grundschule) teachers throughout Germany were anonymously questioned – with disheartening results.

The study reveals that the names traditional names such as Charlotte, Sophie, Marie, Hannah, Alexander, Maximilian, Simon, Lukas and Jakob are consistently linked to strong performance and good behaviour. Non-traditional names such as Chantal, Mandy, Angelina, Kevin, Justin and Maurice, on the other hand, are associated with weak performance and bad behaviour.

“These prejudices undoubtedly widen a pre-existing class divide,” pedagogical expert Professor Astrid Kaiser, who led the research project, told The Local.

According to Kaiser, it is no coincidence that almost all of the ‘positive’ names mentioned above are also in the ‘top ten’ list of names given to newborn boys and girls in Germany, as published in The Statistical Yearbook 2008 for the Federal Republic of Germany.

“The names with positive connotations are all traditional German ones,” she said. “What this shows is that children from a working class or immigrant background are clearly being discriminated against.”

In some cases, the strength of the prejudices connected with names was surprising.

The name Kevin was perceived as being linked to especially poor behaviour and performance, with one study participant even writing that, “Kevin is not a name – it’s a diagnosis!”

Kaiser told The Local that the inspiration behind her study came in part from similar research carried out in the United States.

One study in particular showed that in a group of children deemed to be equal intelligence level taught by the same teachers for two years, the performance of children with African-American names worsened considerably.

“I truly believe that expectation is the mother of all achievement,” Kaiser said. “Just as it has been shown that if a coach does not believe in the potential of an athlete, that athlete’s performance will drop, I believe that if teachers do not believe in the potential of their pupils then the pupils’ performances will plummet.”

The effect of such prejudices is particularly significant coming from elementary school teachers because it is widely acknowledged that younger children are more responsive to encouragement.

Story continues below…

Such prejudices could have a drastic impact upon children’s future success, particularly in a school system where children are separated into different schools according to intellectual potential at the age of just 10.

Statistics show that once a child has been placed in the less academic Realschule or Hauptschule, it is very rare for them to transfer to the university preparatory Gymnasium.

Professor Kaiser called for the necessity to “educate teachers in the dangers of such prejudices.”

Of the teachers questioned, the overwhelming majority associated personal traits with first names without a second thought. Only a very small percentage of those who answered the survey said that they tried to maintain a critical distance between such prejudices and their pupils’ names.

Zofia K Stanley (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

19:05 October 28, 2009 by pola859
Any teacher who discriminates against a child because of the first name should not be allowed to teach, This teacher who said that Kevin was a diagnosis need serious professional help and is at the wrong place teaching at a school!!

Kevin is a beautiful name, and if you ask me I think of a quite neat clean boy, but I am aware of the fact that there are different kinds of kids with that name.

I have asked some people's opinions, mostly in the US and it showed that over 80% of the people in other countries actually think of a quiet shy but intelligent boy or have made that experience with someone named Kevin.

And Chantal by the way is a French name that if you went to France you'll certainly find many different people with that name as well, even though the name rather sounds fine and upper class, while here they think it sounds like someone poor and stupid.

This is ridiculous.
Today's headlines
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Munich shooting
Munich attacker was shy video game fan
People laying flowers at the site of the shootings. Photo: DPA.

David Ali Sonboly was a quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games. His neighbours say there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage at a Munich shopping mall.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman inspired by rightwing Breivik: police
Photo: DPA

The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

Munich shooting
Turks, Kosovans and a Greek among shooting victims
Photo: DPA

Three Turkish citizens were among the nine people killed in Germany's Munich mall shooting. Three Kosovans were also among the nine victims.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman was likely not Isis terrorist: police
Flowers laid at the Olympia Shopping Centre underground station. Photo: DPA

According to initial investigations by Munich police, the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Munich on Friday evening was a lone gunman without motive, not a terrorist.

Munich shooting
'Lone' Munich shooter kills nine, commits suicide
Photo: DPA

A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting spree at a busy Munich shopping centre and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said Saturday.

As it happened
Nine dead in shooting rampage in Munich
File photo: DPA

Nine people are dead after "at least one person" went on a shooting spree in a Munich shopping centre on Friday evening. An attacker is believed to be among the dead.

German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot
Pro-Erdogan protesters in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Hatred between supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those opposed to him has exploded on social media in Germany in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday.

Germany stresses defence of Baltics after Trump comments
Photo: DPA

Germany on Friday stressed its promise to protect its NATO allies after White House hopeful Donald Trump called the commitment into question.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,713
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd