• Germany's news in English
 

Non-traditional names linked to teacher discrimination

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.

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
Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey
A view of Istanbul. Photo: DPA.

Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey

The German government has issued more severe warnings about travelling to Turkey after a string of terror attacks in the south of the country, and as Ankara intensifies conflict against two militias in Syria and Iraq. READ  

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years
Fire services extinguish an unrelated fire in Hamburg in 2011. Photo: DPA

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years

After a series of arson attacks over several months, an ex-fireman has been sentenced to three years in jail without chance of bail. READ  

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son
Photo: DPA

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son

A mother from North Rhine-Westphalia has accused furniture chain IKEA of debasement, discrimination and marginalization – after employees in their Dortmund store refused to let her autistic son into the children's play area. READ  

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback
Photo: Gemeinde Nuthe-Urstromtal

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback

A woman in a village south of Berlin was shocked to find a rather unusual visitor in her garden on Tuesday. But by the time police got there he'd already bounced. READ  

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'
A pedestrian walks by a group of Stolpersteine. Photo: DPA

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'

The Munich City Council said on Wednesday that it had voted to continue banning the placement of blocks commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims in city streets - a ban that garnered surprising support from Jewish community leaders. READ  

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Batlle in Syria. Photo: DPA

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis

A young teen from Munich was detained near the Turkish border with Syria on Friday as he was trying to join the radical Islamist group Isis. READ  

The Local List
Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather
Photo: DPA

Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather

Is it absolutely roasting, or raining cats and dogs? Neither if you live in Germany. Here are six wonderfully weird expressions Germans use to talk about the weather - some more literal than others. READ  

Little by little, Germans move away from cash
Photo: DPA

Little by little, Germans move away from cash

Tourists and business travellers visiting Germany are often surprised when they reach to pay for their beer, metro tickets or even a large restaurant bill that their credit cards are not welcome. Habits, however, are slowly changing as younger consumers leapfrog from cash to convenient electronic forms of payment. READ  

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
Martin Sonneborn. Photo: DPA

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife

After winning a seat in the European Parliament last year on a commitment to 'milking Brussels,' satirical party Die Partei broke new ground. Now a 'Nazi Putsch' threatens to split the party asunder. READ  

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo
These feathered fugitives took flight from the zoo to get a birds-eye view of the world. Photo: DPA.

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo

A pair of pelicans with a serious case of wanderlust flew the coop from Osnabrück Zoo last week, only to find their way back days later. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,226
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd