Triangles Are Not Bad!

by Brenda Heredia

Brenda Heredia is a school psychologist at Oklahoma Child Service Demonstration Center
Adapted from Tiedt, P. L. & Tiedt, I. M. Multicultural Teaching. Allyn and Bacon, 1990.

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.

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

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.

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 wagon!

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.

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