Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reject - The Science of Belonging (The Film)

Posted by Wayne Anderson in General  |  Comments (4)

Last week, I had the privilege of going to the 95th State Education Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During my three days, I was able to attend several key note speakers and sectionals, but one sectional had a profound impact on me and I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic with you. I was able to watch a screening of the film “Reject – The Science of Belonging.” The film portrayed the impact that social rejection has on human life. Unfortunately, social rejection is fairly common and almost all of us have experienced it at one time or another during our life. Sometimes it is experienced when someone is having a party and we are not invited; for others it might be not having a date to a school dance or for some it might have occurred when he/she was one of the last children to be picked to be on a team. Most of us bounce back from these or similar events because we eventually find our niche and feel the positive power of inclusion. But what about the person who is continually rejected and loses all hope for ever being accepted – where do your turn when you feel no one cares? The film showed the correlation that exists between the pain of social rejection, the subsequent physical pain felt by the individual and the perpetration of violent acts that can take place because of the pain the individual is feeling.

In an education setting, it showed that even at a very young age children start to socially exclude one another by determining who can play with one another at recess. In fact, Vivian Paley in her book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play stated, “By Kindergarten… a structure begins to be revealed and will soon be carved in stone. Certain children will have the right to limit the social experiences of their classmates. Henceforth, a ruling class will notify other of their acceptability, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection. Long after hitting and name-calling have been outlawed by the teachers, a more damaging phenomenon is allowed to take root, spreading like a weed from grade to grade.” The good news is that this trend of rejection and exclusion can be changed. The film highlighted a school district is Texas that implemented the “you can’t say you can’t play” philosophy at Kindergarten. Though it did not immediately catch on – adults were actually a bigger problem than the children – it did take hold and the district started to experience many positive effects, such as increased student attendance, fewer discipline problems and overall happier children, parents and staff.

Another much sadder story told in the film dealt with a student who committed suicide at the age of 17. This individual came from a good and loving home where both parents supported their son and an older sister with whom he was very close. He was a good student and a great musician who loved playing and singing with the district’s musical ensembles. He was popular amount his classmates, especially for his fair treatment and acceptance of students from all clichés. All of his background pointed to a very well adjusted and happy young man who was destined to a life of success. However, after he stood up for a young man who some individuals felt was gay; he started experiencing some bullying from students in his math class. The bullying went unnoticed by the teacher but became a normal part of each day. He didn’t make much of it and never told his parents. However, the bullying spread from his math class to his music classes and co-curriculars – a place where he always felt safe and accepted. This rejection was more painful than he could bear and ended the pain by taking his life. After the event, people were shocked that this could have happened and then realized all of the things that could have been done to have averted this tragedy.

One final example that demonstrated the emotions and pain people feel when they are rejected was done as a college experiment. Students were put into a room and given the direction to play a simple video game of catch. Students were told that they were playing with two other individuals that were in separate rooms. The game starts out by having the ball thrown to each student, but eventually the test subject is left out and the ball is thrown between the other two figures and he/she no longer has the ball thrown to them. When the individual realizes that he/she is no longer getting the ball they go through the emotions of rejection and pain of being excluded from the game. After the experiment, the students talked about their emotions and how bad they felt when they thought they were being excluded from even this simple activity.

The film drove home the point about how important it is for people to feel accepted and the negative impacts that being rejected and excluded can have on a person. I left the film grieving for the children that may be going through that feeling of rejection and wondering what I could do to minimize this feeling in any of our students. I think a first step is to simply take the time to recognize the people you meet each day, when people feel recognized they feel valued and this goes a long way to helping restore their hope that life may be hard now, but it can get better. We all have very busy lives, but taking a few brief moments to say something positive to the people you meet can do wonders for their spirits and their overall well-being.

I felt the following quote was an appropriate way to end this blog, “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again…” – Stephen Grellet

Comments on "Reject - The Science of Belonging (The Film)"

5/10/2016 10:26:41 AM CST

1. Reject film said...

Dr. Anderson,
We are just seeing your thoughtful and moving blog post.  Thank you for summing up the movie so beauitfully and for the inspiring words.  Sincerely, Reject documentary team

2/9/2016 10:58:46 AM CST

2. Dixie Normus said...

Nice blog!

2/9/2016 10:53:53 AM CST

3. Seymour Hoffman said...


2/9/2016 10:53:04 AM CST

4. jo said...

jo mama

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