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It has long been known that first names can lead to prejudice and thus significantly influence a person’s life. It is therefore all the less surprising that this is also the case with children.
We have investigated the phenomenon of “Chantalism” or “Kevinism”, as it is also called. The results of our research are quite shocking. For example, a scientific study of 2,000 elementary school teachers revealed that classic German first names are perceived as more powerful. Names loaded with prejudice, such as Kevin, Chantal, Mandy or Justin, are almost always associated with fundamentally worse evaluations.
The “average Kevin” is perceived by many people as a student with behavioral problems. He comes from a shabby environment and socially weaker background. His parents have trouble expressing themselves well and are either unemployed or don’t have time to spend at all because they are constantly busy yelling at their children, Chantal and Kevin.
An exaggerated, unacceptable description? True. But in fact, that’s exactly what goes on in our heads when we hear certain children’s names.
Even teachers are not immune to this. Subconsciously, they are influenced by the stereotypical images described above. Lower grades and difficulties in further education are inevitable.
In a nutshell, kids with certain names are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to education and later careers.
The question arises as to how it could come to this. Why is it that we are so prejudiced against certain first names?
The media are certainly partly to blame. In the popular series of some German television stations families are shown again and again, which represent a socially worse set class. Re-enacted (or freely invented) stories deal with the everyday problems of such families. In this way, the TV stations appeal both to those who are similarly affected and to those who feel entertained by the sight of them. “Dumb sells” you might say. And the fact that the socially weaker families are accused of stupidity is nothing new.
Back to the initial question. In the shows just described, names like Justin, Dustin (also already seen: the siblings “Jastin” and “Dastin”) are mentioned again and again. The mental leap to the strongly influenced teacher is not far. Such images do not pass him by either. So it is actually not surprising that Chantalism is the order of the day.