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Big Kicks, the story of Biggie Bear, introduces topics of ethics and epistemology by discussing stereotypes and peer pressure.
Biggie Bear enjoys playing jazz and collecting stamps by himself. One day the local soccer team asks Biggie for BIG help by playing on their team. Biggie doesn’t know how to play, but he agrees to help. On the field, they all realize that playing soccer requires more than being big.
Read aloud video by Theresa Hennig
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
Big Kicks introduces the question of what’s wrong with stereotypes and peer pressure, producing the framework for a philosophical investigation into epistemology and ethics. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and beliefs, and is concerned with how we know what we know, what our sources are, and to what extent what we know is true.
The study of beliefs in epistemology questions how we go about justifying beliefs, how we justify our beliefs, and if these justifications are based on external influences or internal reasoning. Big Kicks involves both ideas of epistemology. The Mighty Giants want Biggie Bear to join their team because he has the qualities that they need in a player, and he just happens to fit the description. But how do they know that Biggie has all of these attributes? Where did they get their beliefs/knowledge? What has influenced them to think the way they do?
The Mighty Giants explain that they need a bear on their team because he is big, brave, has a big brain, and a big kick. They automatically assume that Biggie is brave because he is big. Yet that proves not to be the case when he hesitates about joining the team. When the Mighty Giants mention Biggie’s big brain, they imply that he is intelligent; they have no actual knowledge of that. The team members are using prior knowledge to assume the assets Biggie “innately” carries. They must have all come in contact with a bear who had all of those attributes. They in turn assumed that all bears carried the same characteristics. In other words, the Mighty Giants were stereotyping Biggie. Stereotypes also fall under the category of ethics, and the question is whether or not stereotyping is morally wrong. The description the Mighty Giants gave of what they were looking for matched that of a bear. Who said that all bears have the same characteristics? Although these judgments are not necessarily bad stereotypes, they are still stereotypes, misjudgments of a person’s characteristics. The Mighty Giants also believe since Biggie is big, he can play soccer. Yet size does not define one’s qualities. For example, when the Pirates meet Biggie, they say “Uh-oh,” suggesting that they are intimidated. Should people judge others based on their appearance? The answer is most likely to be no, but people do it anyway. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing to size someone up. We do pass judgment on others for our protection. The Pirates feared for their safety because Biggie was much larger than them. Yet assumptions are not always true, which the Pirates later discover about Biggie.
The story also introduces the idea of peer pressure and persuasion. The Mighty Giants persuade and pressure Biggie into playing soccer by complimenting him. They regurgitate the characteristics they learned or know about other bears, persuading him to join the team. They stroke his ego, boosting his confidence and eventually persuading him to make the decision to join them. The team pressured Biggie to step out of his comfort zone. He decided it was okay to do so because he took their compliments as friendliness. The team again makes Biggie step out of his comfort zone by volunteering his house for a victory celebration. Biggie is hesitant. Why does Biggie feel the need to comply with their requests? Perhaps he wants to fit in or wants a change. However, because Biggie stepped out of his comfort zone, he is able to share his passions with new friends.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The Mighty Giants think that Biggie is a perfect fit for their team.
- What reasons does the team give for wanting Biggie on their team?
- How do they know that Biggie has all of these qualities?
- Is it okay for the team to assume that Biggie has these qualities just because he’s a bear? Why or why not?
Biggie tells the team that he doesn’t know how to play soccer.
- Why didn’t the Mighty Giants listen to him?
- Should Biggie still play even though he doesn’t know how? Why or why not?
- Do you have to be good at something in order to participate in it? Explain.
Biggie agrees to help the Mighty Giants play soccer. When they get to the field, the Mighty Giants introduce him to the other team.
- How did the other team react when they met Biggie? Why did they react that way?
- Should they be afraid of his size? What is so scary about Biggie’s size?
- How can you be scared of someone when you don’t know them?
Biggie usually sits at home playing jazz and fixing his stamp collection. He likes to be alone.
- Why would Biggie prefer to be alone?
- Why did he invite the team over to his house?
- If the team had not said that they wanted to have a party to celebrate their victory, do you think Biggie would have thrown one anyway? Why or why not?
Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Alyssa Nelson. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
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