BIAS BY US

August.jpgWritten By August Delforge, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-16 Monterey Bay’s Science and Environmental Policy

Podcasts, I love them.

There is one podcaster in particular that I have become obsessed with for the past year-and-a-half by the name of Dan Carlin. I first stumbled upon one of Mr. Carlin’s podcasts one happy day, entitled Hardcore History: Wrath of the Khans. This was a six-part series dedicated to the great and terrifying Genghis Khan et al. and the violent outburst in history created as Mongolia conquered half of the Eurasian continent during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Each episode was an hour-and-a-half. I finished the series in two days. I love podcasts.

One of Dan Carlin’s newer podcasts is a series called Common Sense, where Mr. Carlin analyzes different facets of our society from a detached perspective, what he calls a “Martian Perspective.” “Controlling the Past,” the latest episode I was listening to, began with a story of student and teacher protests stemming from a decision made by a Colorado school board to incorporate more conservative texts in their history classes that promoted citizenship and obedience to authority. The idea of local school boards being able to decide the curricula taught in school districts is not a new idea, but one that is usually focused around the teaching of evolution (i.e. Scopes Monkey Trial) when there is controversy involved.

IMG_5992.JPGThe interesting point that Mr. Carlin brings up in this podcast, is that unlike in science which is designed to eliminate all bias, history is composed entirely of bias. So the conservative members of that schoolboard in Colorado actually had a foot to stand on when defending their curriculum decision. Even the most unbiased scholarly historian cannot eliminate all bias from any article that they publish because bias clings to any and every detail that they decide to incorporate or exclude from whatever historical event they are referencing.

While this realization came to me, among other thoughts, I started thinking of all the bias I carry around with me in my everyday life. I thought of all the different people I work with, in all of their different roles, and how my unconscious biases affect our interactions. I made this into a short list:

Faculty:

  • Busy – too busy to meet with me
  • Smart – I will probably have no idea what they are talking about
  • Older – more experienced, probably won’t take me seriously

August Professional Self 5.jpgCommunity Partners

  • Busy – too busy to meet with me
  • Delicate – I only have one chance to make a good impression or our partnership will be ruined forever!

Students

  • Cool – too cool for me (but not too cool for school)
  • Tired – They were up late studying and probably not registering anything I’m saying
  • Starving – They are probably incredibly hungry and not registering anything I’m saying
  • Young – Probably see me as a peer and don’t really take me seriously

I decided to focus on the negative biases I have because these are more interesting, make my point better, and I have a big enough head as it is. Many of these biases are unfounded and most are likely untrue. Regardless, I carry them around with me whether true or not. Furthermore, I apply each bias to groups of people (wherein the real problem lies). When biases are applied to wide spectrums of folks, unfounded prejudices are born, and that’s not cool. So my question is: What biases do you carry around, and how do you let them affect you?

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