Bias in education

October 26, 2018

Education systems all across the world are constantly trying to improve the rate at which students are able to learn information and trying to improve the choice that students receive in order to help them better succeed. But much of the learning that a student does will go to waste if the information being taught is not objective. While this issue might seem like one that should be fairly uncontroversial, it brings up many questions about the nature of truth in regards to perspective that brings rise to controversy itself.

Most of the subjects in which this issue arises are humanities. If a professor who is an expert in a field like politics or philosophy has a particular opinion on a topic, to what degree should they let it bleed through in their teaching? On one hand, an expert opinion on any topic would be of importance to a student learning that topic. But it is clear that students should receive an objective explanations to prevent their understanding being encoded with bias. This, I believe, has a simple answer. Opinions of an expert teacher should be taught to students along with all other expert opinions that exist. A teacher that transparently states their bias will then be able to still allow students to get an objective understanding of the material.

A prominent conservative view is that college campuses are breeding grounds for toxic liberalism. Much of what conservatives think this stems from is bias in the presentation of relevant political arguments in classes. While most teachers certainly understand that being transparent about how information is being presented is of the utmost importance in the context of education, there are many who let their staunch views command certain topics in the classroom. I believe that the idea that college campuses are systematically breeding such leftist behavior might not entirely be true given that conservative professors are guilty of the same practices. However, there is something to be said for the idea that students should be allowed to exercise their own judgements over the information that is taught to them free of biased influence.

The issue of ideology affecting education has also been an issue that has gone as high as the Supreme Court. As recently as 2005, in the Kitzmiller v. Dover federal court case, the specifics of how religion should be treated when science is taught in school are still being debated. With the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, many schools would like to supplement the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution with counter-arguments from religion, despite the fact that Darwin’s theory is widely accepted as a cornerstone of environmental science. This sort of issue becomes as important as it is because both those who believe religion should be introduced and those who believe that Darwin’s theory should be taught on its own believe that bias is being injected to education by the other side.

I believe that to educate is to inform. From this definition, it would follow that the more information we can give students, the better. This is not to say that we should present the idea of the earth being flat to little kids. Rather, we should present as much contextualized and digestible perspective as we can to students that are of the intellectual maturity to make their own judgements.

When I was in my junior year of high school, I ran a philosophy club. Every week we would talk about a new philosophical topic. The second week of the club, I had plans to talk and then debate about the Ontological Proof of God’s Existence. After the meeting, I was told by the club advisor that I should not present that type of argument again in the club. This was extremely worrying then, and it still remains so for me today. I was not attempting to convince anyone of the argument, nor was I attempting to legitimize the point of view, I was merely taking an academic lens to an influential philosophical argument. Luckily, I was later given the opportunity to debate God with my classmates under a new club advisor, but the idea that a school would not allow for such academic discourse is upsettingly antithetical to my conception of education.

The decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case was that students should be “made aware” of intelligent design and other relevant arguments against Darwin. I would have to agree with this controversial decision. This information and all other relevant postulation regarding a topic should be given to students in a contextualized manner in order to most thoroughly inform them.

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