Unconscious Bias

Schools, teachers, teaching and consequently students seem to be the guinea  pigs for every social, cultural, psychological, pedagogical, psychiatric, and technological concept that can be conjured up and articulated. Many are presented as essential for student success, however, unverifiable, unproven, untried and with underlying nefarious purposes including monetary profit and political gain. Take the term “unconscious bias” currently being promulgated throughout our school systems–at least those systems subject to state direction. It appears that the term was coined to support accusations of what appear to be unfair selections and treatments based on race. I have read a few articles and study summaries on the subject and my thinking is that while all humans are most likely unconsciously bias about something, the common acceptance of the term as a ‘thing’ is silly and can and most certainly is dangerous. It is akin to the old psychiatrist joke, “Why did you hate your mother?” It is too easy to accuse someone or racial group of being unconsciously bias in making any decision or taking any action with which you disagree. Such an accusation is a pejorative judgment. It is dangerous because there is absolutely no way the accused can defend him, herself or themselves. Even attempts to deny the accusation set one up for verifying the “unconscious” aspect of the term. “Of course, he denied being biased because he is not aware that he is.” Russell’s Teapot comes to mind. And I wonder if once one is convinced that they were previously unconsciously biased in one direction, do they tend to overcompensate by being consciously, or more likely unconsciously,  biased in an opposite direction? Or something. And what if one is really not unconsciously biased, but is led to believe that they are? Are all unconscious biases bad? If so, how do we ferret them out? And how do we know when we have moved them all into the conscious realm? After all, we are not aware of them.

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