Debate Magazine

The Myth of Objectivity

By Stevemiranda

I recently had a conversation with colleagues about objectivity in schools. At one point, my friend said, “Look, I don’t present both sides of every situation. I’m reading Omnivore’s Dilemma with students, and I’m not brining in a guest speaker from Cargill to present the other side.”

* * *

When I was a classroom teacher, I was the same way. I would present ideas that I found compelling and be transparent that I was presenting these ideas from a particular point of view. For example, I taught one unit about how the Telecommunications Act of 1996 led to a flurry of mergers among media companies, and was explicit in my belief that it was bad for democracy. One student accused me of being biased because I presented data illustrating the sharp decline in hard news reporting and a dramatic increase in celebrity gossip and crime stories. “You’re not showing us the other side!” he cried.

“I can’t show you the ‘other side’ with data showing that journalistic integrity is on the rise,” I said to the student, “because that data doesn’t exist.”

After that, I would build into my curriculum a day early in the semester in which I would share information about my background, education, values, and political views so that students could get a better sense of the inherent biases in any lesson I would deliver. I would explicitly tell them that seeking out multiple perspectives was the only way to get a well-rounded education.

He remained skeptical of me. This would have made me quite pleased except for the fact that the student remained un-skeptical of his other teachers who simply taught straight from the textbook.

This attitude is part of the myth of objectivity that pervades traditional schooling. The curriculum is presented as objective, comprehensive, and factual. Sit in the chair, follow directions, and you will receive an objective, comprehensive, and factual education. A friend was teaching in his first year in an urban school, and an African American young man challenged him: “How come we don’t learn any black history in this class?”

“It’s American history,” my friend shot back.

Translation: Sit in your chair, follow directions, and you’ll receive a comprehensive, standardized, unbiased education.

Education is a highly personal process. Every decision that teachers make, whether we’re conscious that we’re making it or not, is loaded with bias. History, for example, contains a seemingly infinite set of people, events, and stories; the bias comes not necessarily in how the teacher presents selected events, but in the process of selecting which stories to tell.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Tulip Stairs

    Tulip Stairs

    The first geometric, self-supporting spiral staircase in Britain is in the Queen's House, Greenwich. It is 'geometric' because each step supports the stair... Read more

    9 hours, 16 minutes ago by   Carolineld
  • Playing Under the Sea at Palau by Jennifer Avventura

    Playing Under Palau Jennifer Avventura

    Last year, I was given a super-duper under water camera, and I’ve had a ton of fun playing under the sea at Palau, Sardinia, Italy. Read more

    9 hours, 23 minutes ago by   Jenniferavventura
  • How to Get a Thai Tax ID Without a Work Permit (Digital Nomads)

    Thai Without Work Permit (Digital Nomads)

    In this article, I am going to show you how to get your very own Thai tax ID to pay taxes in Thailand without having a work permit. I'll also explain in this... Read more

    9 hours, 27 minutes ago by   Harvie
  • Full Length Swimsuits Are This Summer Trends

    Full Length Swimsuits This Summer Trends

    This summer, the silhouette does not matter so much! Swimsuits in trends are so varied, from cuts and materials to prints, that choosing the most suitable... Read more

    10 hours, 10 minutes ago by   Poundtravel
  • Gremlin (2017)

    Gremlin (2017)

    Director: Ryan Bellgardt Writer: Ryan Bellgardt, Josh McKamie, Andy Swanson (Screenplay) Starring: Adam Hampton, Kristy K Boone, Catcher Stair, Katie Burgess,... Read more

    11 hours, 24 minutes ago by   Newguy
  • Bandcamp Bonanza – Strummed By Solstice

    Bandcamp Bonanza Strummed Solstice

    What a great week at camp we had. Just as Summer solstice slams us with record heat, the camp treasure chest opens its casket to uncover a rare combination of... Read more

    13 hours, 29 minutes ago by   Ripplemusic
  • Carpe Carmina Celebrates VIII (feat. Yarbo)

    Carpe Carmina Celebrates VIII (feat. Yarbo)

    Let's not shed a tear for today's the antepenultimate artistic contribution carpe carmina celebrates can present to you, on the contrary let's seize the moment... Read more

    13 hours, 30 minutes ago by   Vanessa Holthausen