Friday, May 15, 2015

Bias and Education

I fret. I stew over things and get my stomach all turned around. My thoughts whirl around the past, the present, and the future. Bias and education is a subject that has been a concern of mine for quite some time, however it moved to the forefront when our own children entered middle school and many of the materials they were exposed to reflected only a single perspective.

While it is gravely unpopular to admit this, I lean to the right, not completely, but on issues of balance and fiscal responsibility. I value all life, therefore neither support abortion nor the death penalty. I am also a strong advocate for peace and social justice. I value the notion of education and helping others became self-sufficient. "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he'll eat for life."

This morning I saw an article posted on a news website for kids, reporting on the recent Amtrak train crash. The article alluded to the cause of the the disaster as reduced funding of the railway system from 1.4 billion to 1.1 billion. The article did mention the engineer was going 100 mph in a 50 mph zone, nevertheless, the article further stated, a curve, that should have been straightened with these funds, was the crux of the issue. The article didn't mention that the cell phone records of the engineer will soon be under scrutiny as his speed increased from 70 mph to 106 mph around the curve. Curves happen; on roads, on tracks, in life. We must exercise caution around a curve because when taken too quickly disaster is around the bend. This may not be solely an infrastructure issue (while, I'm sure upgrades are needed). On the surface it appears this is a negligence issue, but we don't know. Knee jerk reactions don't provide answers. Knee jerk reactions are self serving and do little to promote dialogue and problem solving.

Where is the opportunity for comparison in education? The practice of exploring thesis, antithesis, and synthesis is crucial when teaching children to make informed decisions. When was the last time students were asked to explore the positives of climate change or even to look at the research debunking global warming? The trend du jour may be captivating, but it lasts a nanosecond (remember #bringbackourgirls? What level of help has been offered to find those poor girls since?).

I have seen this expression of only one side of the issue being offered in education over and over and over. Whether it is reading material or teacher bias the outcome is the same. The opportunity for thought, the opportunity for academic conversations, the opportunity for dissent is squelched. Historically, the effects of one-sided education have been horrific. We only need to look to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin to appreciate how hate is fostered.
Yes, our kids are not immune to the current American zeitgeist. Our kids are taught to eschew values, faith, work, life.
The Common Core State Standards in the area of Speaking and Listening clearly define collaborative discussion and analysis. As speech language pathologists we encourage higher order thinking.
We are responsible for educating those who will run the show as adults and it is beholden to us to present all sides of an issue. Our personal bias should not be the focus, but rather the dissemination of information and the tools necessary for formulating opinions.

The upshot is, we are all entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts. Lets give our students the facts, all the facts and encourage them to become true, informed thinkers who are able to develop and support their own opinions whatever they may be.

Comprehension and Collaboration:
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others' questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.
Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.
Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 7 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

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