Friday, October 7, 2011

Sweet Disposition

Bias. What a bitter word. I can remember I was introduced to it my by 9th grade biology teacher in the context of learning about how science should be taught in schools. We had a whole lesson plan, going through weeks of learning about how what we are taught in the classroom and read on the news is ultimately a formulation of some producer, reporter, or legislator's views. Following the lesson, we gave a class presentation, in which we were given the opportunity to "expose the bias" which we felt pervaded a particular area of science, politics or daily life. As a result of my recent interest I had taken to attending church, perhaps combined with a naivete of what a controversial topic I was undertaking, I decided to give a whole spiel in  front of class of how high schoolers were being brainwashed by the "biased" point of view which taught evolution as fact. At an age where most kids haven't begun to think seriously or care about such matters, my presentation was met with uninterested stares and a forced applause, even after closing my routine with holding a Bible in one hand, my science book in the other, and tossing the science book dramatically on the floor. It was met with disinterest with all but one person, that is: my science teacher. Ms. Willertz, a young,  former biker-gang riding blond who allowed her class to make up the rules and only assigned grades because the district made her, was appalled. I certainly learned a lesson in bias, however, when she marked on her evaluation of my project that basing my world-view on a book written by several men over the course of hundreds of years was "pretty shoddy."

I'm not relating this story to make myself appear some sort of Christian crusader. I was far from it in those days and indeed today as well. In fact, just the year before in English class, I can recall choosing the topic of abortion for our class debate, and pulling out several Bible verses to support my pro-choice point of view at the time. Needless to say, I wish I could meet that opinionated and silly 1999 version of Kurt and either explain or knock some sense into him.

Now that ten years have passed by from that first (formal and informal) lesson I had on the topic of "bias", I've gotten the opportunity to experience it first hand thousands and thousands of times. To be sure, even my final year in academics was largely a study of bias: in economic analysis, every assumption made can and usually will bias a study, your results, and any conclusion you may make.  I'm not sure any amount of formal education about  bias can actually prepare one for the kind of bias encountered on a day to day basis. All I know is that being informed starts with knowing it's there, why it's there, and why that often makes the majority of what enters your ears on a given day a load of garbage.

3 comments:

  1. I'd love to knock some sense into 1999 Kurt too, not so much because your worldview was any less well-developed than should be expected from a 12-year old, but mainly because I think I could give your 12-year old self an unforgettable beating. Then, when 18-year old Kurt meets 18-year old Thad, he'd say "Holy crap! A time-traveling, older version of you beat me senseless six years ago!" Boy, I wish I could look back on that memory today.

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