March 28, 2010

Bias and Opinion

We've been discussing bias and opinion in our classroom this past week and I referenced Malcolm Gladwell's very fine discussion on this (section #4) in order to help them see the difference between their biases (we all have them) and opinions. Biased writing, Gladwell notes, is dishonest when the bias is not disclosed. My students especially focused in the word "dishonest" and in the quiz, mentioned that several times.

So, I try to be aware of biases and opinions in the things I read about healthcare, as often students, while working on the research paper, will come to me for help with sources and finding examples and good research that will help them develop their argument.

Our country has just come through a very long grueling year discussing the healthcare issue. It began way last summer with a supposedly bi-partisan team of both Dems and Republicans, and ended last week with the signing of the bills. Much has been written about this on both sides, and I find it a challenge, as a teacher, to help steer my students around the particular biases inherent in the massive amounts of what has been written, but also to be aware of their own biases as they write it, as I have several who want to write about it.

Full disclosure: There is a public figure who doesn't do this. This person (okay--it's a she) seems to revel in bias, innuendo, minimal fact-checking, violating all the good argument logic I try to instill in my students. This is discouraging at times for me, especially when I was linked over to her Facebook page and she has rifle sight icons to denote the members of the opposition party that should be removed this fall (according to her). So, when her name comes up in class as a possible source, and it does--for she generates a lot of discussion always--I try to point out that I hold them to a higher standard of reasoning.

I don't care which "side" they want to argue from--they just have to marshall their evidence, and write with good solid evidence and support. It's out there. They just have to do the research, be scholars. Think, and reason.

P.S. No pictures today. Blogger is misbehaving.


  1. have me riled up with the mention of the unmentionable "public figure", who is nothing more than a money grubbing reality TV entertainer...but I digress, I wanted to commend you on your effort to teach our students to tell the difference between an educated point of view, and a uninformed bias. Well done!

  2. It is so difficult to teach children about bias and to look with their own eyes, not the eyes of their parents, teachers, friends. Thank you for what you are doing...if more teachers do this well, we won't be a country of hate and discontent but a country of discourse and debate.

  3. "they just have to marshall their evidence, and write with good solid evidence and support" Love this from your piece as it is what we should teach and what we should model. Unfortunately, in politics, and especially mainstream media, this is often overlooked and taken for truth.