Peruse a piece of information, and it may seem objective. Look again with a more critical eye, and you can begin to see the hidden messages, the framing, and the context (or lack thereof) attached to that piece of information.
Much of the information we impart to our students, whether through textbooks or other sources, has some bias or underlying message.
Bias isn’t something to avoid; it’s something to identify and understand for greater learning and better thinking.
Given that biased information and resources are prevalent, it’s critically important that we and our students are able to identify and analyze the bias, context, and framing we encounter.
Bias and framing are evident in even the most mundane arenas in education.
For example, consider word problems in math. One might be contextualized around the purchase of a candy bar; another around the pay for overseas workers in garment factories. One subtly promotes unhealthy eating habits; the other brings awareness to the global challenges of poverty and economic justice.
And consider science courses. Does the curriculum include a focus on applications of these sciences for positive impacts in the world? Are chemicals used in the classroom that have negative environmental impacts or which harm people or animals? Are the ethical consequences (intentional and unintended) of any products or applications even considered?
Reflect on Bias
It can be beneficial to reflect on the biases that are part of your classroom and curriculum.
Experiment with spending a day or a week critically examining the kinds of resources and curriculum you use with your students. Below are some guiding questions to help frame your responses:
- Where are the biases? What’s the context? How are they framed?
- What vital information and perspectives (human and nonhuman) are missing?
- How might you revise your curriculum to reflect a deeper, more critical and diverse framework? Or, if this is not possible, how can you help bring your students’ attention to the bias, context, and framing in the curriculum and help them to think about and discuss it more critically?
Then spend some time brainstorming strategies for teaching your students about critical thinking and assessing bias and framing, so that they can learn to discern a variety of perspectives and uncover bias and framing for themselves.
Be sure to forward this to at least ONE person who would benefit from these resources.