My biases, I did not know of

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way that they learn.

Ignacio Estrada

I was not planning on writing the blog post this week but after reading several blogs, I had some questions and several thoughts which I would like to pen down through this post.

When I was reading the post titled ‘How the hidden brain does the thinking for us’, I was reminded of an incident in one of my classes (Grade 1) where we were awarded a ‘Red Star’ when we did well in a class test and were given a ‘Black star’ when we did not. Although the intention of this exercise was not bad i.e. to encourage students to perform better in class. But it did create a bias early on in my and my classmates’ mind that getting a black star is not good. And that bias might have impacted my decisions several times in my life. I would have gone on an auto-pilot mode without even thinking that I might be doing something which may hurt someone’s feelings.

Another incident which comes across my mind is that when I was around 7 years old, playing with my cousin who was a year younger. One of our relatives came to visit us and brought gifts for both of us. They bought a car and a kitchen set. Who do you think got the car and who do you think got the kitchen set?  Well, the guest just kept the gifts without mentioning which gift is for whom. My brother, who was younger to me, wanted to go first, although I was not very happy with him choosing first, I let him do so. However, I did this for a reason and that is I was very sure that he will choose a car and the kitchen set will still be mine. But it did not happen the way I thought, he chose the kitchen set instead. And rest is history (We settled our scores without involving the elders and may not be relevant for this post). But my point here is that who told me that he would choose a car and not the kitchen set? Well no one directly, but, most of my family members indirectly.  This was another bias created by most of my family members by bringing in toys which were related to home decoration, home-building, barbies, etc. for me. While my cousin brother had toys which were mostly cars, guns, etc. But the readings for this week have taught me about something which may be important for knowing to be a teacher but is also important to know otherwise.

When I read these posts, I realize how difficult it is to overcome one’s biases and make a class, a place which is safe for each and every student in there. The readings have made me more respectful towards the teaching profession and I would like to thank them for creating an environment which is open and safe and where we can speak up without being judged or discriminated. I would like to conclude by saying that discussions on such topics should be done more often and with people having an opinion not similar to yours. This will not only educate you on some of the issues you were unaware of but also understand their perspective.





10 thoughts on “My biases, I did not know of

  1. Yeah we all have some biases and I think we can overcome or navigate through biases without hurting anybody. Treating, talking, dealing with others in the way we would love to be treated to me is the best approach. Everybody feels good when treated fairly and with respect. Me personally when I look at somebody whatever is attitude toward me is or others is, whatever hi/her away of thinking is I try to not judge him/her. The first thing that comes to my mind is that he/she is a human creature and I see the beauty of creation through that person. And I react the same way with animals as well. I sometimes feel sorry though for some people because of their ignorance as most of the time it is only ignorance that make people who they are.

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  2. Khushboo – you are spot on about our hidden brain and how we learn to assumption and take presumptuous actions because of what we are exposed to as children. In fact, I think we learn the most from our environment including social and cultural attributes that are associated with how we associate objects to facts – like a kitchen set and car for a girl and a boy. Educating people about other realities, differences and facts help to enlighten us, which benefit the entire society. Inclusiveness is not only a rejective of prejudice and negative biases against others, but it is also the acceptance of our differences. I agree that it is hard to overcome bias – but I also feel that it is easier to be fair, less judgemental, and open-minded about the realities of other people.

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  3. I commend your brother for following his true interests and not mindlessly taking the car because it was what everyone around him expected him to do (whether he defied them knowingly or not is irrelevant). While it may be easy for a child to defy expectations, it certainly gets more difficult as you grow older, and I think that being mindful of your own, actual, interests is just as important as not imposing your expectations upon others. As a child, I probably would have gone for that car, because it was what was expected of me, but honestly, cars are boring, and I love to cook! Being aware of one’s own feelings, regardless of what culture expects, is the first step to recognizing when you are placing your expectations on to others. As RuPaul says “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?”

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  4. Hi Khushboo, thank you so much for your post. This really resonated with me because I grew up having a twin brother. We were dressed to match eachother and everyone would try to give me the “pink things” and him the “blue things”. There was always an asumption by family or friends that I would get the girly thing and he would get the more boyish thing. This was just how it was in my family. However, I had a similar situation in which my brother actually strayed from the norm– it was our 3/4th birthday and I was in dance and given some dance tutus and my brother was given a bug collector. However, he was more interested in the dance tutus and I wanted the bug collector. Those who gave the gift were shocked to get our thank you card and realized we swapped gifts. I think this shows how early on we project bias about genders on indivuals and how we can do a diservice by doing that.

    I read a great article once the name is escaping me about how this set of parents decided they didn’t want to assume sexuality of their little child and wanted to give them the space to identify themself. Specifically, they wrote through the lens of little girls and fairytales and how people go one day you will find a prince and live happily ever after. They decided to say “one day you will find your person” and leave the gender out. I thought this was awesome that they were so aware and wanted to give their kid the space to come into their own.

    I know as an Educator, as someone who wants to be inclusive and best practices, I want to really try to be aware of making sure that I do not project bias on anyone. For example, last year I worked in an all female hall and was excited because in my head this gave me more “permission” to make them with glitter and sparkle. However, this year I oversee an all girls hall and a coed hall. At first I was bummed because I was like I will have to make “more manly” door decs. However, after reflection this was a bad mindset. I first shouldnt assume that just becuase I have an all girls hall that they will like glitter (for the record, some of them hated the glitter) and second, by going out of my way to make “less girly” door decs I was projecting on the men that they would hate the glitter (haven’t verified). What I ended up doing was making one in the middle.

    I think this shows how easy one can fall into these norms and how we really have to be cognizant moving forward when designing our own classrooms. Thank you so much for your post as it made me reflect alot on this matter.

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  5. Hi! I really appreciated your thoughts about biases- I think it’s so important for us to analyze our own beliefs and biases that we may not be aware of in order to move forward. As educators, it can be especially important in making sure we are treating all of our students fairly. Great post!

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  6. HI Khushboo, thanks for your post! It felt like I went back to my childhood and getting kitchen set, barbies as gifts whereas my brothers got toy cars, bikes etc. Initially I used to think that it is more like a cultural bias based on the South Asian background I am from which is not as open as the culture here in the United States. However, with time, that notion has changed and I could see that there are inherent biases in every human being, it just takes different form of expression based on the person’s background. I agree with you that we need to be aware of our biases and make sure we do not project them onto anyone, specially students.


  7. Your post brings a fascinating angle to our early years and experience and how they can end up affecting us later in life. I agree with your sentiment that much of the behavior we have as children (and into adulthood–or until we question it) is due to reinforcement from our elders (teachers and family members, especially). Because we do not know otherwise when younger, we behave as expected, right? Otherwise, we are either not be successful (black star), or we are not following the norms (your brother choosing the kitchen set). It’s crazy to think about how much this ends up influencing our biases later on in life.

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