Manifestations and Effects of Bias in Education

Mead

It is common knowledge that biases pervade academia and education.  Professors and teachers are entitled to their opinions, but scholars and educators should be sure to leave their political ideologies out of their work.  Education and scholarship should be infused with ideas and concepts backed by evidence, not belief.

Bias appears in academia in a variety of ways.  In the most blatant cases, whether through ignorance or ideological motivation, students are presented with false information—facts that are untrue and statements that are inaccurate.  In other cases, honesty can be compromised in more subtle ways.  Educational materials and presentations may be intentionally crafted to present a biased lesson, or bias may result from widespread ignorance or misbelief.   Typically, misinformation is relayed to the students in at least one of the following ways:

1)   Presenting factual inaccuracies;

2)   Misrepresenting and altering facts to mislead students; and

3)   Shifting the spectrum of the argument to make radical or reactionary views seem moderate.

Factual inaccuracies are the common problems found in educational material, but that does not mean they are always easy to spot, explain, and refute.  With the abundance of information in any curriculum, individual facts and fabrications can be overlooked.  A trained expert in the field is often required to catch even the better-known falsehoods.  Moreover, the sheer number of factual inaccuracies can often overwhelm even the most conscientious of students.  In such instances, an expert is required to sift through the information, consult a variety of sources, and compile a full report on what is and is not accurate.

Misrepresentations and altered facts present actual facts or primary sources but distort them or their meaning.  For instance, some textbooks include selectively edited excerpts of primary sources in order to portray one party, person, or political position as something that it was not.  In another example, a scholar may selectively cite another’s study to claim non-existent evidence for his argument.  Or an educator may misinterpret a translation to ascribe the wrong beliefs to a foreign government.

In toto, these misrepresentations provide the wrong context and understanding of a subject.  Misrepresentations and altered facts can be difficult to spot, because they are based on facts that are technically correct but are presented or interpreted to mislead.  They must be refuted clearly with evidence.  Our experts thoroughly review and research the material to compile a full accounting of any misrepresentations and then produce an informed analysis of the effects.

Argument shift is a method of validating the most radical or reactionary consenting views and discrediting opposing views by selectively choosing authority voices.

Educators and scholars can manipulate students and readers through the evidence they choose to support their views.  Authority voices are often used as evidence to support a particular argument or perspective and can be easily misused by educators.  For example, a scholar or teacher can chose to present students with a preponderance of certain voices, misrepresent ideologues as neutral authorities, or neglect to include other authority voices that support alternative views.  A curriculum or text that is biased in this way shifts the spectrum of analysis so that radical or fringe views are made to appear as moderate and mainstream.

This particular method of biasing students is highly effective, because students are led to believe that they are developing informed opinions based on the available evidence.  In fact, the range of expertise they are provided is severely truncated, making their new opinions quite uninformed.  It can also lead students to mistake truly fringe views for being moderate and mainstream.  Combating this particular method of educational bias requires significant expertise in the subject areas and experience in identifying and debunking unreasonable authority views.

The results of a biased education
The ultimate results of a dishonest and biased education are the perpetuation of ignorance, stunting of students’ critical thinking skills, and the inability of the populace to responsibly participate in our civic society.

If you are concerned about an issue of factual inaccuracy or academic bias in educational content, please contact us to see if we can help.

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