I teach. I teach in the way I learn, through humor and context. I put together history with current events and make them draw a direct line of comparison. I put forward new, innovated science and technology releases, and we discuss policies and the politics around them. There’s no such thing as taboo. Nothing is off the table. And it is through this, that we cover the syllabus and what the textbook wants the students to learn.
That all sounds well and good, except I’ve realized that there’s one thing I can’t completely do as a professor. I can’t completely get rid of my own biases. For the same reasons that we don’t have comprehensive theories on certain areas of human behavior(such as religion), I’ve realized that I can’t be unbiased towards my own viewpoints and that will boil over at certain points. This was a difficult thing to come to terms with, as I know myself to be an open person. I don’t care about your Religion or politics. I don’t care what your background is in, or what your race, culture, or income status is. All I care about is that you have an openness to learn, and that you’re a good person, shown through actions as well as statements. I believe in honor and integrity. And yet, I worry I might alienate those who don’t wish, or who aren’t ready for that complete introspection.
The other week I had to cover religion in the context of Social work practice. Fairly straightforward. Theories, historical context of religion in America as well as our own social work roots. But here’s the other side of things. I also had to discuss fundamentalism, specifically within our country which often goes by the name of evangelicals. There is a line of thinking amongst this group that they are persecuted within America, you see it during the “War on Christmas” and push back against anything that is seen as apart from traditional family values. There is a belief among them that social work, especially in higher education goes against their core beliefs and values- that result in discrimination. Here’s the thing. Although there’s no research and stats as most of this is anecdotal, I can understand that there would be a bias, not discrimination, as discrimination is an act against someone, but I can see there being a bias. And I don’t blame it when you look at the radicalization of some parts of these groups.
Now at this point, you’re either thinking “what the hell? We’re going to be bias against a group of people?” or “Well yeah, they’re philosophy goes against social work.” It’s not that simple. The reason I began this piece of identifying a struggle is because I believe that at the heart or any person is a wish to help others. What we see in extremism is the closing off of that belief-that there is an inclusive piece to life that does go against what social worker ethics and values teaches. And so this is my struggle as a teacher; I can’t be unbiased against everything. I can do my best to be with as many areas as possible, I can present clear and fair information to my students to allow them to decide, I can accept those with differences of opinions or beliefs, but I can’t rid myself and become a completely blank slate(or blackboard as the case may be). I can’t accept injustices should I see them taking place. Maybe that’s a personal belief, maybe it’s the culture in which I was raised an embraced. You see, a few weeks ago a friend remarked in shock(non being a native New Yorker) that an individual made a derogatory remark against someone of a different background. He called into question “New York Values.” My first response was the New York Values in which I was raised was to tell the person making the comment where they could shove it. But maybe that’s not the case. And maybe that’s why I can’t be unbiased, because there are some things I will always believe are worth fighting for, and hopefully, that message at least gets passed to my students. Regardless of belief.