Bias Training

Aug 28, 2019 by

The Department of Education’s mandated “bias training” could be the “third rail” of education controversies, but that potential can be negated simply by touching that third rail and discovering one can be energized instead of being electrocuted by it. Metaphorical “third rails” can be rendered benign.

All it takes is a little courage and a surge of objectivity.

The pursuit of racial harmony is society’s most high-stakes priority. Some people who say that, in the absence of guaranteed understanding, the recognition and remediation of harsh truths is a risky business and unless there is complete success, which is unlikely, introspective analysis could make matters even worse.

The Department of Education sparked selective outrage and ignited a firestorm that simple logic could easily extinguish: educators must be made aware of biases, usually inherent and often subconscious, that may enter into their relationships and understanding of students.

The training is a sublime conception that, nonetheless, lends itself to misinterpretation, a good portion of which is deliberate.

For the bias training to be a healing enterprise rather than one that rends unity asunder, it will need to be executed with the care of a surgeon doing the most delicate microsurgery. It is essential that the candid presentations not alienate people prone to feeling targeted for a guilt trip or else a golden opportunity will be lost.

If not done right it will backfire.

We must keep “our eyes on the prize”, which is unity and reconciliation, not accusation and racial/ethnic balkanization.  It is an over-arching lesson in bringing not just people together, but peoples.

Teaching tolerance is harder than rocket science. Shouldn’t be, but “that’s life in the big city”.

Without the acknowledgement of hard facts, of which it is impossible to be removed because of the passage of generations, there can be no meaningful progress. To some degree, this demands unforgiving self-identification.

To emphasize common humanity it is  necessary to admit to common victimhood. This needs to be done without relegating to equivalency the groups that the American legacy has particularity afflicted,They are unique, even though injustice is universally endemic.

The bias training should be an intense “no holds barred” affair, not lacking indictment and confession.  But it must steer clear of alleging collective guilt by monolithic cultures and not allow small misrepresentation to get in the way of greater truths.

Reality, bitter as it has been historically and abidingly, must not be soft-peddled by means of simplification or revisionism.  It must be presented in accurate context, bearing in mind that racism is a context that can never be distorted into a favorable or flattering context.

For the lessons we learn to endure, be remembered and applied, we must not let fade from our consciousness the horror of their original structure and warped “integrity”.

And we cannot come to grips with the painful lessons of history if they are expressed in terms that sound like political manifestos.

Some of the positive reviews I have received regarding the bias training have come from folks who were intensively skeptical at first. They are relieved not to have been subjected to hyperventilated rage and that the training does not aggravate suspicious or exacerbate divisions or foster a “turn-the-tables” advocacy of racial preference or dominance.

No  schism-hustlers on board. No mean-spirited opportunists entertained.

The aim of the bias training is to re-assemble the nation into more of an organic family. Righteousness is not a sectarian province and the franchise to thrive cannot be gerrymandered by race.

Let’s hope the bias training is deftly integrated into a broad spectrum of subjects. Although bias is not central to every classroom unit of study all the time, it has often affected the course of history at least indirectly in ways that hardly anybody imagines.

The Department of Education’s heart is in the right place, but are the curricula aligned to it?

Ron Isaac

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