Research shows us that unconscious bias influences teacher expectations for academic performance and impacts how teachers evaluate, rate, discipline and get along with their students. One of the many reasons this is alarming is because being treated unfairly in school can, and does, harm children for a lifetime.
Some of the problems we are facing
As a society, there are many problems with how the educational and law enforcement systems deal with people of color, including immigrant communities. According to Kirwan Institute “African-American students are nearly three times as likely to be suspended, and Latino students are nearly one-and-a-half as likely to be suspended, as their white peers.” This research indicates a difference in the way children of color are responded to, versus how white students are responded to, based on the same types of behavior. Then there is the story of the recent unfair treatment of Ahmed Mohammed, which is just one example of the increasing bias by teachers and students toward Muslim students in U.S. public schools.
Why is this happening in a society where we say we value fairness and democracy? Why does a police officer drag a young girl across the floor because she is behaving poorly at school? If you asked any of these people who have done these behaviors if they are racist, sexist or homophobic, they would all likely answer “Of course not.” But these types of encounters happen all the time, so clearly these problems exist.
Students experience bias from teachers related to differences in race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability or other categories of difference, as early as pre-school. While most teachers are good people who have the best of intentions when it comes to their students, they are responsible for serving very diverse student populations. Many do not have the skills or support they need to effectively “navigate the mix.” It’s not that they are bad people, they just don’t have the necessary skills.
A solution we are offering
As a society, we can do a better job for teachers by giving access to the tools, training, and support they need to be facilitators of fairness in their classrooms and within their school systems. By completing the training offered by our Unconscious Bias eLearning Project, teachers will develop greater awareness about their own biases and will learn the practical skills they need to change behavior. These resources will be offered free of charge to all pre-K through 12th public school educators. You can help!
A couple of days ago we launched a Kickstarter campaign for our Unconscious Bias eLearning Project. We need your support to make this campaign a success. Please join us and our supporters – Lenovo, South by Southwest, Sarita Geisel Graphic Design, and EmPowerment Entertainment. Support our project today to be a facilitator of fairness and #BeatUnconscousBias.
Also published on Medium.