How has my upbringing and schooling shaped how I “read the world”? What biases do I bring to the classroom? How might I unlearn these biases?
The first part of my childhood was spent in a communist and then freshly post-communist country where most of the population was oppressed by the foreign-influenced government, so my experience is different from most fellow students who were raised in Canada. My parents, extended family, teachers and religious figures were all critical of the government, and even openly critical of it toward the end of the regime when punishments for such activities were rare. This distrust and criticism was pervasive at home, and hinted at in the classroom every day. Religious services were also anti-government and very political, making religion a proud and patriotic (anti-regime) activity. Some of my teachers had even spent time in prison for being outspoken and were freed after the regime’s fall at which point they were back teaching classes. Although I left my original country at an elementary school age, this has had a profound effect on how I view EVERYTHING.
I tend to question everything, I always resist authority, I have empathy for the oppressed, and I can shed tradition and religion in a heartbeat if I perceive it as threatening to my freedom or others. I do not like the idea of institutions and believe barriers exist simply to be broken. That does not mean I have no bias or preconceived notions that I bring to the classroom. For example, my later school years were spent in a multicultural environment and most of my friends were not my race (white). I have second-hand experience of racism based on their experiences. I have some first-hand experiences of sexism and even borderline sexual harassment in the workplace. I have very few experiences with anyone from the LGTBQ community until very recently and I am currently working on stripping my bias I semi-knowingly had. I have biases I do not even realize right now and will come to light as my career (and life) progress.
The key to unlearning these biases is self-education, empathy, role-reversal, and, coming back to my childhood, questioning and fighting against how things are, and breaking down barriers to make things how they should be.
Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?
In my own schooling, history class is a good example of “single stories”. The version of history was different with each country I moved to! The only truth available to the students was from the side who won the war. For example, the War of 1812 is glossed over in American school while it holds more prominence in Canadian schools. American schools focus on their Japanese adversary in World War 2 much more that a Canadian school focuses on the Nazi occupation. This concept of the winner telling the story can be find throughout education, including science where only the first European person is thought to “invent” a concept when it was known before during the Roman or Chinese ancient times. Looking at things critically and realizing the bias is something teachers can bring to the classroom in order to show their students that not everything is clear or unbiased and grey areas exist more often than not.