Saturday, October 20, 2007

Free of Bias!

Bias in Text(ile)s
Going against the grain...
(Image from Wikipedia)

In my "War, Religion, and Civilization" course at Yonsei yesterday, one of the students posed this perplexing question about the upcoming essay assignment:
"Is it okay if we're biased?"
Not wanting to appear stumped, I immediately replied:
"I want to make absolutely clear that bias is totally okay by me." Pause.... "But not by you."
Nah, just kidding. That's what I should have said, but what I really said was far less amusing ... which, I suppose, puts it into the negative numbers according to calibrations for humor. Anyway, I actually replied:
"I'm not sure what you mean by 'bias'. You can certainly have your own opinion -- that's the point of an expository essay -- but I want your essays to be rational and grounded in facts and reasons. In cultural studies courses that I've taught, I've received too many essays in which students are simply 'ideological' on some point. I suppose that an ideological essay would qualify as biased, but it wouldn't be one's own opinion. It's usually an opinion 'borrowed' from someone else. I don't mind if a student is, for example, anti-American, but I do insist that such a student be self-critical. I want such students to take 'their' views, reflect on them critically, see if they still hold them, and if they do, then ground those opinions more thoroughly in facts and reasons."
My student nodded, so I guess my meaning got through ... but the proof is in the pudding.

"Pudding" being my figurative reference to the upcoming essay itself, 'cause this ain't no cookin' class -- though I like to think that my class is cookin'!

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At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're teaching at Yonsei? Full-time or adjunct? GSIS?

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hi, Sonagi. I'm at Kyung Hee full-time, but I received permission to teach some courses at Yonsei's UIC this semester and the next because one of the Yonsei scholars whom I do research with wanted me to teach on Huntington's thesis (i.e., the clash of civilizations).

I don't know what to call what I'm doing at Yonsei, but I suppose that I could ask and find out what to call it.

Jeffery Hodges

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