No one is free of bias. It is one of those traits that makes us humane. To say that x person is “unbiased” is nothing but a personal opinion and someone else might not look at it that way. Parents have a favorite child. Children have a favorite parent, a favorite teacher, friend, sibling, relative. A boss has a favorite employee. An employee has a favorite colleague. Its endless. Our minds are equipped to make opinions about people very quickly in this rapidly changing world that has no time for anything. A look, a word, a small gesture, a reaction – is all it takes for us to form an opinion and develop a bias. Sometimes we don’t even realize its there.
We can never really live in a world without biases. What we can do, however, is recognize that they exist within us and try not to act out on them. Especially if we happen to be in a position of authority where the smallest of our actions can lead to the downfall of someone’s self esteem. Educational institutes are perfect examples of bias and how it impacts people. Every teacher/professor is biased. Some are better at hiding it. If you happen to be one of the “favorites” then hakuna matata for you, my friend. If you’re not, then you’re in for ride that offers greater resentment at every turn.
I recently decided to go back to college for my training in dance. When someone like me looks at a prospect like that, I simply zoom my focus in on the training part. I need training. For that, I need to find a good school and enroll. Boom. End of story. What I forget is that school means an environment where other students also exist and there will be a teacher who will invariably display preferential behavior. No institution is an exception to that. Suffice to say, I have encountered a couple of outwardly biased teachers already. They continually praise their favorite student in class, point him/her out with words like “Now look at her..this is what we’re looking for”, hardly seem to find anything wrong with them and even give them the power and liberty to go correct other people. While I have no problem with a teacher pointing out something good about a student; I do have a problem when it comes from a place of bias rather than actual appreciation. There are other students in class who sometimes display better skill, but then I doubt if some teachers even know all our names.
So, why are teachers biased? All of us have certain comfort zones, and when certain people fit into those comfort zones, we want to keep them there. For example, when you walk into a party/event/gathering that consists of people you don’t know very well, but then hit it off with person and stick to that person for an eternity. After that, no matter what that person says or does you will not openly disagree with him/her because you don’t want to lose your comfort zone. Similarly teachers, who find their comfort zones with a few students – maybe because they agree with them, or they suck up to them and kiss their ass, or simply because the teacher finds them pretty – try not to breath down their necks. They will point out others’ mistakes, missteps and errors to make a point. Like I said before, developing a bias or a comfort zone is quite natural; however acting out on them can be damaging, especially if you’re a teacher. Not to mention this constant process of putting a select few up on a pedestal makes their heads bloat bigger and faster than Aunt Marge’s entire body in Harry Potter and they throw their weight around everywhere.
One of the things that I mentioned above – kissing ass – is a rather overused term. But despite what people might say, it does actually work. It may not be sufficient enough to land you a dream job, but sufficient enough to help you glide through the mundane hiccups of daily student life – you don’t have to deal with too much hostility, you get praised all the time (as I said before), you constantly feel validated, other students look up to you and suck up to you (what a vicious cycle) and you might even sometimes get directly picked for some projects. While these may not be huge things in hindsight, but when you’re a full time student, they seem like the biggest achievements.
Personally, I despise ass kissing and ass kissers more than a lot of other abominable things. It’s a proof of lack of faith in your own talent and skill. You would rather be a hypocrite and be admired than be hated but actually learn something. You would rather get off at power tripping than focus on yourself. You would rather get a good grade and a good comment from your beloved teacher than question him/her because you didn’t understand something, or because you didn’t agree with something. I am officially convinced of the fact that ass kissing is a religion that transcends boundaries more than anything else. It’s prevalent everyfuckingwhere. Both the ass kisser and the ass that is being kissed gain infinite validation and ego massage in the process. The ass that is being kissed feels special and powerful, and the ass kisser feels privileged and “superior” too. Exceptionally profitable bargain.
Being good at what you do and being a good teacher are two completely different things. You can be brilliant at what you do but still suck at teaching. Teaching requires the ability to keep a lot of personal judgement at bay, the ability to understand each and every student’s needs, the ability to divide attention, appreciation and criticism equally among all students and most importantly the ability to display faith in all students. Unfortunately not too many teachers have passion for teaching to have faith in someone else. They have passion for their fields, but not for teaching. And that is very, very unfortunate.
Favoritism, bias and partiality – I’m not new to these concepts. I have never been at the receiving end of any of these, in fact have mostly been at the other extreme where most teachers despise me. I’m just not a likable student. But I would choose hostility over bias any day, because I have faith in my skill and am not dying for a good grade. This choice gives me the freedom to not give a fuck when I don’t want to. And most of the times, I don’t.