I Don’t Want You In My Class!!

Yes, I know the title is shocking, but I want you to imagine that you feel this from a course instructor because of your race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, ethnicity group, or nationality. what would be your reaction?

Of course mostly you will drop the course, but with an incurable wound. We don’t want this discriminative atmosphere to prevail in higher education. All of us as students demand a diverse and inclusive atmosphere in which we can pursue our studies fairly and safely. As an instructor, you shouldn’t discriminate between your students because of anything pertaining to their beliefs or origin. All of the students should have the right to learn and interact in class without being worried about how the instructor will treat them. The same thing also holds for classmates. All the students in a class should be welcoming to and accept each other.

However, in every location in the world there are some problems hindering this diverse and inclusive atmosphere. To me the most disastrous is this “unconscious bias” as described by Shankar Vedantam. The story that he mentioned about the death of Deletha Word is really terrifying! The question that needs an urgent answer now, is why the crowd on the bridge didn’t help her get rid of that assailant. Is it because of her race? Is it because of they are cowards? I believe this to be an incarnation of the “hidden brain” or the “unconscious bias” problems. I believe a fair number of people are biased towards people who are not like them in race or religion even though they are not aware of that and this is really the major problem. They don’t know about it! In higher education, we still have this problem. a fair number of instructors and classmates are having this “unconscious bias” (or may be conscious?) towards their minority classmates. This has a very bad impact on the minorities as they are not feeling safe in their classes and accordingly, they are not able to pursue their learning in a suitable atmosphere.

I want to share with you this video of an experiment that was done to see how people respond to the harassment of a Muslim woman.

Finally I want to share with you two verses from the holly Quran and one authentic speech of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) about racism and discrimination.

“O Mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into tribes and nations so that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah (god) is he who is most righteous of you.” (Al-Quran, Chapter 49, Verse 13)

“And amongst his (refers to god) signs is the creation of heaven and the earth, and variation in your language and colors; Verily, in there are signs for those who know” (Al-Quran, Chapter 30, Verse 22)

“O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no favoritism of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither red skin over black skin, nor black skin over red skin, except through righteousness. Have I not conveyed the message?” (prophet Mohammed PBUH)

11 Responses so far.

  1. Carrie Jensen says:

    Thanks for the post! It reminded me of a presentation an engineering professor, Marc Edwards (Flint water guy) gave in one of my classes last year. He was talking about ethics in terms of water contamination and public health, but he started out the class with some shocking videos. The first video was of a child in China (he was quick to emphasize that the location–being in China–has nothing to do with his message; he could have picked a similar video from elsewhere) being run over by two different vehicles. Neither of the drivers does anything to help the toddler, nor do numerous passersby that see (and even step over!) the child. The toddler ends up dying. (I found the video he showed but did not post it due to the unpleasant content). He followed up this video with one of a dog getting run over by a car in the middle of a busy interstate. Another dog goes to the first dog’s aid and nudges it gently to safety, at great risk due to the heavy traffic. He used this as a jumping off point for his talk, making his point that humans are conditioned to be cowards (but that they don’t have to be! And, of course, there are many examples of humans being heroic too). He talked about the negative connotations of the words “snitch” and “tattle-tale” in terms of speaking up when something is wrong or doing the right thing which can result in, among other things, losing your job or friends. He asserts that, in the rest of the animal kingdom, you are not kicked out of your herd or denied food and water (equivalent of losing a job) for being heroic. Sorry this was a long comment, but if you ever get a chance to hear this presentation from Marc Edwards, I highly recommend it! And I will share the dog video link, because it has a happy ending.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIXm_uBySS0

  2. yiliu16 says:

    Thanks for the post and thanks for Carrie’s mentioning of the toddler in China. It invoked a large discussion in my country, and it was almost identical to this “unconscious bias” story: people who were not present criticize those who were but not actively helped. When a crowd of people witness a crime scene, almost all of them tend to think that someone else is going to help. In this case, it is helpful for the victim to specify someone to help him/her. So this might be a specific prejudice against a group but a common problem for human beings that need our attention.

  3. Ben Louis says:

    I appreciated your post and the reading. I think that individual bias is something that is impossible to regulate, but their behavior and speech(if it is detrimental to other students or the learning environment) is something that the university should address.

    I may have just been lucky, but I have never seen blatant bigotry in the classroom in the decade I have been in higher education. What I have seen is a growing awareness about the damage these biases can have on students and the classroom on a whole. I hope very sincerely that as I continue in higher education we see more of these types of discussions and thoughtful investigation.

  4. Greg Purdy says:

    Enjoyed your post and how you tied it into a number of different facets we have been discussing. Obviously blatant attacks in the classroom are not tolerated.

    In response to Ben’s comment, I would say that the bias which may not seem as blatant can be just as troubling. In my undergraduate engineering career, I was good friends with one of the women in my program. She was constantly called on to provide her perspective on different things in class. In reality, the professors were hoping to include her in the conversation by encouraging her to speak on behalf of her gender because she was one of the three females in classes of generally 50 or more. Based on our conversations, this got pretty tiring as she was being singled out by our professors even if they were trying to include her in conversations. Creating an inclusive classroom is tricky and I look forward to talking more about it on Wednesday.

  5. sarahre says:

    This is a great post, thank you very much for it! The video is really powerful… Showing how much there is still profiling against people due to their religion. However, people tend to fear what they don’t know. And the more they learn, and get enlightened, the more the fear disappears… And also the more the inclusion appears. Thanks so much for such a wonderful post!

  6. silvercjc says:

    Even though it was scripted, that video was hard to watch. To see passersby consistently walk by, barely acknowledging that a woman was being hit right in front of them, is disturbing. However, it is also affirming to see someone stand up for someone who appears in need of help. It may be true that individual bias is impossible to regulate as Ben said, but as long as there are individuals standing up for others, perhaps the culture, as well as that culture’s tolerance, will change as well.

  7. Mary Semaan says:

    Hopefully, people will come around and go beyond the outer shells or race, gender, religion and really understand and embrace what really makes us human.

  8. Mohammad says:

    Thanks for your post and invaluable information and facts.
    I personally love this verse of Quran: “Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah (god) is he who is most righteous of you.” I believe that the righteous is main key for racism’s problem.

  9. Jyotsana says:

    Thank you for your post, it has some wonderful points. I know a lot of people question why crowds of people do not help someone in trouble. In Psychology there is a concept that explains this phenomena, it is called The Bystander Effect and what it says is that when there are more number of people the responsibility of doing something (taken as 100, for example) gets divided among them, therefore, the more people are present the less people do to help someone out. However, if there are two observers then the weight of their responsibility is 50-50 therefore either of the two will probably do something to help. It is the strangest things but its true. Ever heard of the Stanford Prison Experiments by Zimbardo? He also has a TedTalk after his book Lucifer Effect came out…he explains some of the Social Psychology phenomena that occur in society and how they may apply to various societal issues. If you ever want to look it up.
    I think one of the major problems is that human beings make snap judgments and at times really do not stop to think. I wonder when that will change.
    Thanks again for sharing!

  10. Gary Nave says:

    I think that that sentiment “I don’t want you in my class” is what students are hearing every time a student gets asked if they’re lost in their own classroom. Thank you, also, for sharing that video. It made such a powerful point.

    Thank you for the quotes from the Quran. A related one from the Bible that they made me think of is from the book of Revelation which I do not begin to claim to understand:
    “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages”
    Revelation 7:9

    It is wonderful that our religions both point to the beauty of diversity. May we learn to celebrate diversity together.

  11. “As an instructor, you shouldn’t discriminate between your students because of anything pertaining to their beliefs or origin. All of the students should have the right to learn and interact in class without being worried about how the instructor will treat them.”

    So I don’t really agree with this. Surely if someone was seriously arguing that Hitler was justified in his genocidal efforts, it would be appropriate to ask them to leave? Or how do you handle a christian saying something like “The Bible says homosexuals will burn in Hell”? Have any homosexuals in the room been emotionally attacked? Does admonishing the christian constitute an emotional attack on them? Where’s the line?

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