Fostering an inclusive environment is essential for creating a functional learning environment. Interacting with people from different walks of life only enhances our experience. Unfortunately, studies have shown that even young children are prone to unconscious bias against those who are different from themselves, and it’s not something that improves with age. The key is to be aware of our biases or the potential for bias. No matter how hard we try, bias can insidiously creep into our thought processes. This can prevent us from seeing the whole picture or from coming up with creative solutions to problems. They key is to be aware of this “hidden brain,” and to try to get out of autopilot mode. Last semester in our intro to the future professoriate course, we discussed the following riddle which illustrates this point well:
“A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, ‘I can’t operate—that boy is my son!’ Explain.”
People came up with all sorts of explanations for this, such as maybe the “father” was a priest, but overlooked one explanation. The surgeon was the boy’s mother! This was a group of people who prided themselves on avoiding bias, but even they had fallen for this riddle. This phenomenon has serious repercussions in the real world. Only by actively working on our biases will we improve in this area.