Monday, June 13, 2016

Rumbling through Dr. Amelia's head today

After yesterday's shooting in Orlando, I am thinking about the idea of civil dialogue. I am thinking about critical thinking. I am thinking about comments from one of our presidential candidates. I am thinking about students on my campus who are lgbt. I am thinking about friends from my own college days who have ended extremely morally conservative. I am thinking about whether my failing to respond to ignorant posts on social media is a great idea because you can't have a dialogue with someone who unfriends you, or cowardice, or realizing that Facebook pronouncements don't have much gravitas anyway.

I am thinking about how finances and politics seem to making it harder to teach critical thought even as we live in a society where critical thought is becoming less approved. I am thinking about how to teach students how to think and how to engage respectably with others. I am thinking about how, given the scope of hamster fur weaving, this may not be my job. I am thinking.


  1. Viktor Frankl said, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

    Such a naive and hopeful statement. Yet what is our alternative?

  2. It's by no means a complete answer (though it ties interestingly to what Bubba says above), but I found myself listening to the 2nd half (or so) of this program early Sunday morning, just as the news of the shooting was filtering out: (Note to self: I need to go back and listen to the whole thing while fully awake.)

    Banaji is one of the creators of the implicit association test, which many of us have probably heard of, and/or taken, at some point.

    One interesting thing is that she's refreshingly non-judgmental about the existence of implicit bias; her take seems to be that the ability to form biases is built into the human brain, and the more aware we are of that ability, and willing we are to admit that we harbor biases, the better we can try to combat their effects on our behavior.

    She also made a very strong argument toward the end of the program in defense of the utility of making college students uncomfortable on occasion, in the interest of fostering learning (and has a definition/understanding of classrooms as "safe spaces" that includes such experiences). Some of the same attitude is reflected in the warning at the beginning of the test, which says "I am aware of the possibility of encountering interpretations of my IAT test performance with which I may not agree. Knowing this, I wish to proceed."

    She strikes me as someone who could manage to discomfit people with a wide variety of perspectives by saying both things with which they strongly agree and things that they believe not to be (or very much wish were not) true. That probably speaks well of her, as a researcher and as a professor.

    It's probably also a good thing that she has tenure (a named chair, in fact) at a university likely to defend same.

    Sadly, I'm not sure how many of the rest of us (even with tenure) are in a position to coax our students into these treacherous waters, however necessary it may be.

  3. At times like this, I am both frustrated and grateful I teach in the sciences. Grateful that these issues are not ones I need to confront in class. Frustrated that I have no way of influencing most of my students on important issues.

    (There are exceptions, of course, global warming being one.)

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