dcsimg Framing Unconscious Bias in Educational Settings Video Transcript The Bias Inside Us
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Framing Unconscious Bias in Educational Settings Video Transcript

COREY YEAGER: Welcome to this webinar, which is one of three. My name is Dr. Corey Yeager. These next three webinars that you'll be viewing are part of a series for the bias inside us, which is doing some really, really great work partnering with the Smithsonian to really engage this conversation around implicit and unconscious bias. And specifically its impact in the school setting, in the educational setting, through other work that I've been up to for the last number of years. And I think it's really an important thing that we should be discussing, not just for our professional growth, but also for our personal growth.

So I'm going to walk this journey with you. Hopefully you'll walk this journey with me as well. One of the things that I think that we don't do a great job as educators is sharing our story. One of the ways that we know that bias can diminish and delete itself is through relationship. So let me give you a bit of a background on who I am. And again this is the first of three webinars. So we won't go over about 28 to 30 minutes. Want to make sure that we are concise and getting to the points that we want to get to. I'll kind of lay out the foundation of what each of these webinars will be about and what we'll be focused on in each of them. Each will be a little different focus but they will all be woven together in a coherent fashion. Hopefully. That's what my hope is.

So I just want to give you a bit of background on who I am. A brief autobiography, if you will. Again, Dr. Corey Yeager. I grew up in a small farming community in Kansas. My father passed away when I was 15, which has really focused me to do the work that I'm continuing to do today. But at 15 he passes away. When I'm 15, and he's 50, he passed away. I was very close to my dad. Quickly understood that there was not going to be a way for me to get out of this little small farming community without athletics.

So I began to play football. And I think that what I did is take some of my anger out in the passing of my father on the football field and got some pretty high accolades. Ended up getting about 30 Division I football offers and went and played at Long Beach State. Played football there. Played for George Allen, the former Redskin. Willie Brown, the former Raider, who just passed away last week. Got some really great experiences. Had a cup of coffee in the NFL. That's about as long as it lasted, as long as a cup of coffee lasts.

And then found my way to move to Minneapolis, met my wife. Went back to school because I never graduated while I was playing football. Went back got my BA in Psychology. Kind of fell in love with the academic realm. Went back and pursued my Master's. I got my Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy. And then one of the better departments working in social science, which is my field-- I'm a psychotherapist-- was here at the University of Minnesota. So I ended up pursuing my PhD and graduating with my Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Family and Social Science.

So it's been a circuitous route, wrought with tons of things, biases that I have seen, biases that I have felt. So it really kind of pushed me to be more interested in this work around implicit and unconscious bias. So that's just a bit about me. And I would tell you that that's one of the tools that we can use to diminish bias. We ask our students to be vulnerable to us every day. We ask them to be vulnerable when they don't understand something. We ask them to tell us who they are. But very seldom do we take the time to share with them who we are. I think that if we can build that relationship, it does something. It diminishes bias.

So I've done some pretty heavy lifting in the world of Minneapolis Public Schools. I was part of the creation of a department called the Office of Black Male Student Achievement here in Minneapolis Public Schools with the director Mike Walker. So Mike and I have kind of worked together for the last four or five years to build this department focused on the achievement of Black males, specifically, to close the perceived achievement gap.

But it is our thought that there is no achievement gap. That really what we have is a relationship gap and an opportunity gap. So if we can close those, and we know that we can, on a daily basis, individuals can help to close those gaps. It's really important. So we lead with the relationship. That's what I do. I'm a relational systemic and contextual therapist. So leading with the relationship helps to diminish that bias. So this time I can tell already he's going to fly, so we're going to have to kind of get to some of the business at hand.

You all have received a couple of different articles that I have said to you. Hopefully you've scanned through them. You didn't need to read them word for word. But they give a good frame on what we'll be discussing. And especially the "Understanding Implicit Bias" article. I think it really captures implicit bias in a good way and it really contextualizes bias in the forum and case of the educational system and teachers, which is really our focus here. It's what we'll be talking about more often than not, is how biases occur in the educational system and how it's impacting us and our students.

So let me just quickly give you a framework of what we'll be up to over these three seminars. This first seminar, we're really going to lay the foundation-- I've already begun to do that-- lay the foundation and define what unconscious bias is, and what its connections to the educational realm really are. They're really deep roots to our biases and they find a home in the educational system. So we're here to talk about that here in this first session.

Session two we're going to really say more about what unconscious bias really is and its roots in the brain, right? Neuroscience is doing some really, really good and profound work. Neuroscience and social science are becoming one. They're engaging and merging with one another to discuss this concept of bias. So I think that that research-- that blossoming research-- is really important, so we'll touch on that and talk more about that in session two.

In webinar three we're really going to talk more deeply about, all right, so what can we do? So we've defined it. We better understand unconscious bias. We hear what the research is up to. Some of the mainstays in the research, we'll talk about all those things. In that final session we're going to talk, OK, so what can we do about it? I think that's really an important piece.

So I already begun with what we can do before we get there. And one of the things that we know we can do, you hear me talk about relationships being extremely important. We could tell our story. Part of telling our story and listening to someone else's story is that diminishment of implicit bias. So that's already one of the things that we can do. We're going to revisit that as we go deeper into these conversations in these webinars. But that's obviously one thing.

So those are the three pieces we'll do. We won't go over about 28 to 30 minutes in each one of these because I think it's important to try to keep those down to a minimum, not going too long. So there's some tools that we want to have when we're discussing things like implicit or unconscious bias. And we call them interracial or inter-- you pick the category-- tools for dialogue.

So obviously, we are not dialoguing because it's a webinar. And hopefully there's some points in time that we can jump on some live conversations because I'm interested to hear what you think about this and what you've taken away. But some of the tools that we want to use, and I use the language of our students. It's one thing-- there's another tool, things that we can do, is we can use the language of our students.

Once we use the language of our students, we put them in a position of being one up. Too often it's always at the teachers one up. That the teacher's always the expert. If we can find ways in which to engage our students and allow them to have ownership and expertise, that is one tool that diminishes bias. Because the student then sees themselves as special. And if they see themselves as special, their engagement in the educational realm can have a profoundly positive impact. And that's something we can do pretty consistently.

So if these tools that we have are used in the language of our students, one of the things that I've always heard is that a closed mouth doesn't get fed. Meaning that we have to speak up. We tell our students to speak up and ask questions. In these conversations, we must ask and be open to questions. That we must remain curious. That we don't have all the answers, but we have a level of curiosity that pushes us towards a better understanding of one another. That's what this conversation of implicit bias will be all about.

So we want to stay engaged in the conversation. And there's going to be some uncomfortable spaces. It may be uncomfortable to talk about some of these things. It may be uncomfortable to hear reference to things that may not feel like they fit with you. Because, explicitly, we may say one thing or feel one thing or operate in one way in a explicit, conscious manner, but implicit bias is working at a level below consciousness. That's why it's so insidious, because we don't really even know that it's occurring.

Excuse me. So we're going to experience that discomfort as well. Now, we're not going to finish this up and have this seminar done and say, OK, I no longer have implicit bias. Doesn't work that way. What we want to do is begin the conversation, want to begin eliciting awareness around the importance of understanding these aspects. We want to keep it 100. That's the words of the students that I work with. Keep it 100. Meaning, just want to be truthful about it. So I'm going to do that in this conversation. Hopefully, you'll do that as well in your feedback or thoughts about what we've discussed in this webinar and the next two.

So some of the targets that we want to hit on as we go through these sessions. We want to consider the impact of implicit bias and it's day-to-day affect on personal beliefs and professional choices, specific to the education realm. Again, to kind of keep it in that realm of education. Doesn't mean that it doesn't apply across realms, but specific to this conversation and the work of the bias inside us, we want to really, really focus on how this is impacting or finding a home in the educational realm.

We want to talk about and gain a better sense of the current and blossoming research around implicit bias. That's really that session two that I spoke about earlier. We're going to really focus on that and how that is beneficial to know to educators. We'll do that. And in that third session, we'll close more in line with what it is that we can do on a day-to-day basis to impact our awareness of implicit bias.

So one of the things that I think is important as we begin this journey is kind of centering ourselves on the hopes and thoughts for what we may get out of this webinar. So you're going to be listening to me banter. Obviously, my wife tells me I talk too much so this is obviously not helping that cause. But that banter that we may have back and forth, that won't really occur in a webinar. But in your minds I want you to have that banter.

It's almost a piece of cognitive dissonance is what we're searching for. I'll talk more about that in session two. But this concept of cognitive dissonance where we begin to have two conflicting thoughts. Once we can begin to have two conflicting thoughts, it is no longer unconscious. So it's what we're hoping for. So cognitive dissonance is spelled out as a negative, but it really is not in this situation, a negative. Because if we can have two different thoughts, that means we at least begin to battle. If it's unconscious, we don't know. So we'll talk about that as we go.

So hopefully we will pique some interest in the concept of unconscious and implicit bias. Again, you will hear me use those terms interchangeably. I use them both so one doesn't mean anything different than the other when I'm discussing it. Other people may have different vantage points. That's the stance that I have. Unconscious and implicit will be used interchangeably. From the webinar, I hope that you will gain and glean some aha moments. That's really, therapeutically, what I think is important when I'm working with clients, is that we want to move to find aha moments in the conversation. So hopefully, there'll be some aha moments that come for you. And understanding and recognizing that there's going to be concerns as we enter these conversations.

One of the first things that I want to say is that when we engage in conversations around implicit bias, that it is not equated to racism, it is not equated to homophobia, that bias is something that we all have. So if someone is saying that you have implicit bias, they're not saying that you are racist. They're not saying that you're homophobic. Right?

So I think that's one of the critical moves for us to engage. Every single one of us walking the face of the earth hold biases. It's what's kept us alive as human beings for our entire lifetimes. Our brain and our DNA and our synapses have fired in such a way for us to create biases. So it's not a negative. But what we want to do is better understand what that means, what it looks and feels like. Because once we have a frame on that, we can better understand, and hold on, and see where we're headed in terms of this work.

So one of the pieces that we should be discussing as we look at the educational realm and implicit bias is this piece of having a growth and belief mindset. If we have a belief mindset with our students and the families from which they come, we then know and see and hope and push for those students to grow. Implicit bias plays into that, as it may challenge that belief mindset on an unconscious level.

So I can explicitly and consciously say, I want all students to achieve. I want all students to have beautiful opportunities. But unconsciously I'm on a day-to-day basis. I may be making moves, that I'm not really aware of, that are against that explicit and conscious thought that I have. And the article, "Understanding Implicit Bias" speaks about that. So I think it's something that's a good frame and handle to grab a hold of to move. But we want to keep these mindsets positive and engaging and at the forefront of our thought as we move through these pieces.

So one of my favorite people in the world to read or to discuss is James Baldwin. So James Baldwin came out, there was a movie about him, maybe a year ago, called, I Am Not Your Negro. And so I know that this work is not new work. This is work that many before us have discussed and many after us will continue to discuss. But James Baldwin summarizes very concisely some of the things that I think are important when we're considering implicit bias. So I'll just read a couple of his quotes that I really like. And he says, "the paradox of education is precisely this: that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he's being educated."

So if we think about that. The more conscious. And that's the move that we're trying to make in these conversation is eliciting and arising consciousness and awareness. The more that we get that, the more we become critical of that system. And that's what we want to talk about. How we can be within a system and still remain critical of the system. It's no different than our families. We're part of family systems, our parents, our grandparents our kids, our wife, our husband, our partners. Those are all systems. And what we know that we all are is critical of those systems. And we're usually critical of those systems because we want them to be better. So education is no different. So Baldwin hits it on the nose there.

Another piece that he said that is really simple that I love. He said, "nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart. For his purity by definition is unassailable." So if we claim to be, hey, I'm not homophobic at all. I'm not racist at all. And those are good things to claim. But if we're not clear that our actions match up with those statements, it's really unassailable. If I tell you that I love this person, or that person, or [INAUDIBLE], you really can't assail that. You can't come against that.

So we want to make sure that we're not just claiming something, but we are claiming it and moving with it. Right? My father told me many times that your actions speak so loudly I can't hear your words. Right? So claiming something is one thing, but the actions that would be associated with that are much more critical.

And the last one he said, "not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it's faced." It's pretty simple. So if we do understand that this implicit bias is impacting us and the students that we work with in a negative way at all, we have to face that and then hopefully begin to change that. So the first things that we're going to do is talk about the terminology and frame the concept in what's current, what's developing. Next we'll talk about what is unconscious bias in that next session. And then the impacts that it has on a day-to-day basis and, really, what we can do about it. So let's dive into these last few minutes in this webinar to talk about some working definitions.

So if we look at some words-- and there are many words around implicit bias that may be associated with them rightfully so or not rightfully so. But the reality is, they're associated. So when we talk about implicit bias, words like prejudice come up. And so if we had a working definition, I usually like to move to the more simple version of any of these words. So prejudice is just the-- in my mind-- the prejudgment of other individuals. We all do it. There's no one in this world that is not prejudiced. We prejudge. It's what the brain is designed to do.

Now, oftentimes that prejudgment is off kilter. The information that we've received about that-- the reason that we arrive at that prejudgment is faulty. So we can have faulty-- that doesn't mean always, but many times that is faulty. This is implicit and unconscious bias. That we have been ingrained with information, that our brain has taken in, and done a great job of storing-- and we'll talk further about the hippocampus. The part of the brain that is really the filing system of the brain.

And from following that filing system, so there are another term that we always tend to be in the midst of, that plays. You've heard me mention it already. And that's racism. So the working definition that I utilize for the concept of racism is really just prejudice-- what we just discussed and talked about briefly. Prejudice plus institutionalized power.

So if you look at our country, we know that there has been institutions that are extremely powerful. Racism is being connected to those institutions in a way in which you can use that power to bolster any prejudices that you may have. So that institutionalized power is the extra piece above and beyond being prejudicial that is held.

The other thing that we discuss and talk a lot about is multiculturalism. In the educational realm we talk a lot about multiculturalism and its impact. And we utilize multiculturalism in the educational realm. Really, the last 10 or so years, it has been a cornerstone aspect of engaging different others, that othering system. Multiculturalism has been viewed as a way in which to diminish othering. And I think it's an extremely important piece. And it's really just kind of a policy-based process of maintaining a diversity of ethnic cultures, ethnic communities. Really kind of giving credence to those others that normally have not had a space at the table or a voice in the conversation.

So those are terms that oftentimes you may hear connected to implicit bias. So now let's just briefly talk about, so what is implicit bias? And I think the reason that I start off with this definition aspect is because that terms and definitions all too often are not discussed and agreed upon or bantered about. We just too quickly move into fixing the issue, but we don't even have an agreement on what the issue is or define what that issue is and come to agreement on that. So I think that's why it's an important thing that we begin with.

So implicit and unconscious bias, by definition, is the bias in judgment or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes that often operate at a level below consciousness. Key phrase in that entire description is that they operate at a level below consciousness. So we can argue about how they impact us, or even if they're real, but it's hard to really recognize them without getting into the research-- which we'll do in the next webinar-- about how they have found a home. How these biases have been created over thousands of years.

So having that definition and understanding that this is something that can be insidious, but it's insidious at a level below consciousness. So you're not really going to grab it. Your actions may be conscious, but what has driven those actions may be fully unconscious. So coming to that frame of understanding through those definitions, I think, is something that's extremely important and that we want to do more of.

A couple of terms that coincide with these conversations as well is the concept of equality and equity. That we always have this conversation of equity and equality. And I think it's an important conversation to have. We've all seen the depiction of the equality is all the people standing. They're different sides but they're all standing on boxes, and the short one can't see over the fence. The tall one was already tall enough to see over the fence, but equality said we're all going to get the same box to stand on. Equity is saying, if you can stand over the fence and see the game, do you need to have that box? Maybe give two boxes to the shorter person that will allow them to see the game because you can see it without.

So I think it's a simple understanding of equality and equity. I think it's something that we're hearing more about every single day in our school systems. That we talk about having an equitable lens And I think that is extremely important. I think that the concept of implicit bias is the way in which we can engage or pursue this thought of equity. This is a way we can go after equity in pursuit of it in our classrooms, in our schools, in our districts, and society. I think that looking and examining this implicit bias concept is a way that we can attack that issue.

So in the final minutes, what I want to do is just touch a little bit more, because this multicultural education is an important concept that we just talked about. And it's really what we're currently utilizing to attempt, in the educational system, to address inequity. It's really what we're doing. I would submit that it's a great thing. It's good for us to know about one another's culture, but it does very little to address implicit or unconscious bias. So it's not a bad thing in and of itself, but it doesn't attack the nature of bias. So we want to touch on that.

So multicultural education currently is an emphasis on cultural pluralism-- multiple cultures, cultures-- and the knowledge of others' cultures. So one of the things that I talk a lot about that I think is important is that we should stop using the phrase culturally competent. I've begun to do some research and some reading on this concept of cultural competency and I have come to the understanding or view that there is no such thing. There can be no cultural competence. Competence means that we've arrived at something. We're there. Two plus two is four. Once I get ahold of that I have it forever. I'm competent in that fashion.

What we know is that culture is ever evolving. So when I leave my home-- I'm here at home today. If I leave my home and my family comes in-- I have a wife and four boys-- and I leave for work for three or four days and I come back, the culture of my home has changed. I can't even be competent in the culture of my own home. Much less be competent in someone else's culture. So we can be responsive, we can be adaptive culturally, but we cannot be confident.

And we shouldn't be selling ourselves as trying to achieve competence in culture because it's too elusive. And once I start to pursue it and want to try to be competent, I'll very quickly realize why it can't be. It changed again. I was competent in what the kids were saying last year when they were walking through the hallways. I caught some of that language. But now that language has changed. So you can adapt to it. And once we become adaptive to a process, others see that you're trying, you're working with that. It builds trust.

So multicultural education, it promotes the civic good, it writes the historical record, promotes social injustice, it attempts to promote equity. That's my question. Is that really what it's doing? I think it's good but I don't know if it's doing that. And it's diversify student exposure. I think those are all really good. But I think we must follow up with a better frame and understanding of this piece of bias.

So finally, what we'll talk about here is, what's developing in terms of implicit bias and what's going on in the educational system? So the beginning of what's developing is a concept called critical race theory and education. And out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings-- many of you, I'm sure, have heard of her name-- is kind of the godmother of critical race theory and education.

And really what critical race theory is doing is saying that we in the educational system must request and bring forward the requisite authentic voice of students of color from any marginalized group. LGBTQ. Any group that has been marginalized. They are in need of having the requisite authentic voice at the table and showing up in the curriculum. Are we doing that? How are we doing that, is a question that we should be asking. We must have, and what Ladson-Billings talks about, is a radical critique of the American educational system. So it goes back to what I said about Baldwin.

And that connection is that it must be a radical critique. The deeper you get into that system, the more radical the critique may be. So those are a couple of pieces. The own lived reality of the individuals that may be biased against, we need that conversation at the table. And we must recognize that oftentimes the presumptions we have and the curriculums that we have made presume deficiency in different kids and families. So that's just a piece of reality that we must discuss. Not necessarily a reality that we want to talk about, but a reality that our students are engaging in and living through every day.

So I think that's just a good frame. That's a good beginning for us. We're really going to dive in, in this next webinar, to what is going on with implicit bias, what the research is telling us. We'll go through a couple of research articles that I think are really keen and help us better understand what it is that implicit bias is up to. And then we'll finish up in that final webinar by discussing what it is that we can do.

So it's been absolutely pleasure to begin this conversation with you. I hope that it's a good start and that this next webinar will really kind of dive deeply in from the very beginning of the webinar. Look forward to seeing you in the next one and I appreciate your time. Thank you.