Without bias?

The topic of bias has been scattered all over the news this week with Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing.

As I've worked with college students, this question of bias comes up from time to time.

One vivid memory I have was sitting with Abby Dean (back when she went by Abby instead of Abigail) in the Daily Grind (back when it went by Daily Grind instead of Java 23) and talking about a class she was taking. The professor had raised the question of bias. Can we trust the accuracy of the Gospel writings if the writers held a pretty intense bias?

These writers were really biased. I mean, really, really biased. They believed Jesus was the Christ (not Caesar), the Son of God, Messiah, the One in whom there is life. That's bias.

Their lives, their perspectives, their judgements were colored deeply by their experiences. They had seen and heard about Jesus. Their lives had been transformed by him. They came to the writers table with their minds already made up.

So, is bias a bad thing? Are there different types of bias? Can one truly be unbiased, uninfluenced by life experience? Are claims to be unbiased merely revealing an ignorance of the impact that one's experiences have had on one's judgement? Can that ignorance lead one to judge unjustly?

If that's the case (and here's something controversial), then a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences (and awareness of how that experience influences bias) would more often than not reach a better conclusion than pretty much anyone who believed they could approach an issue without bias.

That's postmodernity.

***And, for the record, that's not a direct comment on the politics going on this week...both sides have claimed to be unbiased and so, both sides have been full of it at one point or another (as we all are from time to time)***

5 comments:

  1. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the comment on my blog! Lauren and I have actually started a blog that documents our thoughts and studies on the book of Revelation. Of course, most of our observations and "studies" aren't based too much on any other readings.

    And yes, I did get to meet Becca during ONS! I was greeting the new staff in front of the door leading into 2100, and I saw her name tag as she walked past me, thinking that her named sounded familiar, but I couldn't recall where I heard it from! I suddenly remembered and called her name, and we chatted for a little bit. I even friended her on facebook (as always do creepily). We're both super excited for this coming fall!

    Anyway, if you'd like, you can see what Lauren and I are looking at: directlyfromthesource.blogspot.com

    And I think you not going to NISET says a lot: you're already equipped! :P Wish you could've been there though!

    Val

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  2. Steven, how do you feel about Father Hermes' decision to accept accused hockey-stick rapist Lee Myers into Jesuit High School?

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  3. I think Fr. Hermes had a tough call. I don't know what I'd have done if I were in his shoes. But here's a thought.

    Jesuit is all about "men for others". The school wants to produce men who serve, who care for the poor and defenseless and needy, not men who bully or rape. But there's a problem in saying that.

    Look at it from another angle.

    Jesuit wants to produce men who are ready to go to college. It's a college prep school. Because that's a value, they structure a student's time at Jesuit to make that happen. But you don't require the preparation as a prerequisite for admission. Jesuit produces men.

    I wonder if that's not a reason why we're seeing some disconnect between the administration and news-media/parents/community. People are saying that this student, with his alleged crimes, isn't a "man for others." Maybe Fr. Hermes is thinking that you don't have to be a "man for others" to get in, that Jesuit might be able to take a bully and help him change.

    It's a tricky situation.

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  4. Thanks for taking the time to answer. What is troubling me though is it seems that Hermes copied certain presidential candidates and did a flip-flop, and seemed to bow to the pressure. I think as soon as the next day it was announced that Myers would not be attending Jesuit. Co-incidence or did Hermes decide he could not reform this child?

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  5. I think everyone in that situation was feeling a lot of pressure. Last I heard, the parents seemed to indicate that it was their decision to pull their son out of Jesuit. Is that still the story?

    As far as flip-flopping goes, I still have yet to see evidence of a flip-flop of Fr. Hermes' part, although even that wouldn't be the end of the world. I mean, since when were leaders forbidden from changing their minds as new information comes in?

    On a separate note, that's something that really troubles me about the state of our public discourse. We don't give a lot of space for people to learn, admit mistakes, or adapt to new information. I get as upset about public flip-flops as the next guy (unless the person is flip-flopping onto my side).

    That said, I can see why this particular case of flip-flopping troubled you. We've seen so much politicking at Jesuit over the last several years, so many broken promises and so many signs that the kids on the campus aren't the highest priority. Anything that seems to indicate a continuation in that vein makes me cringe. I really loved that school and hope that these trends represent small bumps in the road rather than a true course correction. Was it like this 10 years ago?

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