The Instigator
mrmazoo
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Shorack
Con (against)
Winning
25 Points

Educators should not strive for objectivity.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/12/2008 Category: Education
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,376 times Debate No: 2566
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (8)

 

mrmazoo

Pro

First, let me make it clear that I am only talking about educators of people old enough to have their own thoughts. Say, high-school age and above. I am not talking about educators of young children who are susceptible of treating everything they hear from an adult as incontrovertible fact.

Nearly everyone believes that educators ought to be objective and to teach only the facts without injecting their own personal views. They denigrate teachers who use the classroom as their own soapbox with which to beat their students over the head with their personal opinions.

I feel this is a mistaken viewpoint and that instead we ought to encourage educators to have a point of view and to make that view known in the classroom and in their papers, books, and articles, etc.

First, objectivity is impossible. The fact that we are human means that we MUST have an individual point of view. This can not be avoided and any attempt to do so must fail.

You may object and say that it is possible to be objective if one only gives the facts. After all, you say, facts are constant and do not change depending on one's personal position.

But facts DO change. We do not always know the facts and what is considered fact now, may be considered untrue tomorrow and vice-versa. But more importantly, for any domain of knowledge there are a nearly infinite number of facts. For example, lets say we wanted to study the Civil War. It would literally be impossible to give ALL the facts concerning the Civil War in a one semester course. For that matter, it would be impossible to give all the facts in a LIFETIME. And since giving all the facts (regarding ANY domain of knowledge) is impossible, educators must CHOOSE which facts are the most important and only discuss THOSE facts. But this means they must introduce BIAS into the discussion, whether it is their own bias or that of someone else. It may be their school board's bias. It may be the government's bias. Who knows?

So, I have just proved that it is impossible for an educator to be objective.

It still remains to be seen whether we should ask them to at least STRIVE for objectivity, even if ultimately they must fail.

I believe the answer is clearly "no". By asking them to strive for objectivity, we are only succeeding in making it more difficult to determine the nature of their biases. Their bias will now be obscured in the language of objectivity that can only cause the transfer of the biased point of view to the student to be more effective and more difficult to overcome later.

Instead, I believe we should encourage educators, parents, and students to embrace their subjectivity and to challenge each other by putting their own biases and points of view in the open. Incidentally, this goes for News sources as well.

We don't hate Fox news or CNN because they are biased. We hate them because they pretend to be objective when they are not. We see others who consider Fox (or CNN) to really be objective and "no spin" as brainwashed individuals. But they are not brainwashed because of the spin. They are brainwashed because they really believe that they are getting all the facts and are being told the news objectively.

I listen to Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk-radio hosts because I want to get their BIASED opinion, not because I think they are telling me "the truth." I want to know how these people think and compare how they interpret events to the way someone like Amy Goodman from Democracy Now does.

So, in short, I believe that educators of all types ought to be encouraged to give their own point of view on events, history, and so-called facts, so long as they make their bias known or do not try to hide it behind a veil of false objectivity. I believe it is easier to learn and come up with a unique point of view that is one's own if we are exposed to many different points of view than if we are only exposed to a few or even only one "objective" point of view.
Shorack

Con

To recapitulate your reasoning very briefly:
1) Obtaining perfect objectivity is impossible.
2) Striving for it will result in hard-to-detect bias.
So from (1) and (2) comes the result: we should not make objectivity a goal.

I'll get back to this later, but first i want to touch a fundamental issue:
"How can one act in an objective manner, how close can we get to objectivity"?
But before i touch that final point, there is need to touch the fundamental issue of how one can act in an objective manner and how close we can get to that perfect objectivity:

Your claim is that it involves giving all the facts.
That would indeed be objective, but you're wrong when assuming it is the only way.

There are many ways to act in an objective manner, so most accurate way to define objectivity is: "the inverse of subjectivity."
This leaves open the question: "what is subjectivity?"

Subjectivity is not just giving an opinion.
One can say: "Seems to me that striving for objectivity in education is a good/bad thing." That is not subjective, that opinion may be, but that doesn't mean the quote is, that one is very objective if it is true that that is his/her opinion.
For the people who just got lost in my reasoning: it would have been subjective for someone to say: "It is (not) better to strive for objectivity in education"

Where is the difference? The second time, it is stated as a fact that it is better/worse.
So, to get to the conclusion of what subjectivity is: Claiming facts and truths, based on personal points of view.

Now, to get back to your argument.
I hope that it is clear after this that objectivity isn't a far far away goal.
However, i do agree that you can't get perfect objectivity, people remain people and there will always be some lenience to own vision.
But getting close to it is still possible:
� Instead of giving all the facts, one can keep himself to the facts stressed by one group, the stressed facts from the second group and so on. (for example: in economics, you get to see Keynes, Neo-Classics (and monetarists), not into detail, but you get their main arguments. This gives a fairly balanced, rough overview of the total picture.
� It doesn't restrict one to facts, he/she can perfectly give his/her personal vision, as long as he doesn't state it as a truth. If he also gives visions held by the opposition, it is perfect. (yes, giving opinions can go along with acting objectively, as i explained in previous alinea)
� A debate between the different 'factions' also works. The debate setting makes clear that the people have a different opinion. On top of that, the 'factions' get the fairest way to get their views expressed: they may defend themselves and attack the others.

Although these are different ways and they all are fine, i'd like to stress out the first one. Because it provides people with facts, who are the fundamentals upon which opinions can be build. Certainly, it won't be perfectly objective, nor complete on facts, but when honestly given, it still gets close.

Put shortly: we can get rather close to objectivity and it doesn't hamper the educator's personal views, it only demands that he/she is fair enough not to claim their view as the single (correct) truth nor only gives one group's vision a stage to 'preach' on.

Objectivity is a noble goal, it gives all views a fair chance to be discovered in the most open-minded way possible.

Now for the second (2) point: Will it result in hard-to-detect bias?

Certainly, one can not totally exclude bias by making objectivity an aim for educators, there certainly will be educators who will present their personal opinions as factual.

But let's look at the alternative: not striving for the objectivity goal.
Will that prevent bias? Or even reduce it? Certainly not. They can still go around dictating their opinions as facts and there is no reason why they would be any easier to detect.

If the aim is objectivity and that is made official, it even gives a valuable control tool to the people being educated:
As we are talking about (almost) adults, they surely have some sense for critics themselves. So biased views being presented wrongly as facts, can be detected by the audience (the pupils) and they can take action against it, since the educator doesn't follow the policy.
This means that an educator who tries to press through personal views will risk being 'exposed', which can result in sanctions, so it makes them less likely to try.

To conclude, i'd like to place my finger upon my observation that we probably don't really are different considering what should be possible in education and what not.

Our difference is on a different aspect: i believe that striving for objectivity leaves enough space for personal points of views, something you seem to doubt.

My last saying about this before i have to give back the floor is that you need the goal of objectivity for what you want: the possibility to give opinions as long as they are presented as opinions.
Since the second part of the sentence is something that people only can't evade when they have to strive for objectivity, it is your only guarantee.
Debate Round No. 1
mrmazoo

Pro

Thanks for joining the debate.

My opponent made several points in the last round which I will address here.

First, let me reiterate my position briefly. People complain that educators too often give their own point of view in the classroom and that their students therefore don't get a proper education because they aren't given "just the facts," but are instead indoctrinated by the biased views of their teacher or professor.

The implicit assumption by those who adhere to the complaint above is that students would be better off if teachers stuck to just teaching the facts, and leaving their own personal opinions out of it. They also assume that failing to teach in this manner is akin to indoctrination.

I claim the opposite. I claim that we ought to stop encouraging educators to strive for objectivity. Furthermore, I claim that indoctrination is more likely to occur under a guise of objectivity than subjectivity.

Now, my opponent first brings up the point that simply stating what YOU believe is actually an OBJECTIVE statement. If I say "I believe the war in Iraq is wrong," I am not making a factual claim about the war in Iraq. I am not saying it IS wrong. I am making a statement about my beliefs and that statement is therefore an objective fact (or an objective lie if in fact I do not believe what I say I believe).

Conversely, if I say "The war in Iraq is wrong," I am now making a subjective statement in the guise of objectivity. I am stating an opinion but making it seem like a fact.

We'll come back to this.

Next my opponent says there are lots of ways to at least get close to being objective, even though he agrees that true objectivity is impossible. He lists three such ways:

1) You can list the facts according to one group, and then according to another, and then according to another, and so on.

Rebuttal: This is the way traditional education is supposed to work. For example, if one is teaching about government, one might first teach about Democracy, then Socialism, then Communism, then Fascism.

The problem is that there is no way you can give a fair account of EVERY different point of view. Even worse, you can't even give a fair, accurate, and thorough account of ONE of these points of view. Most of the facts are going to be left out. That means that whatever facts you share in the classroom are ones that have been CHOSEN (either by you or by the textbook's author or by some other unseen "educator") to emphasize. This is a HIDDEN bias. It is EXACTLY the same as someone saying "These facts are important."

Now go back to my opponent's definition of objectivity and subjectivity. In order to be up front, it is necessary for an educator to say "It seems to me that these facts are important." But this is never done in a classroom. Furthermore, it CAN NEVER be done. It's impossible. It's even worse for the facts that are supposedly not important. There are countless facts and opinions by countless groups and factions that, because of time restraints, can not be expounded upon in the classroom. Those facts are relatively unimportant. But unimportant to WHOM?? This is another HIDDEN bias. Students walk away thinking they know what is important when it comes to governments, but they have only gotten a tiny fraction of the argument. They have only heard about a few different points of view when there are in fact countless different points of view.

Imagine taking a class on religion and only being taught about Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. If you did not know much about religion before, you would leave the class not even realizing that there are billions of Buddhists, Hindus, and adherents of countless other religions in the world. You would believe that only these three religions are important and later, when someone approaches you wanting to discuss Buddhism, you will listen politely but "know" inside that Buddhism is not one of the important religions.

2) You can give your own opinions on the facts, as long as you say they are your opinions and not try to pass them on as facts.

Rebuttal: This is not really a rebuttal because this is precisely what my position is. This is what I advocate as an educator's responsibility.

3) You can hold a debate between different "factions" and supposedly the truth come out through such a debate.

Rebuttal: See the rebuttal for #1.

Now, my opponent's second objection is not really an objection:

"But let's look at the alternative: not striving for the objectivity goal.
Will that prevent bias? Or even reduce it? Certainly not. They can still go around dictating their opinions as facts and there is no reason why they would be any easier to detect."

First, it seems that my opponent believes that I am arguing that we ought to prevent bias when actually I am arguing the opposite. I am saying that since we can not prevent bias, we must make sure that our biases are out in the open. Instead of attempting to cover every possible point of view (something which is totally and absolutely impossible) we should simply put forth our OWN point of view, explaining ahead of time that it is our own, and challenging students to argue against it and thereby come up with THEIR OWN point of view.

Education should not be about getting a bunch of facts spewed at us and then having us regurgitate those facts on demand. It should be about developing our critical thinking skills and learning how to think for ourselves.

We should not treat students as if they were shoppers; as if each valid point of view can be contained in a cereal box and the student can just browse the isle and pick the cereal they like. There are an INFINITE number of ways to make breakfast and you can't compartmentalize a small subset of them and pretend these are the only important ones. That leads to indoctrination. One day that one of those students will see someone crack open an egg instead of dish out some cereal and the student will be dumbfounded! "What the heck is that!?!? That's not BREAKFAST!"

Instead, students should be treated like apprentice chefs. Show them how to COOK! But when you show someone how to cook, you can only show them how YOU do it. Tell them there are lots of different ways to do it, but this is your way. It may not be the best. They should go find other chefs after they learn when they can from you. Now the student will not be surprised when another chef poaches their eggs instead of scrambles them. They knew all the time that there were different ways to cook an egg, or to cook anything. They will be better able to accept and integrate new facts into their point of view. They will have a more open mind. Which is exactly what we want students to get out of an education, right?

So, to summarize, it is true that you can state your opinion while still maintaining objectivity. This is exactly what I am advocating, just said in a different way. Educators should be encouraged to put forth their own point of view as long as they make it clear that is what they are doing and as long as they don't discourage students from challenging that point of view.

Trying to teach by giving the opinions of various groups is doomed to failure because you can never list all the facts according to a single group (you can never say everything there is to say about Christianity, for example) and you can never give enough time to every valid group (you can't cover every single religion in a class on religion, for example). Therefore, attempting to do so will always introduce hidden bias into the classroom. You will always be telling students which facts are unimportant (the ones you didn't mention) and which facts are important (the ones you did). You will never be preceding these statements with phrases like "According to me," or "It seems to me," or "In my opinion," thereby failing the test for objectivity according to my opponent's own definition.

Thank you.
Shorack

Con

First of all, i want to distance myself from your reiteration for 2 reasons:
Point one is that i do not belong to the description you just gave, nor do i believe that most people who believe in striving for objectivity do.
Second and very important: the debate isn't about what some people might be thinking according to you on the subject. The debate is all about striving for objectivity in education or not, not about a specifically group described by you and their motivation.

Wanted to make this very clear, because i'm here to defend the idea of striving for objectivity in education, not to defend possible other peoples' view on the matter and because i've already clearly stated that there is place for personal opinion. So let us leave that group you seem to encounter often out, since they aren't the subject and they aren't part of my defense. ;)

Now to the main debate:

I'm aware that it is impossible to contribute attention to all the point of views in many debates.

But is that much of a problem? If the main views can be handled, that is already quite something.
Yes, this throws up the issue of how to decide what the main views are. But except for a few topics, the main positions are not that hard to distinguish.

So where does striving to objectivity leads to in this case?
It will result in the pupils being educated on multiple positions on the subject and what the main motivations are for people to take any of these positions.
Will all positions be handled? No.
Will they all get all their facts on the table? No.
Will we be sure that the attribution of attention to each one will be perfect? No.

BUT:
It will guarantee that at least multiple views are known, which stimulates contemplating about the subject, seeing that there are multiple ways to see it.
It will guarantee that major supporting arguments are known. These arguments can again be contemplated about and they can lead to developing an own vision.
It will guarantee that pupils get at least a rough picture of the whole.
And finally, it will also guarantee that they got the major facts (you don't educate by beginning with minor details) that can be used as fundamentals to start of reasoning on their own.

Does allowing subjectivity improve any of these?
I can't see how. It allows teachers to claim own views as facts, it allows them to focus on only one view. Those won't stimulate the forming of a critic mind for a pupil. For that, you need to be able to point them to existing debates.
and i certainly don't see where this will reduce bias.

Now about bias occurring at people striving for objectivity.
Sure, everyone has some opinion and expecting people to exclude that 100% isn't very realistic. But again, how far will this reach? It certainly won't lead to a monolith view being dictated, if objectivity is the goal, you can't circumvent the fact that there are people thinking different. Of course, it will probably lead to some extra attention for the self-supported view, but this is no dramatic ruining of it all, due to the set goal, the other views are still assured of attention, where that wasn't the case in subjectivity as a goal.

Also, selecting the importance of facts. Let me make a personal example (even though i'm aware that is no proof): I'm convinced of the Monetarist views, but i do darn well know what the main points of Keynesians are.
How come? Because every interest group logically will proclaim its most important points the hardest.
To get a good lead of what the major claims and arguments are of a certain group, it is sufficient just to see what they stress themselves the most.
Even if bias kicks in here again, people certainly can't ignore all the major points made by that group.

In one go, this also is what i'd have to say on not mentioning that you believe this or that fact is important: it is not that hard to get a fairly (not perfect) view of which ones are the ones that matter the most.
But furthermore, there is no harm at all when the educator does bring up a fact that doesn't belong to the core arguments, they'll have learned something more trivial than otherwise, but there is no harm in that, is there?

Now, i believe i did get to understand well what you meant. I may have had a slightly different interpretation of bias, but with your second round, i believe i can get it tuned to yours.

Now, if you argue for teachers bringing forth their own point of view, then we'll have a few major issues:
First, it doesn't guarantee, nor stimulates the education on several parties of the subject. With a monolith view presented, there is not that much of arguments given to start from in building up an alternate view.
Second, there is no way by which the subjectivity system will stimulate that challenge towards students to argue, to make critics out of them. Why? Because, they never get presented existing debates. Because it is hard to start on an alternate view out of nothing, some subjects really aren't that straightforward. Because many students prefer to get something they can learn by hard, to pass (i'm not saying this is good, but it will result in focusing on the presented view, since it is the only matter given), if they get presented different views, the hardcore study freaks will at least have learned different views (by hard, but still, they'll be aware of them). If they get into the situation where the challenge arises even for them afterwards, they have some poles in the ground to build on.

The breakfast metaphor then. Indeed, you can make breakfast in almost infinitely different ways.
But let me add 2 specific ways:
- Orange juice + cereals.
- Chocolate milk + bread with salami in between.
Now, a third option could be: orange juice + bread with salami in between.

what do i want to make clear with this? There are indeed many, many, MANY ways to make breakfast, but most of these would be based on some parts that do often return or on the mix of different parts from well-known combinations.

In the same way, if you give a few different views (as mentioned: as good as possible: the major ones) and they already have quite some 'building brics' to get started with. The daring ones will also try to leave one out and take in some totally new one.
As long as a decent basis is provided, huge possibilities are already 'unlocked'.

You don't inspire people to think different by giving your own view, because it is yours, eventually adding that there are many others.
Actually showing them 'clashes' between some opinions points that out and immediately gives some views to start from for debating.

You call not perfectly obtaining objectivity a total failure.
But on what account? It's not because something isn't totally perfect, that it is totally imperfect. Striving to the goal of objectivity will never succeed in perfection, but we'll always get a bit closer and hence we'll always get a bit closer to that perfection. There will be some diversions from it, but with the goal set, there is not that much room for diversions from it.

However, if you leave it open totally, there is no way you create an incentive for objectivity and non-bias.
Indeed, those are not your goals at all, but it will neither give fundamentals to build upon towards your goal of challenging the mind.

As closing words, i simply want to repeat myself more or less from round one:
Objectivity gives room to own input, it gives room for debate.
But i want to add: it also helps in guaranteeing that at least some fundamentals are handed over to pupils to build with on their own defense on the matter. It guarantees that they get pointed at the reality of debate, differences between people. So if makes them aware of the need to think it all through.
The perfect goal won't be reached, humans are bound to be imperfect, but it will keep us close to the road we are trying to
Debate Round No. 2
mrmazoo

Pro

mrmazoo forfeited this round.
Shorack

Con

I regret that mrmazoo did forfeit his round.
However, i also have the impression that most is said already.

I'll just make use of my last round to point at my main statements:
Objectivity as a goal doesn't make personal input impossible.
Objectivity as a goal helps in creating borders on what is acceptable as a way of inserting personal views.

Subjectivity doesn't resolve added value of the kind we couldn't have when striving for objectivity.

My arguments for these statements were made in the previous rounds, which you should have read by now. ;)

Kind regards,

Shorack
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Shorack 9 years ago
Shorack
for some odd reason, last part fell of the post in second round: walk.

:')
Posted by Shorack 9 years ago
Shorack
Seems like it is normal to take the three days granted. :D
Posted by Shorack 9 years ago
Shorack
My apologies for having accepted the debate and not having posted yet.

I'm quite busy at the moment, but i'll make sure i make some time before it's too late.

Again excuse me for being so slow right now.
Posted by Kleptin 9 years ago
Kleptin
I disagree. I feel that educators should try to keep themselves as objective as possible. Many students these days only speak a language of five letters: A, B, C, D, F.

If a professor expresses a certain bias, students might flock to suck up instead of expressing their disagreement.

In order to advocate the mixing of ideas, professors should be as objective as possible, and I'm not participating in this debate but I forgot that when I started typing so I'll stop typing now.
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