The teenage years are some of the most formative years of an individual’s growth and development. As adolescents hit puberty and begin to see the world from a more developed perspective, their brains start to mold, affected not only by their genetics but also by experiences and social factors. This critical period, as it is duly nicknamed, is also when most of an individual’s social, economic, and political views really begin to form based on those whom they interact with. And second only to the impact that parents have on their children, it is schools that affect the way the next generation views their society and social issues.
To say schools affect adolescent behavior is a severe understatement: it is nearly impossible to find a student who doesn’t pick up a single habit of a peer, or who rejects all that their teachers teach them. Among these principles that they pick up, however, include bias: integrated racist and sexist beliefs due to interactions that students have in their schooling years which pervade with them throughout life. The education system, just like the rest of society, is not free of bias, if only for the reason that those who design the curriculum have their own biases and beliefs which are ultimately integrated into their final design.
Another reason that biases have such a devastating impact on beliefs and ideals is that they oftentimes latch onto our subconscious, hidden in our brain so that we often do not even recognize them. It takes effort and conscious thought to probe into our mind and to discover our true thoughts that we do our best to avoid saying but are ingrained in our mind nonetheless.
As we have discussed in a prior blog, much of what teenagers learn and experience during this critical time period stays with them throughout their lives. Thus it is important we cultivate beneficial interactions that command introspection and reflection to weed out these subconscious biases. Furthermore, in a society where racism and sexism are so integrated in the system, educators and those who serve as guiding figures need to be more careful and controlled in the information they send forth as the tools to serve as the guiding principles for adolescents.
Bias seems to be something that we can not control. Everyone has their own biases. However we can work to curb the cultivation of these biases which grow at a young and early age. Ensuring that we consciously make an effort to mitigate our biases as they seep into the education system and the plastic brains of adolescents is a good start!
Picture Credits and References
Golden, Rachel Lynn. “Adolescent Identities and Our Biases.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Nov. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/affirming-adolescence/201711/adolescent-identities-and-our-biases.
Armstrong, Amanda. “Bias Starts as Early as Preschool, but Can Be Unlearned.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 4 June 2019, www.edutopia.org/article/bias-starts-early-preschool-can-be-unlearned.
Henry, David B, et al. “Accuracy and Bias in Adolescents’ Perceptions of Friends’ Substance Use.” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors : Journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749771/.