Bias 101: Introduction to one perspective

Introductory courses are often a student’s first academic exposure to a new field. It stands to reason then that the more perspective one gains into a field, the more breadth they gain in their understanding.  And still some introductory courses are taught by only one professor. This may not make a difference in some subjects, such as chemistry, math, and physics, but in others it can lead to a wholly different experience. This difference is largely due to the amount a person’s specialty can skew their perspective in their subject.

Some departments already combat this problem by having various professors involved in teaching the intro course. The biology, political science and economic departments are some of those that employ this method. If organismal biology were only taught by an evolutionary biologist or a neurobiologist, then the course would be fundamentally different. This should apply to other fields in which a certain perspective can overpower the discourse and affect the way in which information is explained. The intro courses that suffer the most from this lack of varying views is psychology, sociology and anthropology, and philosophy. Introduction to anthropology and sociology are taught as one course by two professors, one from each department, however this still only allows for one perspective from each field. Philosophy has two intro courses, but they are still only taught by one professor without so much as a guest lecture from someone else in the department. Psychology suffers greatly from being taught by only one professor.

Psych 001 is taken by many students each semester, often enough to warrant the use of Sci 101. Depending on the professor teaching the course, however, it is not an encompassing introduction to the subject. Instead, at times intro psych is instead an introduction to social psychology, and at others to behavioral psychology. It is by no fault of the professors that this is the case, it is understandable that they approach the subject from the lens with which they have adopted over many years of instruction and research. But often, this means that areas such as cultural, development, and neuro- psychology are glossed over or barely mentioned in those courses. In a field like psychology, where an action or attitude can be interpreted socially, culturally, developmentally, neurologically, behaviorally, cognitively, or evolutionarily. All of those analyses have their merits, but when only one paradigm is taught, students walk away from the course feeling as though they know more than they truly do. Some of these fields are young sciences, in the case of psychology, sociology and anthropology, and it would not be doing these student a favor to make them feel as though there is a single approach that is right and accepted. There isn’t one, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. That’s exactly why introductory courses should be taught by more than one professor. It exposes students to the various, and sometimes opposing, views in a field, instead of sticking to a singular perspective.

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