Confirmation bias: a damaging aspect to life at WJ

Ian Rees

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Students at WJ are typically liberal. This creates an unfortunate confirmation bias that damages the school.

People often discuss how we are in the most polarized time in America since the 1960s. People love to point fingers as to who’s at fault. President Trump is typically blamed for the polarization and political turmoil America is in, with his impulsive and offensive tweets, along with his fear-mongering and fairly black and white views of the world. But in reality, can we just blame the President for our divided society?

Diversity of thought and opinion are essential to a school. As shown in polls conducted by The Pitch, the WJ student body is extremely left-winged, which without a question bears an effect on the academic culture at WJ. With such bias in the student body, it goes without saying that liberal students are in a confirmation bias ‘bubble’. Confirmation bias, the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs, can decimate the credibility of objective debate among the student body. It’s of utmost importance that students recognize this bubble, and don’t let it affect their learning or the way they think.

A simple and small-scale example of confirmation bias would be if a student previously believed state-sponsored health care was the best option, they’re likely to only listen to reasons pointing to why state-sponsored health care is the best, and not look at reasons as to why privatized healthcare may be a better option. This person will then believe whatever facts support privatized healthcare are illegitimate or are just false. In the sort of bubble we have at WJ, students are mainly of the same ideology, so naturally they will discuss in length the points they believe in, and will either ignore, illegitimize or be entirely un-exposed to any differing points.

Teachers at WJ generally do a good job of staying objective and not letting their views slip, though I’ve experienced numerous times where there’s a direct left bias in a class. In my Comparative Religion class sophomore year, our teacher would almost always present us information from a notably left-leaning source. In my AP Comparative Government class, we’ll commonly watch satirical left-leaning shows such as the Daily Show with Trevor Noah and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. In the Montgomery College International Relations class 1st semester, our professor would typically pull up CNN if we were looking at a current issue. This only makes the confirmation bias issue at WJ even bigger. Of course in heavily right-leaning schools in deeply conservative areas, there is most likely as large a confirmation bias issue.

As high school students, we are essentially clay, and our teachers have the power to mold us. If our already left-leaning students are fed purely left-leaning information by our teachers, WJ will produce students that have been robbed of how to debate, think, and research in an objective and professional manner. If confirmation bias bubbles are sustained in high schools across America, our society will continue to be a polarized mess.