Hedreich Nichols

April 2023

Implicit Bias, Childhood ‘Othering’ and Mass Shootings

What do you think when you see a “big Black guy’? Do you immediately feel a sense of danger? When you see Hispanic Americans, do you immediately think they are ‘bad actors’? And what about White people? Do you think of them as racist and uncaring, or maybe just top of the food chain? Depending on who you are, any of these messages could have been a part of your upbringing. The way those messages stealthily inform our interactions is called implicit bias. It’s what we think about others when we aren’t thinking about what we think about others. Tall blondes, jocks, men in suits; those are also groups of people we often have preconceived notions about. Preconceived notions could keep the tall blonde and the athlete out of AP classes, it could give the man in a suit access to privileges that may or may not be earned.

How is VIolence Connected to Implicit Bias

Preconceived notions got Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager, shot by an 85 year old who feared for his life “because of the boy’s size”. It should be noted that the boy was neither tall nor particularly large in stature. Yarl was at the wrong house to pick up his siblings and posed no threat. Still, he was shot in the head through a locked glass door. And then shot again.

This is what implicit bias does. It makes us react to threats that don’t exist. It’s the reason why Blacks die in traffic stops at a disproportionate rate. It’s the reason George Floyd died–the officer said he was a big guy and they had to control him. It’s the reason people with accents are assumed less academically able and the reason Helen Keller was assumed to be “dumb”.

What do you think about others when you’re not consciously aware of what you are thinking? What ideas do you have about social, cultural or religious groups that may prevent you reacting to people from those groups unfettered by preconceived notions? Here are 20 pages of Finding Your Blind Spots that will help you identify some of your own biases. Within those pages are also a few action steps.

Ralph Yarl could have been my son. Thankfully, he is still alive. But he won’t be the last victim of implicit bias. What can you do? How can you help? Reflect, act. Reflect for all the kids that experience a more dangerous reality because of bias. Act because the world needs us to be better humans.

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My Son, the Military and Education

Only a few short hours ago, I said goodbye to my son as he left to begin his career as a proud member of the US Army. Only yesterday I watched him make a wish as he blew out candles with the same family that was there at his very first birthday. Today he is entrusted with fighting for the freedoms of this land. And as I record this episode of SmallBites, my heart is with my son, but my mind comes back to the freedoms he will be fighting for. Do we represent the freedoms set forth in our foundational documents? When my son fights to defend democracy alongside the children of other mothers, will it be the democracy of one nation under God with liberty and justice for all?

I sadly read about the loss of our full democratic status in the world and it troubles me–even more so now that my only son will be fighting to defend that democracy. So this week, in honor of my son, in honor of all of those who fight for the freedoms we believe in, I have a reflection and, of course, an ask.

Banned Books, Banned Stories, Banned Rights

Reflect on whether or not the rights of some students are limited when we ban stories, conversations, books, and curriculum because it may reflect ideals unlike our own.

Read this Cast article on Universal Design for Learning, the brain and representation. Scientifically, representation really does matter.

If, as you read, you want to share, please connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram using #SmallBites. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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No Hate Like Christian Love

Note: Today’s Easter episode is a special edition specifically for Christian educators. While the episode offers great guiding questions to all educators, scriptures are used as a foundation for this episode.

“There’s no hate like Christian love” is an all too common phrase these days. And as I get ready for my Easter morning church service, I feel shame at what the face of the Christian community has become. I found myself hesitating in using the word “we” when I said Christians. It saddens me that a pillar of my upbringing no longer feels like something to be proud of. I know many others who are believers–loving, accepting ones–who feel the same. This is for us as well.

A Message to Christian Educators

How can educators make campuses a place of healing and wholeness? What actions do we need to take to ensure that no one feels condemned, that everyone feels accepted (not just John 3:16, but John 3:17 as well)? Why do we take actions that have the opposite affect on our campuses and in our communities? Particularly, for those of us who are “of the household of faith”, do we model love or are we volcanoes of condemnation erupting over everything we don’t agree with? Do our actions and words, like lava, destroy and disrupt? Or do they, bring healing and love even in the darkest situations?

WWJD (iykyk)? For those celebrating Easter as the Resurrection, let’s use this time of revival to rethink our actions and ideologies. If they don’t bring light and love, we are a part of the problem. Use the guiding questions in this week’s episode and let’s all work to change the current face of Christianity by being carriers of love, grace and healing in our classrooms, on our campuses and in our communities.

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More Pie with AI

Remember the old adage, “what you see is what you get”? Well, that phrase is officially from a bygone era. Now what you see may be what you get, but what you’re getting may not be real. With AI tools becoming less expensive and more accessible, deepfakes are increasingly finding their way into our media feeds.

Trump, Politics and AI Deepfakes

Consider the recent Donald Trump deepfake arrest video. According to a March 24th Atlantic article, it has been viewed over 5 million times. How many of those 5 million people thought it was real? How many of those people even know to be aware of AI generated images, videos and news?

As educators, we have an incredible opportunity to help our students be better critical thinkers. In addition to last week’s SmallBites episode on media bias, we can help our students–and staff–to be aware of high quality deepfakes. For those of us who like the information in long form, here is Todd C. Helmus’ Rand Corporation article, “Artificial Intelligence, Deepfakes, and Disinformation, A Primer”. And for those who want to get right to the solution, MIT Media Lab’s “Detect DeepFakes: How to counteract misinformation created by AI” is for you. And for those looking for a great media literacy warm-up or bell ringer, here’s a practice site from the above MIT article that you can use to help your students learn to recognize deepfakes.

For more information or to book a keynote or session with Hedreich, click here.

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