Remediating Campus Climate: Implicit Bias Training is Not Enough

Studies in Philosophy and Education 38 (2):129-141 (2018)
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Abstract

A common remedial response to a culture of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression on college campuses has been to institute mandatory implicit bias training for faculty, staff and students. A critical component of such training is the identification of unconscious prejudices in the minds of individuals that impact behavior. In this paper, I critically examine the rush to rely on implicit bias training as a panacea for institutional culture change. Implicit bias training and the notion of implicit bias it is grounded in is examined and the advantages and limitations of this approach is elaborated. An exclusive focus on implicit bias, it is argued, can protect ignorance rather than correct it. Similar to implicit bias, microaggressions is a concept that has played a role in campus diversity interventions. An examination of microaggression education demonstrates how it corrects for some of the pitfalls of relying on the concept of implicit bias to improve campus climate. The ambiguity that is characteristic of microaggressions, however, hints at the need to explore the type of “unknowing” that both implicit bias education and microaggression education attempt to remedy. Building on the recent scholarship around the idea of epistemic injustice, crucial insights can be gleaned about the significance of shifting the focus from lack of knowledge to a willful resistance to know. In the final section, some implications for improving campus climate are drawn out.

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