‘I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think’

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Thanks for the post title, Socrates! …oh, and the teaching philosophy (except, I like “help” instead of “make”)


I suck at LinkedIn — like, I just go in & accept the connections I have, kinda scroll for 0.2 seconds, then close it out. (Yes, this is usually done in the Whizz Palace — #fightme)

But, today, a Daily Rundown caught my eye that was downright annoying. This part specifically:

Rooting out your own bias requires complete self-awareness, which no one knows how to teach, reports NPR. What should Starbucks focus on instead? Train teams to spot and call out the bias they witness in others. • Here’s what people are saying.

Nobody knows how to teach this?? Really, NPR?? NOBODY.

Maybe I could accept if they had said something a little more nuanced — You can’t teach someone THEIR own self-awareness or No one can be forced to be self-aware — but, as it stands, that claim feels as dismissive as it does unfounded.

I’ve run into plenty of problems as a d&i consultant, which include:

  • A lack of corporate creativity.
  • Bias against sole proprietors (the question “Who are you with?” might be the CDO’s greatest enemy — the quality of ideas has nothing to do with membership in a group… bam, there’s a lesson in that, too).
  • The fact that Chief Diversity Officers are also humans with bias. Story here.

There are myriad practical reasons why companies have a hard time doing bias training right. The concern for compliance can often conflict with effectiveness or breed resentment. They aren’t there to enrich employees; only to make sure they are able enough to navigate their jobsite duties without incurring liability (hard truth). Plus, they walk a fine line when it comes to not infringing on their peoples’ personal spheres.

Because there ARE human factors that play into it.

“Training” has a negative connotation. It’s often boring and obvious, not to mention tedious.

But, it also — especially in today’s politically-charged social climate — insinuates that people have to attend because they have a problem. Not that there IS a problem, but that, by association of demographic, a person is in the wrong and needs to change. How well and calmly do you react to being told you’re wrong? (Ever hear of the Backfire Effect?)

When did you take your dog to Man’s Best Friend? When it was a perfect angel? We took my childhood terrier when she jumped so high as to ninja kick my mom in the face as she flew and landed on the kitchen table, kicked everything on top onto the floor, and… yeah, she needed some training. Terrier? More like TERRORier.

Ok, that was cheesy…

But, dairy products aside, people are tired of feeling wrong and attacked. Look at how everyone acts. Open Facebook. Observe how careful people are to talk, for fear of being jumped all over for the horrific war crime punishable offense of not knowing what someone else’s view of life might be like & offering their own.

We’ve gotten to a point that inclusiveness as it’s represented in a social context has become ugly, creating opposition rather than converts and excluding many in its crusade to see that everyone be equal. See the failing?

Inclusion means everybody. It unadulturatedmeans more than fighting against discrimination and bias; it means promoting greater principles. It’s what separates The X-Men from Magneto. Missing that point misses the true spirit of the practice & perpetuates the hamster wheel we see with our divisive issues.

Bias “training” should be chucked out.

Bias Education is so much better.

You CAN teach people about bias (what it is, how it’s formed, etc). You CAN teach people theories and studies and findings about how our minds work. You CAN teach folks about history, others’ life stories, politics… and it doesn’t have to be an accusatory or painful process.

We need new goals for interpersonal interactions, leadership towards better ways of operating, and new approaches to sorting out our differences. Better focus, better results (where are my photographer friends?). More deliberate efforts are the stepping stones to minimizing the negative effects of bias on the discrimination front, as well as the psychological one.

I would never presume to be able to teach someone about their own self. But I know I can explain self-awareness, attest to it, and maybe even inspire it.

Making bias education accessible is my goal – click on 👈🏼 that link or 👇🏼 that image to find out how.