Thursday, July 07, 2005

My Biases

I was reading through papers from throughout the university as part of a larger study when I was reminded of my distaste for extremists. My greatest passion is an opposition to people of too much passion... since we can all be wrong and misguided. And in my hands was a passionate paper.

"I am a strong Christian woman," the paper's author stated. I looked at the title: "Stem Cell Research."

This paper was exactly what we fear as composition instructors. The language, grammar, and format were easily among the best in the huge box of papers I was reviewing. And yet, for all the strengths of the paper, I had a difficult time reviewing it. The science was accurate, well-cited from trusted medical journals, but the conclusions were at odds with my deeply held faith in the value of medical research.
Admitting this to myself, I was left wondering how I could fairly score the critical thinking component of the paper.

A radio host I listen to has said no thinking person can be a religious fundamentalist. My gut reaction is to agree, which then means I am prejudicing myself against this paper. How could anyone use faith as the basis for an academic argument? And yet, here was an APA-formatted, well-written paper from a devoutly Christian student.

In the end, I recorded the paper as demonstrating excellent research, mastery of form, and good critical thinking skills. The author at least admitted her bias, and then proceeded to seek out opposing points of view and the scientific evidence. The fact she included information on other medical research, illustrating the inadequate funding for more proven research, was enough to sway me, despite myown emotions.
I hope this student remains open to science and data. I know I wasn't very open to her paper.

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