Why are black preschool teachers biased against black boys (but not black girls)?

And why, for that matter, are even the white teachers apparently seeing the black girls as the *least *threat of acting up? What hypotheses might explain these findings? Can’t just be plain white-on-black racism, obviously. And should we even be opening these cans of worms by conducting and publicizing studies like this?

If we look at it another way, 76% of teachers felt the boys needed to be watched more closely and 23% felt the girls needed to be watched more closely.

But yeah, I’m surprised the black girl wasn’t watched as much by the teachers as the white girl.

Teacher watch boys more closely than girls. Yeah right, news at 11.

I don’t know the study nor the methods, but was there some type of objective criteria to demonstrate that the behavior among the children was comparable or very similar? Was the eye scan component done on several sets of kids or was it just one set of kids?

For example, assuming one set of kids on the video, maybe the boy in question was having a bad day whereas all of the other kids were on better behavior. If so, he may have been legitimately acting out by any objective measure while the other kids were less rambunctious on that specific day.

It would be useful to know whether the teachers’ eyes were on the kid in question from the beginning of the study, and whether, by some objective measure, the kid was doing something different that warranted each teacher’s attention.

There are at least two scenarios:
[li]Teacher’s eyes immediately fixated on the kid because of his race/gender although the kid didn’t do anything more or less unusual than the other 3 kids, or[/li][li]The kid in question drew attention of each teacher because he was acting out, the teachers were alerted to those early behaviors, and hence the teachers watched him more intently.[/li][/ol]
It may not have been a race issue in the eye scan component. If you had 4 kids who all were somehow equalized in their behavior, then maybe race is a factor. Without controlling for behavior in the study, race and behavior could be confounded. That would be a bias in the study design, and the conclusions are much less clear.

Racism as a factor surely is one possible interpretation from the limited information in the study. I’m just not sure if this study’s evidence and study design supports that racism is the most likely conclusion.

Any one study could be flawed in those or many other ways. Any conclusions should be considered tentative. For all we know the black boy was wearing a bright red shirt or was a foot taller than all the other kids. Being research from Yale I wouldn’t think something that glaring slipped past them but something more subtle could have.

If these results are replicable across many studies it probably does say something about racial and sexual bias, but it won’t be clear exactly what or why from this information alone.

Well, they are teachers. They are tuned into disruption, but also into teaching. If they were asked to answer by number, and especially if they did something sneaky, like bringing in a colleague, and having the target called briefly from the room, and leaving noted with numbers then, which the colleague/(confederate) would turn in for them, noting that she had numbers, not names.

In this case, they’d be evaluating teachability. I’ll bet the Black girls would come in dead last too. I’ll but it would go white boys, white girls, black boys, black girls. Unless they were in really young grades-- them white girls might come first.

Absolutely these sorts of studies need to be done. Ignoring bias doesn’t solve the problem. This is especially true of implicit bias. A lot of people don’t realize what their implicit biases are, and so can’t fix it. When people are made aware that they hold these biases, they can change how they behave. If they don’t know about them, they’re going to continue to act in a biased way, which has definite effects on whoever they hold the bias against. It’s also not a surprise that both black and white teachers reacted the same way. You pick up the biases of your culture, even if it contradicts your own identity. Harvard has some online implicit bias tests you can take. I’m apparently slightly biased against women in the sciences, and I am one.

My guess about what’s happening here is that intersectionality is coming into play. Obviously the problem isn’t solely racism, because there’s not much difference between how the girls are treated. But race has something to do with it, because black boys are trusted less than white ones. Sexism is clearly part of this, considering the difference between how the girls and boys are treated. So these two identities, gender and race, play off of each other in different ways. Blackness makes boys more threatening than whiteness does, but doesn’t affect girls the same way.

Excellent points, Crazyhorse, RivkahChaya, and random6x7.

This looks like the study. Warning: pdf.

The kid in question is wearing a black shirt and black shorts whereas the other kids are wearing much lighter-colored shirts. The black girl was wearing a white shirt.

They did randomize the video clips, which was a good study design feature.

From the study:

“Each [kid’s] photo was assigned a letter (A-D) and participants were asked to select the letter of the child who they felt required the most of their attention while viewing the six-minute video clip.”

[my emphasis]

The bold part may be interpreted as behavioral challenges or as teachability as RivkahChaya mentions.

This is an extremely stupid attitude. How can bias be counteracted if we don’t understand it’s there?

Here’s a link to the actual study.

Evidently the trial in the video study included data from 117 teachers. That means that about 15 teachers thought the white girl needed the most attention, and about 12 thought it was the black girl. While the overall results of the study were significant, I doubt that there was a significant difference between white girls and black girls if they were considered alone.

It’s not clear from the description whether they used only those kids in all the clips, or if different kids might have been used in some clips.

They noted that it’s hard to do a study like this without trickery because as soon as you mention that bias is the focus of the study you won’t get honest answers. So they had to do the sneaky twist where they actually scanned the subject’s eye movements while they thought they were doing something else.

But it isn’t clear if they still told them that bias was the focus of the study. If so even with that trick the teachers could have been subconsciously, or consciously, assigning some importance to the races and sexes of the children in the video that they normally wouldn’t when they aren’t participating in a study about bias.

The fact that there was just one child of each gender/race category might imply that those categories might be part of the study.

How do we know this bias should be counteracted, or even called out? That a priori assumption is itself a pretty huge unacknowledged bias.

I suppose it depends on how you’re defining “bias”. The usual meaning of the term implies an unfair prejudice or distortion of fact based on some kind of negative stereotype or ulterior motive. Yes, it pretty much goes without saying that that sort of phenomenon should be called out and counteracted, in the interests of simple justice.

Of course, if you’re using the word “bias” to mean something different, then presumably the response to bias would also be different.

Yup. See also: “internalized racism”.

One of the study’s objectives was to see whether there was a measurable bias or not. They cite previous studies that indicate implicit biases, and it’s a natural question when these implicit biases manifest. This study looked specifically at biases towards preschool kids, which evidently hasn’t received much attention in a research setting.

There are obvious educational disparities within race/ethnicity subgroups. Few people would argue with that. The causes are multifaceted.

So if measurable biases are detected, even toward very young kids, and if there is evidence that implicit biases are linked to poor outcomes for some students, then maybe it’s worth investigating whether better educational outcomes are possible if certain types of implicit bias are addressed and attenuated. If it’s measurable, then maybe it’s another factor that can be researched and understood. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if it’s possible to identify the source of the bias? Wouldn’t it be important to see whether removing one possible cause of poor outcomes can remove some educational disparities?

Is your objection that these types of implicit biases create more conflict? Or that it’s wrong or difficult to counteract implicit bias?

Maybe because of all the snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Those need a lot more attention than sugar and spice and everything nice.

Just going by the OP, and not the rest of the thread–there’s no reason that the idea in our culture that black men are more dangerous would not affect even black people. Nor the bias towards ignoring minority women. If it’s a conscious thing, black people would probably be more likely to reject it. But, if subconscious, they’d have to notice it first to reject it.

I actually took a bias study myself not too long ago. I found, unsurprisingly, I have a moderate negative bias towards people with darker skin. That’s not how I actually feel. But I found it harder to associate the good words with black people than I did with white people. It took me a few fractions of a second longer to press the button.

If you want to try it for yourself, it’s on the Harvard website and is called ProjectImplicit.

Was this supposed to be in the Pit? :confused:

The OP sounds like he has a bit of an axe to grind. I think there’s a significant issue here that people have missed: what effect does this have on pedagogical effectiveness? Does the black girl (or the white girl, for that matter) have a worse educational outcome because the teacher is ignoring her?

I do know that in the Netherlands, our problems with third and fourth generation immigrants from Morocco are very gendered.

Moroccan girls do well in schools and in the job-market; Moroccan ( and Antillian) boys have a criminal rate much higher then dutch boys. Although that difference disappears when you correct for poverty, intelligence and schooling. Moroccan boys also are criminally profiled by the police at a far greater rate, and are discriminated against in the job market.