BAND June 2012: When Bias is a Good Thing
B.A.N.D., Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees, launched in July and is being run by a small group of bloggers as a way to promote the love of nonfiction amount bloggers. Each month a discussion question will be put forward giving everyone and anyone the chance to respond. If you are interested in hosting a month do check out the tumblr site and let us know!
I love the topic this month and have been thinking about it quite a bit since it was first posted. I definitely think that a particular opinion or subjective response can often add much to the discussion or topic. Even if we just call it bias, many times this bias is a good thing.
As an example, reading, say, Paul Farmer‘s books on global health and systemic injustices he clearly starts off with the premise that we all deserve basic health care, that where you live shouldn’t determine your access, and so on. Some may consider this a bias or a ridiculous opinion and be against his books for that reason. I agree with him, however, and think that rather than focusing the debate on why access to care should be a right, we should instead talk about how to implement that right and how we can improve access worldwide. Another example might be Laura Eldridge with In Our Control – which lays out all the contraceptive options and history behind them. Some might say that assuming we should have access to contraceptives is a biased opinion.
In some cases the bias may be against me, such as America Alone by Mark Steyn. While it’s certainly easier to read books where you agree with the author’s opinion, I think it is also important to read books where you disagree, because they can help you understand where others are coming from and also solidify your own thoughts on the matter. That being said, I would much prefer to read a book by, for example, a Muslim woman about her experiences with the religion than read a book by a non-Muslim Canadian or American talking about how terrible the religion is. The one bias comes from understanding and from being inside. The other comes from listening to too many terrible talk shows!
While my examples may be rather extreme or seem logical, they are still a bias in a way. Any nonfiction that seeks to further discussion about a point of interest without rehashing the basics must assume that readers both:
- Have some basic understanding of the premise or idea, and
- Have formed an opinion in line with the author or at least can understand the point from where the author comes.
As a last thought, I think it is almost impossible to come to any subject without a bias of some sort. Scientists researching may sometimes be able to have this objectivity, but when we are talking about human issues, we have all been raised in different environments and our backgrounds colour our knowledge of or ideas of a topic. These biases or subjective opinions only enhance the end literature and studies, if we can embrace and learn from all of them, and if they at least consider the humanity of everyone and keep from resorting to hate.
What about you – do you think bias can be legitimate and welcome? Any specific examples you can think of? Go leave your thoughts on her post!
Prior BAND topics:
- Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness hosted the first discussion, asking What’s your favorite type of nonfiction? in July.
- In August I led the discussion, asking How did you get into nonfiction?
- In September Cass wanted to know about nonfiction audiobooks, asking if we had listened and enjoyed.
- In October Ash asked what our favorite nonfiction anthologies were.
- In November Amanda asked if we read nonfiction to help support a cause.
- In December Erin guest hosts from Erin Reads and asked how we determine truth in the nonfiction that we read.
- In January Joy asked what books we’ve used to support reading goals or resolutions.
- In February Kim hosted again and asked what nonfiction we don’t like.
- In March we took a month off.
- In April Care asked what our favorite quirky nonfiction titles and authors were.
- In May, Sheila asked what nonfiction do you hate to admit that you enjoy?