Bias as an Entity, by Josh Berg

Josh Berg

Bias as an Entity

Even to the most well-read, the idea of bias in history textbooks from which we pull a lot of our information, is a controversial and disputable topic. Many people cling to the ideas that they learned from these books. Others cast them away as if they are worth nothing and nothing can be obtained from them, not even a moral lesson. Some cases are far more extreme than others. People who feel that they have been lied to by their textbook learning have gone to great lengths to let others know about this issue. Others on the opposite side have done the same: "The Japanese textbook authorisation system has the so-called "neighbouring country clause" which means that textbooks have to show understanding in their treatment of historical events involving neighbouring Asian countries. It is just ridiculous," said Nobukatsu Fujioka, a denier of the Nanking Massacre. People have very strong feelings regarding the issue of misinformation and bias in books of learning. It is impossible to write from a completely objective standpoint. That being said, it is possible to be aware of biases. It is important to be aware of places where the author of a text may show inaccurate information and gloss over certain events or information because of their biases. Bias is present everywhere in the world, but can do us little harm if we know our own biases and those of others.

It feels bad to be lied to or misinformed, that said there is a more material, surface level issue than feeling bad. The fact of the matter is that our younger years are some of the most impressionable years that will shape the rest of our lives. Having very important details changed around and bent to the will of others, to achieve some twisted agenda can often take a toll on us. Our beliefs for the rest of our small existences can be affected if our intellectual food is poisoned at an early age. Think; of it as a poison. Feed your baby rat poison with every meal during his early life and he will surely be a sickly baby and a sickly adult. The same goes for your child’s intellectual nourishment.

There have been some very prominent cases of people concerned with the quality and truth of the classic literary textbook. There have been two particularly prominent issues of misrepresentation that could be considered one in their connection. A criteria for being an example was that the issue(s) had to have some retaliation against it/them. There has been an upset amongst many of the Japanese because of what they feel is a general misrepresentation of their history in Japanese textbooks. This misrepresentation is generally in the sections that could contain information about acts of war, atrocities and crimes. A teacher in Japan noticed the subordination of these type of events to mere footnotes. Another example of this diminishing of important events is present in how textbooks address the issue of “comfort women”. Comfort women were essentially a prostitution corps made up of unwilling women created by the Imperial Army of Japan. Unfortunately a dark, important and revealing issue like this is glossed over in textbooks. There have also been issues with Japanese textbooks shady handling of affairs involving China, which the Chinese have been less than thrilled about. There have also been issues in Chinese textbooks, so neither nation is innocent. The same facts are taught on the other extreme in China. When it comes to Japanese war crimes, no detail is spared about the awful things that happened. There has also been an outcry over misrepresentation of facts about the Nanking Massacre. There have been claims on both sides. China does not cut any corners in terms of teaching about the things that have happened during the Massacre, while some people in Japan claim that pictures of the event have been fabricated by the Chinese. Others would even go as far as to fully deny the occurrence of the Massacre. There is so much being disagreed upon, it is difficult to imagine one side being right.

These are events of the past. It isn’t that these events are not over, although there are times when the masses are lied to about current affairs. Governments are like people but on a large scale, not only because there is more than one person in most governments. They are large in the way that they are a hyperbole of a normal person. Everyone wants to present themselves in a good way, but governments take it to an extreme in how they and the politicians that make them up rarely acknowledge that they have ever made a mistake. No politician will talk about their biases. Bias is a Huge imperfection that shapes how the world turns.

You don’t have to censor war crimes in order to convey information in a biased fashion. Bias is an invisible thing that you can see everywhere. Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player. Woodrow Wilson, a progressive leader. Misinformation isn’t always conveyed intentionally. Unintentional presentation of misinformation doesn’t make it any less harmful. You could argue that scientific textbooks with their semi-objectively true facts could be considered biased. There may be a hidden agenda lurking in every fact we read. The author may not even know about their hidden agenda. It is important to be able to see the bias in the world, and accept its existence. Be aware of situations where someone may have ulterior motives, but also see the value in biases. Our biases make us individuals. This is not to say that we should not try to remedy our biases, but we must acknowledge the fact that we and everyone else will never be completely free from our biases. Our biases can do us very little harm if we are aware of them and notice them regularly. Look at the way that we look at things, and we will be able to look at and see much more.

Works Cited:

Oi, Mariko. "What Japanese History Lessons Leave out." BBC News. BBC, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <>.

French, Howard W. "China's Textbooks Twist and Omit History." The New York Times. The New York Times, 6 Dec. 2004. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. <>.

"Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Konoon the Result of the Study on the Issue of "comfort Women"" MOFA: Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the Result of the Study on the Issue of "comfort Women" MOFA, 4 Aug. 1993. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <>.

Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.

Comments (4)

Kristina Scalia-Jackson (Student 2016)
Kristina Scalia-Jackson

I really enjoyed your paper Josh! I love your line saying "Bias is an invisible thing that you can see everywhere. " I think it really sums up your points on how we should acknowledge the existence of bias in the world. Good Job!