Rossier News

What do science and racism have in common? Denial.

Final USC Rossier Master Class for spring 2023 on Mar. 22

By Ellen Evaristo Published on

“It is imperative that we encourage more K through 12 science learning so that those students can go on to be scientists,” said Gale Sinatra, the Stephen H. Crocker Chair and Professor of Education and Psychology. “We have to diversify science in order to deliver science in a fair and equitable way…It’s not about belonging in STEM, it’s about being welcomed into STEM.”

Diversity and equity are among the critical issues covered during USC Rossier’s spring 2023 Master Class lecture series themed: Science Denial and Racism Denial. Sinatra partnered with Shaun Harper, University Professor and USC Race and Equity Center executive director, to present the five-part series. Master Class launched in the fall of 2022 with USC Rossier Dean Pedro Noguera and Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.

At the kick-off session, Sinatra defined denial as “a belief-based stance and a rejection of evidence.” In addition to science doubt and resistance, she added that skepticism is a healthy part of the scientific process. Sinatra also discussed how social media has contributed to science denial and disinformation. She offered suggestions to sift through digital information. In addition to validating sources, she suggested asking questions like: Is this credible or plausible? as well as only sharing scientific information that individuals have verified.

During Harper’s session, he discussed how science denial is a familiar term and the “throughline.” “Racism denial is not a term that I had previously used, but it is such a concise way to capture so much of what I and my colleagues at the USC Race and Equity Center work on everyday,” said Harper. His presentation included what racism is, where it comes from, the forms of racism and the inequities attributed to it. Harper defined racism denial as the “refusal to attribute racial inequities to racism, disbelief in lived experiences that people of color characterize as racist, revisionist racial histories, and deliberate exclusions of racial truths.”

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Dean Pedro Noguera, Gale Sinatra and Shaun Harper at the Spring 2023 Master Class. (Photo/211 Photography)

Noguera joined Sinatra and Harper midway through the semester to examine the parallels between the two topics, how they fit together and the consequences of denial. Common factors include misinformation and miscommunication and how both have become larger political and educational issues. For example, the resistance to learn about climate change and critical race theory. By highlighting and examining the topics together, the spring Master Class showcased the challenges that educators face and offered guidance moving forward.

In addition to USC Rossier faculty, staff and students, session attendees included fellow scholars, educators and alumni interested in addressing these pressing issues in education. While Harper and Sinatra described the central concerns surrounding denial during their presentations, the Q&A portion opened up lively and engaging conversations to actively confront misinformation. The recommendations included effective techniques and teaching resources to address denial both inside and outside the classroom.

To learn more about Master Class and to register for the final session on Mar. 22, visit USC Rossier Master Class.

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