Overcoming Barriers to Cultural Proficiency
In the manner that the guiding principles provide a moral compass for culturally proficient actions, there are barriers to achieving culturally proficient actions. The barriers to Cultural Proficiency are
- Resistance to change
- Systemic oppression
- Unawareness of need to adapt
- A sense of entitlement.
These barriers are often manifested in statements such as, it is not me that needs to change. I have been a successful educator for years, these kids/parents just need to get a clue! Similarly, it is rare to find the person who doesn’t acknowledge that racism, ethnocentrism, sexism and heterosexism exists in our society but what they often fail to see is that when one group of people loses rights and privileges due to systemic oppression, those rights and privileges accrue to others in often unacknowledged or unrecognized ways. It is when one recognizes one’s entitlement that he or she has the ability to make choices that benefit the education of children and youth.
Most educational policy makers and educators when focusing on the achievement issues of non-dominant students often experience a conversation gap. The gap in the conversation, and often unrecognized and unacknowledged, is in educators not having the perspective to see roadblocks that have been, and are, placed in the way of members of non-dominant socio-economic, racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, or language groups. This selective invisibility leads to a sense of privilege and entitlement for members of the dominant group. Whereas systems of oppression impose barriers for members of non-dominant groups, concomitant systems of privilege and entitlement impose barriers for members of the dominant group. The barriers erected by a sense of privilege and entitlement involve a skewed sense of reality that can impede one’s ability to pursue ethical and moral avenues in meeting the academic and social needs of non-dominant groups. The position of privilege often fosters educators voicing biased or ill-informed assumptions about parents from non-dominant groups. Typical of such assumptions are comments such
The position of privilege often fosters educators voicing biased or ill-informed assumptions about parents from non-dominant groups. Typical of such assumptions are comments such as Their parents won’t come to parent conferences because they don’t care about the education of their child. Why try to help them, they will just end up to be a gang banger, just like their dad! Why should I learn anything about their culture? This is our country, let them learn about us!
Educators who make comments like those above are in need of different lenses, tools and structures to understand their students and the barriers they face and the special learning needs they have in order to be successful in school. Educators must engage in intentional conversations about how parents and students who are different from them behave and learn. Cultural Proficiency is an approach for surfacing assumptions and values that undermine the success of some student groups and a lens for examining how we can include and honor the cultures and learning needs of all students in the educational process.