Why Cultural Proficiency instead of Cultural Awareness, Cultural Responsiveness, or Cultural Humility?
Cultural Awareness, Cultural Responsiveness, and Cultural Humility are all concepts that are embedded in Cultural Proficiency.Cultural Awareness informs an individual of issues related to a cultural group, enhances awareness. Cultural Responsiveness sets up reactions informed by the behaviors, needs, sensitivities, or strengths of a cultural group. Cultural Humility calls for the self-evaluation of an individual's culture and values and recognizes how the dominant culture might create an unwelcoming or dangerous environment for marginalized populations.
Cultural Proficiency refers to the entire "inside-out" process that informs our understanding of culture via its Guiding Principles, and sets up a pathway to an ongoing, positive, and proficient view of culture.
What’s the difference between multiculturalism and the human relations class I had to take when getting my teacher’s license?
Multiculturalism and Human Relations are all about valuing diversity: valuing the cultures present in an environment or organization. Through Cultural Proficiency, we are able to reflect on our own conceptualization of diverse cultures and bridge how our own values and behaviors impact an organizations policies and practices. Multiculturalism and Human Relations support engagement with diverse populations.
If my only interactions with students take place in the classroom, why can’t I just focus on school culture?
Students enter the classroom with a whole set of experiences that impact the way they go about learning. These experiences inform a student's understanding of content, their struggles with learning, and the behaviors they exhibit when experiencing conflict in a classroom. We have to remember that our students are also people. We cannot expect to deal with only one facet of their identity when they enter the classroom.
Teachers also enter the classroom with their own set of experiences, expectations, and perspectives that influence how they provide instruction. It is important to develop awareness of all the factors that intersect to impact the learning environment.
What is the difference between Cultural Proficiency and Political Correctness?
Political correctness is a term used to describe language, policies, or practices that are considerate of marginalized groups. In essence, political correctness indicates an area of cultural sensitivity. Colloquially, it has become a disparaging term for social justice or equity work. Cultural Proficiency focuses on our actions to ensure that the services being provided are aligned with the cultural needs of a group.
If I just treat people kindly and follow the “golden rule,” is that being culturally proficient?
Cultural proficiency is more than just treating people kindly. We have to understand the perspectives and experiences of populations that differ from our own. Treating people fairly and kindly is an aspect of our goals, but we must also consider and become informed about what that looks like and what that means for different groups of people.
If you’re saying I’m not culturally proficient, are you saying then that I am racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.?
Cultural Proficiency is about outcomes, not about intents. Conventionally, when we talk about racism or any other -ism, it is viewed from the perspective of intentions, "This person is out to do evil." We are in no position to judge someone's intentions. As a district, we have agreed to use cultural proficiency to focus on outcomes, and if our outcomes are inequitable, then we need to evaluate our system and eliminate the causes of inequity from it.
How do I balance high expectations with meeting the cultural needs of the students?
Meeting the cultural needs of students and providing high expectations are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, they go hand in hand. We can set high expectations for our students and still honor the various cultural experiences and perspectives of people from different backgrounds. We need to move away from seeing cultural diversity as a deficit to learning, and view it instead as an asset to an enriching educational experience.
Is cultural proficiency just about white guilt? Or any other type of (privilege) guilt?
Cultural Proficiency is about recognizing inequities within a system and forging a pathway to redressing them. It is not about making people feel guilty for having any sort of privilege; it is not about getting stuck in feelings-- that does not help our work move forward. Cultural proficiency looks at outcomes so that we can take actionable steps to amend inequities.
This seems like a great idea, but isn’t this really just a tool students of color can use to justify misbehaving?
Cultural proficiency is a tool for educators to understand why a conflict with students occurs, and to address the underlying causes of problem-behavior. Effective conflict resolution strategies are centered on understanding the perspectives of all of parties involved in a conflict.
I am a person of color, do I need cultural proficiency?
Yes. Cultural proficiency is not just intended for members of dominant cultural perspectives. One of the Guiding Principles (core values) of Cultural Proficiency states, "There is diversity within and between cultures." Having membership in a group does not excuse the need to recognize the diversity within that group. Culture is not a monolith. The Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency are tools that benefit any individual when engaging with people from different backgrounds.
I am a white male, I can’t control the color of my skin, where I was born, or my family’s income growing up. Are you saying it’s my fault that I have these “privileges”?
No, but failure to recognize how privilege works and the benefits gained from them impacts how you participate in a diverse environment. If we remain unaware of systemic inequities (see BARRIERS) then we remain unable to address the needs of marginalized groups. When a system delegates privilege to one group, the result is a dynamic where the privileged group holds power that is inaccessible and inequitable to other groups present in the system. We can all recognize scenarios and circumstances where there has been an abuse and misuse of power that negatively impacts a person from a marginalized population. Cultural Proficiency allows us to acknowledge where inequitable privileges show up in a system and how to work towards equity.
Does this framework attack or affirm my political or religious beliefs?
There is no political philosophy or religious denomination that ranks as more culturally proficient than another, just as membership in a marginalized group does not guarantee proficiency (above). There are examples across the political spectrum, as well as religious affiliations, where individuals have demonstrated practices on the proficient end of the continuum, as well as practices on the destructive end. Cultural Proficiency calls for an understanding of the Guiding Principles and aligning those core values with behaviors, policies, and practices for equitable outcomes.
Why can’t I ask students to adapt to the culture of my classroom?
Our job as teachers, and those in the education field, is to create an environment where students can become the best that they can be. Allowing students' life experiences and perspectives to have a voice in the classroom to make deeper learning connections showcases student ownership and resiliency.
If a student violates the rules of my classroom and is disrespectful, does this mean that because of cultural proficiency, they will not be punished?
Cultural Proficiency is not about abstaining from punishment; it provides the framework for disciplinary interventions to meet our desired outcomes. Our efforts should focus on correcting students' actions and behaviors so that they can work positively within their school environment. We must consider a host of issues in determining the appropriate actions to manage conflict. Restorative Justice practices have been effective in curving excessive disciplinary action while also maintaining student behavioral standards, expectations, accountability, and morale.
Does cultural proficiency mean that I, as a teacher, have to give up control and power in my classroom?
Teachers hold a lot of power in a classroom. It is evident in the structure and organization of the classroom, preferred manner of classroom speaking (engagement), control and access to knowledge (curriculum and instructional style), etc. The focus should not be on maintaining control or power in the classroom but rather on managing and facilitating learning. A teacher should adapt and enhance instructional strategies as needed for greater student achievement. See Adapt to Diversity for more information.
In order to be culturally proficient, do I have to act like my students or keep up with their interests?
Get to know your students and their interests. You don't have to adopt mannerisms or vernacular, or take up a new interest or hobby in order to relate. Make yourself aware of what carries value for them in their lives, and listen to them. Knowing what your students are interested in and what matters to them serves as an indicator of what they need, which can greatly inform your teaching.
We celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month. Does this make my school culturally proficient?
Cultural Celebrations are a recognizable step on the journey towards cultural proficiency. It is important for a district or school building to acknowledge the experiences and contributions of Women, African-Americans, and other marginalized groups; groups that are often reflected in the demographics of the student body. However, when we limit the appreciation of these groups to a few days, we unintentionally send a clear signal to students that of greater value are the dominant culture's experiences and history because it is placed at the center of their education for the majority of the time.
Cultural Proficiency asks that we learn how to embed cultural appreciation and the contributions of marginalized groups throughout the curriculum and throughout our programming. See Multicultural Education for more information.
Are Standards Referenced Grading, Multi-Tier Systems of Support, and the Instructional Framework culturally proficient?
They can be. When approached from a lens of cultural proficiency, key elements of Standards Referenced Grading, Multi-Tier Systems of Support, and the Instructional Framework can be utilized as tools for culturally proficient interventions. See the Culturally Responsive Interventions for more context.
This model looks great. Can you provide me with a list of culturally proficient tools and strategies that are proven to work with my students?
An individual must develop the lens first in order to use the tools. Any culturally proficient tools and strategies would severely lack in their intended impact if an individual has not fully participated in the "inside-out" transformative process of Cultural Proficiency. It is recommended that you first understand the District's Rationale for engaging in this work; understand the Cultural Proficiency Framework itself, which includes an appreciation for and acceptance of the core values (Guiding Principles); understand how to use the Continuum to evaluate your individual and/or the organization's policies, practices, and behaviors; understand and analyze the Barriers to cultural proficiency; and understand and engage in the application of the Essential Elements as the standards for culturally proficient practices.