Cross-Cultural Training Programs

Cross-Cultural Training Programs

Cross-Cultural Training Programs

Cross-Cultural Training Programs


Drawing from a diverse literature that underscores America's growing racial hostility and violence, York defines and explores the claims of cross-cultural training as an aid to increasing personal satisfaction and professional productivity in culturally diverse work environments. York claims that soaring "failure rates" among cross-cultural workers, particularly teachers, business personnel, and missionaries, are the result of inadequate, poorly administered, or inappropriate cross-cultural training. Examining more than 500 studies of cross-cultural training programs in more than a dozen occupations, York compares training given to Peace Corps and diplomatic corps members, teachers, doctors, and others who work in culturally diverse environments. In an analysis of these programs, she determines whether differences in policies, goals, selection procedures, lengths of training time, age or race of trainees, training location, or other factors contribute to long-term effectiveness of the programs.


Last summer I had lunch with a man who is the head of a PBS affiliate in a major city. He is well traveled and well educated, and he carries influence in a media environment sensitive to many current social issues. As the conversation drifted toward areas of my research in culture, I expected his private conversation to mirror his institutional image. Instead, he repeated a litany of racial and cultural explanations I frequently hear: that color barriers are imaginary; that too much has been given to minorities from the government; and that differences in vocational and educational achievement among cultural groups are attributable to deficits in effort, values, and ability. He was sincere and commanding.

He said these freely--as do many people--because I am white. At the office where he must work with people of color, he tells me, he publicly accepts the idea of multiculturalism and cultural diversity. When politically necessary, he champions it.

He is astute enough to know that the cultural landscape of his professional world is changing. He has learned the rhetoric of change, but he has not changed. He has gone through the motions of change, but his perspective on cultural diversity remains unchanged. He can unhesitatingly accept a minority middle manager on his staff who "works as hard as the white execs." He cannot accept minorities whose work ethics or priorities or management styles deviate from his own.

His thinking underscores three difficulties present in American social discourse about cultural and racial equality. The first difficulty is that the legislation of the 1960s mandated changes in areas of public discrimination, but left unattended areas of private confusion. We are not sure how to build cultural bridges. Following the lead of the federal government, we continue to institutionalize cultural contact. Our places of work now have bulletin boards honoring Black History Month and Native American Awareness Week. We've created Japanese-style work . . .

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