Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

The Man, or Woman, in the Mirror: Promoting Cultural Self-Awareness among European American Educators

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

The Man, or Woman, in the Mirror: Promoting Cultural Self-Awareness among European American Educators

Article excerpt

Over the period of a couple of days, I watched bits and pieces of the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearing before the senate judiciary committee, highlighted by the cable news commentary. Both the hearing, particularly during questioning from Republican senators, and the news coverage were peppered by discussions of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's now famous "wise Latina" comment, her decision in the New Haven firefighter's case, and her membership on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Republican senators have used their line of questioning to build a case supporting their contention that if Judge Sotomayor were to become Justice Sotomayor, her "Latinaness," with its accompanying values and beliefs, would influence her decisions as a Supreme Court judge. They continually expressed concern that her biases, which have developed through her history and experience as a Latina, would somehow interfere with her ability to make fair and impartial judgments. The unspoken current that flowed through the comments made by the republican senators, who were all White males, was the all too common belief that somehow White males are "culture-free," are devoid of culture, and are therefore capable of making objective decisions free of any bias, conscious or otherwise.

My discussion of this topic is not to criticize White males (after all I am one), or to cast my partisan judgment on politicians, but rather to use the event in order to draw attention to a cultural phenomenon that permeates European American culture, even among the most left-leaning liberal activists. This cultural phenomenon is the fact that many European Americans have been socialized to believe that they do not have a culture, that culture is something that "others" have, and that they are therefore capable of being truly objective. This common cultural characteristic has important implications for educators, including school psychologists, most of whom are from a European American cultural background.

The term "cultural competence," and other synonyms, has taken center stage in discussions within the field of school psychology. There is clearly good reason for this. The role of a school psychologist is traditionally defined by assessment for the purpose of intervention and special education placement, and overrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in special education classes has been a documented problem for more than 30 years (Hosp & Reschly, 2003; MacMillan & Reschly, 1998; Zhang & Katsiyannis, 2002). This phenomenon is problematic in that special education programs have been criticized for simultaneously branding students with stigmatizing labels as well as failing to produce successful outcomes (Hosp & Reschly; Zhang & Katsiyannis). Response to intervention (RTI) models provide hope for reducing academic failure and subsequent special education referral of CLD students by ensuring effective education and quality prereferral interventions (Chamberlain, 2005; Garcia & Ortiz, 2006; Klinger & Edwards, 2006). However, if schools rely on one-size-fits-all interventions, which do not account for cultural variation in learning styles, then RTI models run the risk of replicating the current disproportionate representation of CLD students in special education (Klinger & Edwards).

Many have pointed out that the challenges faced by CLD students, including those above, very likely result from a cultural mismatch rooted in the fact that U.S. public schools are remarkably uniform in that the overwhelming majority of staff members, instructional models, and curricula represent a Eurocentric cultural perspective (Trumbull, Greenfield, and Quiroz, 2003). It is therefore critical that schools promote culturally responsive practices in order to ensure equitable educational opportunities for all students.

Yet, discussions of cultural competence have, in my observation, focused nearly exclusively on understanding the cultures of "others," with little or no attention paid to the cultural lens of European American educators. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.