Cultural Incapacity and Cultural Blindness

    Katie Gavin, Professional Development Coordinator

    The Cultural Proficiency Continuum provides descriptive language ranging from destructiveness to proficiency. "Cultural proficiency is a way of being that enables one to respond effectively in a variety of cultural settings to the issues that emerge in diverse environments." (Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders pg. 111)

    Each month, the Great Prairie AEA Cultural Proficiency Advisory committee has been writing about the work that is being done around Cultural Proficiency. Last month, Human Resources Director Greg Manske looked at Cultural Destructiveness. This month, we will address Cultural Incapacity and Cultural Blindness.

    Cultural Incapacity: See the difference, make it wrong.

    Incapacity is the belief in the superiority of one’s own culture and behavior that enhances the inferiority of another culture (page 116). Examples of this cultural awareness stage would be discriminatory hiring practices, assumptive beliefs such as all single parents are inferior parents, or all people living in certain areas are poor. You may hear remarks such as "Those kids will never be ready for the regular curriculum." Or, "They can’t help it if they are not successful in school, their parents don’t set proper boundaries for them."

    The emphasis is that something is wrong with others, not with how we view their group.

    Cultural Blindness: See the difference: act like you don’t.

    This awareness stage is difficult because those who exhibit it think that they are actually very culturally competent. This group believes that color, race, ethnicity, poverty, gender, etc. don’t matter at all or are inconsequential (page 117). Educators may use race or ethnicity as an excuse for poor behavior. When differences are not acknowledged, this can lead to students feeling inconsequential or invisible. Some characteristics of this are, "I treat all students alike, I don’t see students of color in my classroom." Or, believing that the achievement gap was uncovered when NCLB was enacted, when NAEP data has tracked this trend since 1971 (page 117).

    By understanding and having a common vocabulary, we hope that as educators, we will begin to have real conversations about our beliefs and students. More and more data is showing that while we continue to push forward with positive research-based practices in the classroom, we sometimes stagnate and do not move our students’ learning forward. Why is this? Much research is pointing in the direction that it is adult behaviors and beliefs that determine the success of the students. In January, we will move to the second half of the continuum. If you have any questions about the information presented, please contact Katie Gavin at katie.gavin@gpaea.k12.ia.us. All information was provided by Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders, Lindsey, Terrell, Nuri-Robins, 3rd Ed.

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