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"If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place." Margaret Mead

The Cultural Proficiency Continuum

Source: Cultural Proficiency, A Manual for School Leaders, 2nd Edition by Randall B. Lindsey, Kikanza Nuri Robins, and Raymond D. Terrell

DEFINITION: The Cultural Proficiency Continuum identifies the range of values and behaviors of an individual and/or the policies and practices of an organization reflecting their response to diversity.

CULTURAL DESTRUCTIVENESS: See the Difference, Stomp it Out
Definition: Policy, practice, or behavior that effectively eliminates all vestiges of other people’s cultures.
UTube video
--Historical example: Native American children being forbidden to speak their native language or practice their culture while being forced to assimilate completely to the dominant cultural.
--Classroom example: A classroom where only the dominant culture is taught/studied. No other point of view is represented or permitted.

CULTURAL INCAPACITY: See the Difference, Make it Wrong
Definition: Treatment of members of dominated groups based on stereotypes and belief that the dominant group is inherently superior.
--Historical example: Nazis, White Supremacy groups, other hate groups
--Classroom example: A teacher who has low expectations of his/her minority students, students asking a minority student in an honors/challenge class, “How did you get in here?”

CULTURAL BLINDNESS: See the Difference, Act Like You Don’t
Definition: Failure to see or acknowledge the differences among and between groups. This is the belief that color and culture make no difference and that all people are the same.
--Historical example: Racial/ethnic bias on achievement tests
--Classroom example: A teacher who says, “I treat all students the same.”

CULTURAL PRECOMPETENCE: See the Difference, Respond to It Inappropriately
Definition: A recognition that one’s skills and practices are limited when interacting with other cultural groups.
--Historical example: Minority contracts being awarded based on race rather than ability
--Classroom example: Having lowered expectations of student’s behavior or academic achievement based on their family background; teacher makes excuses for student rather than holding student accountable

CULTURAL COMPETENCE: See the Difference, Understand the Difference That Difference Makes
Definition: Acceptance and respect for difference, continuing self-assessment regarding culture, careful attention to the dynamics of difference, continuous expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, and a variety of adaptation to belief systems, policies, and practices
--Historical example: COMING SOON
--Classroom example: COMING SOON

CULTURAL PROFICIENCY: See the Differences and Respond Positively and Affirmingly
Definition: Knowing how to learn and teach about different groups, having the capacity to teach and to learn about differences in ways that acknowledge and honor all the people and the groups they represent, holding culture in high esteem, and seeking to add to the knowledge base of culturally proficient practice by conducting research, developing new approaches based on culture, and increasing the knowledge of others about culture and the dynamics of difference.
--Historical example: COMING SOON
--Classroom example: COMING SOON

  • Compare the Continuum to the models of racial identity development by Atkinson, Morten, and Sue (1983) at Racial Identity.

Barriers to Cultural Proficiency

Source: Cultural Proficiency, A Manual for School Leaders, 2nd Edition by Randall B. Lindsey, Kikanza Nuri Robins, and Raymond D. Terrell
First Barrier: Unawareness of the Need to Adapt
• Failing to recognize the need for change either personally or the school environment
o Dominant culture sees no problem
• Resistance to change is evident
• Once a commitment to cultural proficiency is made, everyone changes to create a new school culture

Second Barrier: Presumption of Entitlement
• People with a presumption of entitlement believe they have acquired all the personal achievements and societal benefits they have solely on their merit and character and therefore don’t feel a need to release or re-order any societal or organizational prerequisites they may have
o Dominant culture believes the system works well for them and there is no need for change

Third Barrier: Oppression of Non-dominant Groups
• Judgments based on entitlement and oppression influence expectation and evaluation of students, the tracking of students and the creation of instructional programs.
• To deny either the overt or covert presence of attitudes is to be blind to the kinds of oppression to which un-entitled children, particularly children of color, are subjected daily.

If you’re white, you’re alright.
If you’re black, get back.
If you’re brown, stick around.
If you’re yellow, you’re mellow.
If you’re red, you’re already dead.

Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency

An Overview….

A culturally proficient individual is able to practice the following:
• Assess Culture – acknowledge the differences and identify them; assess one’s own culture and help children to discover their own cultural identities
• Value Diversity – claim the differences, claim your identity; view life from a culturally inclusive perspective
• Manage the Dynamics of Difference – reframe the differences; offer resources for conflict resolution including strategies that are sensitive to cultural diversity in terms of behavioral/social differences
• Adapt to Diversity – train others about differences; recognize the need for change in policies and practices to honor diversity; maintain culturally proficient environments
• Institutionalize Cultural Knowledge – propose and implement the culturally proficient policies; include parents/community as resources in establishing changes in policies; making cultural knowledge and proficiency the norm

For more detailed information see the book entitled "Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders" by Lindsey, Robins and Terrell (2003)