Chapter 9: Intercultural Educators
Culture is defined in many ways. Diaz-Rico and Weed summarized culture as “the explicit and
implicit patterns for living, the dynamic system of commonly agreed-upon symbols and meanings, knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, behaviors, traditions, and/or habits that are shared and make up the total way of life of a people, as negotiated by individuals in the process of constructing a personal identity.” Culture involves observable behaviors as well intangibles such as beliefs, values, rhythms, rules, and roles. Cultures cannot be taught merely by examining external features such as art and artifacts. Instead, to truly understand the culture the teacher must examine the living patterns and values of the culture that an art piece or artifact represents.
People’s attitudes toward schooling are influence by their culture. Examples of some of the attitudes include the individual’s desired occupation or career, the importance that parents place on education, and the value placed on an investment of an education. Culture also governs the way people learn and it may also influences their learning styles. The students’ culture is the foundation for their learning. When the home culture and the school culture come into contact, they affect each other. Several things can happen; the dominant culture takes over and causes the individuals to assimilate into this new culture, the individuals adapt or acculturate effectively to the mainstream culture, both cultures adapt or accommodate to each other, or both cultures coexist in a pluralism or biculturalism environment. Students go through a process of euphoria, culture shock, and adaptation when they experience a second culture. This process can take several years and long term adjustment can take several forms. It is important for intercultural teachers to understand the relationship between the students’ home culture and school culture and stages of adjustment for these students. By doing so they are able to accept and promote cultural content in the classroom as a vital component of the instructional process and are able to help the students to achieve within the cultural context of the school.
Schools have unique opportunities to prevent and control interethnic conflicts through their policies, curricula, and antiracism programs. Schools that promote an atmosphere of multiculturalism convey the message that all cultures are of value. They do this by displaying explicit welcome signs in many languages, attempting to involve parents by a deliberate curriculum of inclusion, by using affirmative action to promote hiring of a diverse faculty, and by developing programs that promote interactions between students of diverse backgrounds. When interethnic conflicts arise, culturally receptive schools take immediate proactive steps to resolve the conflicts. One such program that is effective in managing conflict for elementary students uses negotiation and mediation procedures that focus on safely expressing feelings,
taking the perspective of the other, and providing the rationale for diverse points of view (Johnson and Johnson 1979, 1994, 1995). Another example of a conflict resolution model developed by the Conflict Resolution Network is the Twelve Skill Approach to Interethnic Conflict, which promotes a win-win approach using negotiation and mediation to resolve interethnic conflicts.
School psychologists need to be aware of the challenges faced by individuals from non-dominant cultures as they strive to succeed in school. They need to be aware of how class and racial privileges create a barrier for success for individuals from non-dominant culture. By engaging in a self-reflection process and outreach to their community, they become more knowledgeable about another culture and are more equipped to participate in school reforms.