‘Cultural Competency’ Bureaucratic Beast Lives on

When it comes to Cultural Competency, Hasso Herring, editor of the Albany Democrat Herald, said in a May editorial, “Mao had his cultural revolution and Vietnam sent people to re-education camps. Some education leaders in Oregon can’t duplicate those efforts, but they are doing what they can.”

A few months ago Vicki Phillips, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools, re-affirmed her commitment to Cultural Competency (CC). She hired a consultant to do a $15,000 CC assessment of Franklin High School in SE Portland. Next comes CC training that is sure to cost a bundle. I estimate that Portland Public Schools will spend $20,000 just on Franklin High before they are done.

It only makes sense. If you are committed to CC, as Ms. Phillips is, you have to have Culturally Competent teachers, staff, and schools. Multiply $20,000 by the number of schools in the Portland district and you get over a million dollars of precious school funds spent on the initial stage of CC.

Portland is not alone when it comes to CC. The Oregon Department of Education is soon to require all schools to be Culturally Competent. Multiply that $20,000 by all schools in the state and you have millions of dollars that won’t be spent on teaching kids in the classroom.

Once CC does get into the classroom it gets even scarier because the kids will be taught to be Culturally Competent. And what does that mean? According to Oregon State Education Professor and author Jean Moule in her book, “Cultural Competency, A Primer for Educators” “It is not just a question of if one (Northern Europeans) holds racist attitudes and stereotypes or if one is involved with practices of institutional or cultural racism. We all are.” “Not only is one racist, but also privileged and an “unconscious oppressor” of people of color.”

The University of Oregon is set to roll out its CC plan in January with a CC conference, that I will attend. This plan has already drawn fire from faculty who wrote an open letter to UO President Dave Frohnmayer in May calling the plan “frightening and offensive” and saying that if implemented, the plan will do “immeasurable harm to the University”. The faculty took issue with “the Orwellian insertion of the undefined political notion of Cultural Competency into every aspect of the administration, teaching and performance evaluation.”

UO Professor Alexander Kleshchev was quoted in the Oregon Daily Emerald, the UO newspaper, that he and other professors were thinking of leaving. “Kleshchev, a Russian immigrant, says the plan conjures up memories of his former homeland. “˜Look, I am personally not going to be interrogated about my thoughts and I am not going to go to reeducation camps either’, alluding to the plans requirement that faculty participate in a summer diversity seminar”. “I’ve had enough of that in my previous life in the Soviet Union, and I just will not have this again. I tried freedom now; I liked it, and I am not about to give it up.”

Just as Oregon gets rid of the failed experiment that is CIM and CAM, the education establishment brings us the cult of Cultural Competency. CIM and CAM was a waste of resources but it did not directly cause any damage. I can’t say the same for Cultural Competency.