Cultural competence refers to an explicit awareness of, positive attitude toward, respectful understanding of, and skillful interaction with members of various cultural groups, without stereotyping any of those groups. It is a vitally important set of abilities in the United States, the most diverse democracy in the history of the world. It is important not only as a necessary attribute of effective implementers, but as an important set of qualities for children themselves.
Unfortunately, in too many cases, true cultural competence is the exception for implementers, rather than the rule. A legacy of structural injustice has affected teacher practice and student behavior, resulting not only in an appalling achievement gap, but also disproportionate discipline rates among African American, Native American and Latino students. This same disproportionality continues into the juvenile justice system. Misbehavior cannot properly be addressed without providing tools to deconstruct racist expectations and restore justice, without blame and shame.
For all these reasons, cultural competence is a criteria for inclusion of every element at every level of the Whole Spectrum Intervention System. It is not a stand alone component of the system; it is a standard to which all elements of the system must adhere. Some examples of how that is expressed in Ripple Effects WSIS are:
- Web-based survey tools assess school climate and respect for persons, to help schools identify areas where lack of cultural sensitivity, and even outright racism may be a problem.
- Training software provides concrete lessons for kids and teens on appreciating diversity: physical, cognitive, ethnic, religious, gender,
class, and sexual orientation.
- Staff software provides training for teachers on managing diverse learners, including respecting ethnic, religious, class, gender and learning
differences. It deconstructs race-based attitudes and expectations without blame or shame.
- Inclusive voices and images appear in the software, comprised of 50% Caucasian, 15% each African American, Latino and Asian, and 5% Native American children and adults, with people with visible physical limitations included in every group.
- Content includes issues that may have particular relevance to specific groups and subgroups. For instance, the tutorial on English as second language (ELL) has special relevance to the immigrant community; the tutorial on “wheelchairs” is of special interest to the disabled community; the tutorials on “special education” and “dyslexia” are of special interest to students with learning problems.
- Specific lessons have been designed to address ethnic conflict and intervene with both targets and perpetrators of bias activity.