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Journal of Texas School Women Executives, Volume I, Issue 1 2012 The Cultural Journey Pang (2005) writes ―Culture is like the air we breathe in. It is all around us‖(p. 37). Culture manifests itself in three levels: (a) our language, symbols and artifacts; (b) our customs and practices; and (c) our shared values, norms, beliefs (Brislin, 1993). In essence we are cultural beings. We are shaped by the unseen and often unknown influences that create us to be who we are. It is impossible to separate our cultural identity from the person that we are. Our cultural identity is created by where we were born, our age, where we live today, our parents, our socioeconomic position, our sexual identity, our gender and a host of other influences. We are all products of multi-contextual experiences. Cushner (2003) identifies 12 attributes of culture that researchers have suggested influence teaching and learning. These cultural attributes include: race, ethnicity/nationality, social class, gender, health, age, geographic region, sexuality, religion, social status, language, and ability/disability. Our cultural identity whether we acknowledge it or not is the lens through which we see the world. It contributes to what we value and how we see others. If we lived on an island with individuals just like us, it would not be so critical to understand cultural issues. For example, if we were superintendent of a school district where all our students were White and middle class and had been raised in a suburban community, we would likely have considerable agreement regarding what should be taught in our school curriculum. Finding such isolated communities today is almost impossible and certainly not representative of reality. Instead, we live and work in diverse settings with people who are like us in some ways, and culturally different from us in other ways. As we become increasingly connected beyond our traditional city, county, state, and national borders, we encounter vast and varied cultural diversity. As transformational leaders we must prepare ourselves, our colleagues, and our young people to become culturally proficient in order to be successful stakeholders and active participants in the global community. In this article, we briefly describe six locations on a continuum that begin with Cultural Deficit and lead to Cultural Community where cultural proficiency exists at every level. The locations along this journey include: Deficit→ Denial→ Conscious → Celebration → Conscience → Community As you read, first reflect where you might be on this journey as a transformational leader. Keep in mind that you are likely to be at different locations at different times on any of the attributes of culture. For example, you might be at Cultural Deficit regarding sexuality, but at Cultural Conscience regarding race/ethnicity issues. After you have identified where you are located regarding cultural proficiency on different cultural concerns, consider where others might be in your school community and reflect on how the various locations on the continuum might impact your leadership. Imagine what actions you might take to move members of the school community toward cultural proficiency on the continuum. Cultural Deficit The first stop on our journey to cultural proficiency is Cultural Deficit. This location is characterized by deficit and/or negative thinking. Individuals at Cultural Deficit tend to view others who are different from them in a negative context. They see others as not as good as they are; consequently their actions are discriminatory and promote prejudice. On our school - 47 -

Profile for Texas Association of School Administrators

JTWSE—Volume 1  

JTWSE—Volume 1  

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