For a few weeks, I have grappled with writer’s block—which is rare—and I’ve been figuratively wringing my hands trying to find the spark to express my concerns regarding culture blind views of hygiene and sanitation in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic and other health issues. Updating course syllabi has been arduous. Should I focus on one of the gifted and talented syllabi, cultural diversity syllabus, or poverty syllabus? I straddle two fields in education: the almost all-White and high-income field of gifted and talented education versus cultural diversity with attention to race, ethnicity, discrimination, classism, and cultural competence. When switching from the gifted and talented syllabus to the diversity one, I felt so much relief; ideas are now overflowing. I must do my part to help educators understand culture in terms of hygiene and to purge themselves of prejudices and stereotypes – implicit and explicit – about Black and other students of color in their academic care.
When I teach and enlighten higher education students (undergraduate and graduate) and practicing educators (teachers, counselors, administrators, policy makers, and more)—the majority being White females in professional development workshops and at conferences—I always focus on culture in developmental domains – social, emotional, psychological, and academic. Health cannot be discounted, so my diversity and poverty syllabi are changing with more attention to this topic. I am obligated to do so as a Black person full of racial pride and a keen sense of equity and social-cultural justice. #BlackAndProud #CulturalPride
Like medical and mental health professionals, educators who are ignorant and incompetent relative to culture (especially those other than their own) can and have been harmful by contributing to school-based racialized trauma. ‘Do no harm’ must not be tossed aside like old news and discarded like trash when teaching, counseling, and delivering other health services. Doing so is a disgrace to the education profession and an affront to Black and other culturally different students, families, and communities.
Dr. Donna Y. Ford
I offer several cultural considerations for educators:
Hygiene across cultures
Health views and practices across cultures
Proximity across cultures
Language across cultures
Curriculum across cultures
Messages and images across cultures
I can’t emphasize enough that students do not leave their culture once they enter schools and otherwise engage in teaching and learning. Black students are cultural beings, often misunderstood in most settings. I am urgently requesting that educators purge themselves of grandiose and delusional notions that one culture (their own) is superior to others, often their Black students. This will help to avoid further spreading a pandemic virus called ‘racism’ that has caused more damage than any health virus that I know of for over three centuries and counting. Millions of Black students are victims of far too many educators’ deficit, myopic, and hegemonic thinking and behavior. This is evidenced by excessive rates in discipline and special education, but the opposite pattern in gifted and talented education and Advanced Placement. #CollateralDamage. It is my understanding that viruses fester in cold places; schools must be warm places – welcoming, relational, and culturally responsive to students and families.
Dr. Donna Y. Ford is a Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Ecology and Kirwan Institute Faculty Affiliate at The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology. You can follow her on Twitter @DrDYFord