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SHORT TAKES


December 1, 2009

More Minnesota Madness

My article yesterday on this site, "Decoding Teacher Training," discussed the efforts of the University of Minnesota's Education Department to purge prospective public school teachers deemed politically incorrect on "diversity" matters.

A report stresses the seemingly banal concept of "cultural competence," which people from outside the Ivory Tower might suspect is simply making students and prospective teachers aware of the diverse country and world in which we now live.

That, of course, is not how the concept is defined in the groupthink world of Education Departments, where "cultural competence" are codewords that the general public is not supposed to understand.

In its report, the Minnesota department recommended that all Education students be required to perform the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), "which measures five of the six major stages of the "Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity"; and the "360-degree" analysis of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), "a theoretical extension of existing facet models anchored on the theory of multiple intelligences."

The two programs contain mostly boilerplate material, and appear designed more for people whose jobs require them to work across national boundaries than for diversity-obsessed higher education. But they contain several items that would be open to widespread abuse in the world of the Education professoriate.

The IDI, for instance, worries about people who exhibit a "denial of difference"---which is characterized by an "affective quality" that is "benign on the surface ('live and let live'), but potentially genocidal (!!) when pressed into cross-cultural contact." Such libertarian beliefs, the IDI report hilariously observes, might indicate "possible support for supremacist and hate groups."

Or there's the person determined to minimize difference---with "recognition and acceptance of superficial cultural differences such as eating customs, etc., while holding that all human beings are essentially the same." The "affective quality" of such people? "Insistently nice." (A new motto: "Come to the U of M: We produce mean teachers!") These inherently nice people, the IDI overview warns, are inclined toward "acceptance of institutionalized privilege"--- a definite no-no in any Education program.

The IDI offers "theoretical frameworks for constructing a multicultural identity" in pursuit of the final goal: "In an intercultural world, everyone needs to have a transcultural mindset." Just imagine how that requirement will be interpreted at the U of M.

Meanwhile, the Goh Committee report boasts that the U of M can "become the first teacher education program in the world to have teachers complete the 360 degree Cultural Intelligence (CQ) assessment and feedback."

To see what so excited the Educators, I took the "360 degree" analysis. It contains such two-choice questions as: "In culturally diverse situations, you are: a. excited; b. neutral." Or my personal favorite: "When having meals with people from other cultures, do you: a. eat what is familiar to you, or b. try what others eat?"

Prospective U of M students will then be asked to self-evaluate themselves on such matters as: "I can describe the arts and crafts of other cultures": "I am confident that I can get accustomed to the shopping conditions in a different culture"; and "I alter my facial expressions when a cross-cultural interaction requires it."

Ironically, the IDI contains one clause that would seem to apply to the Minnesota Education Department: "Defense/Reversal: Tendency to see another culture as superior while maligning one's own."

The IDI also cautions (in an apparent reference to Western criticism of some Middle Eastern societies) that those who exclaim "What a sexist society!"---a mindset certainly common on most college campuses in describing the United States---are exhibiting behavior consistent with the negative reaction of "defense against difference." Do politically correct professors, therefore, require Minnesota-style reeducation?

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