Philosophy and Assumptions
Cultural fluency is the ability to move comfortably among cultures from the family culture of home and the ethnic culture of one's community to the educational culture of school and the corporate culture of one's workplace. A culturally fluent educator:
- Takes risks in learning about other cultures,
- Welcomes discoveries about self that emerge from learning about others,
- Responds to diversity not with fear and suspicion but with the courage to reexamine assumptions, and
- Collaborates to develop new perspectives and strategies for education that honor the dignity of all people.
The Center for Cultural Fluency was created to provide instructional resources and professional development opportunities to enable teachers to become culturally fluent and to develop cultural fluency in their students. In all activities, the Center strives to embody four educational values for a multicultural society described by Lawrence Blum in a Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1991. These values are anti-bias, multiculturalism, interracial community, and respect for persons as individuals.
The value of anti-bias, which includes anti-racism, affirms the fundamental moral equality of all human beings. It assumes the positive values of social justice and tolerance but goes beyond these to include noticing, confronting, opposing and eliminating manifestations of bias. The value of anti-bias commits one to eliminating racist, sexist, ageist, and homophobic attitudes in oneself and in society as a whole. The materials selected for the Center collection confront stereotypes and represent the rich diversity within cultures. Anti-bias is explicitly taught in professional development activities where participants learn to recognize prevalent stereotypes and to examine their own biases.
Multiculturalism begins with an understanding and an appreciation of one's own culture. In addition, the value of multiculturalism involves a respect for and an interest in the cultures of others and a valuing of diversity in itself. The Center collection of instructional materials was established to provide classroom materials through which teachers and students can learn about their own and other cultures.
The value of interracial community means recognizing one's connection with others of different racial, ethnic, and cultural groups not merely theoretically, but in experiences of constructive work and friendship, which lead to shared identification and loyalty. The Center is designed to be a place where teachers can experience an interracial community and dialogue that encourages shared explorations of culture, resource materials, and teaching techniques. All professional development activities actively promote dialogue among teachers about sensitive issues relating to race and culture in a supportive, open environment.
Respect for Persons as Individuals
Finally, respect for persons as individuals involves the recognition that each person is more than his or her racial, ethnic, gender, religious, or age group. Each person is a unique, irreducible human being who transcends classification. The Center staff model this value in their interactions with teachers visiting the Center and in professional development activities. They recognize that each teacher, each individual, is at a different place on the common journey to cultural fluency. Thus, the staff support each individual teacher in his or her exploration of diversity and helps each person to identify and take the next step toward cultural fluency.