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Education Letter to the Editor

More Money? Spend It on Cultural Understanding

March 21, 2006 1 min read

To the Editor:

My comments in response to Kevin Carey’s Commentary, “Is There a Heyday on the Horizon?” (March 1, 2006) are inspired by Scott Thompson’s Commentary, “The Importance of ‘Reculturing,’ ” in the same issue.

Mr. Thompson presents a persuasive argument to support reframing reform efforts to focus change on altering an organization’s culture, its “way of doing things.” If current reform efforts are to accomplish more than increasing corporate profit margins (those of publishers, for example), an understanding of culture—the culture of human development and that of organizations—must inform the work of the education community. According to a recent U.S. Department of Education study, only 32 percent of teachers surveyed reported feeling competent to teach culturally diverse populations of students, and a smaller percentage reported feeling competent to teach English-language learners.

If the United States is going to successfully prepare of its students and citizens to participate in the global and multicultural market economy of the current century, the thinking in the education community must be informed by a knowledge base of cultural understanding that includes what we know about human development in varied cultural contexts, as well as the implications of that for teaching and learning and for organizational reform.

I suggest that the resources described by Mr. Carey as possibly in the offing should be prioritized by this discussion, not by superficial attention limited to materials, wholesale program implementation, test scores, vouchers, or narrowly defined accountability requirements.

Belinda Williams

Adjunct Professor of Psychology

Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pa.

A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as More Money? Spend It on Cultural Understanding