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Cultural Competence vs Cultural Humility

July 4, 2015

I’ve become much more fond of the concept of cultural humility, as opposed to the concept of cultural competence. This may sound like a crazy made-up thing, but hear me out… I would like to offer an example of the display between the two that for me relates so well.

There are cultures, and there are sub-cultures, and my family belongs to the subculture of homeschooling. As a home school family there are many issues that we face simply because of the lack of understanding. Cultural competence would say, “Yeah, I know you teach your kids at home instead of placing them in regular schools like normal kids.” Yet, cultural humility would say, “Hey, why don’t you tell me more about how your family home schools.”

We are blessed to have been a home school family for 14 years and counting, (unfortunately, I know I’ll be forced into retirement at some point!). We are referred to in the home school world as “lifers” simply because we are in it for the long haul. My husband and I made a commitment to our children to offer them every opportunity possible for them to explore different paths, think outside the box, develop compassion and empathy for others, to think for themselves, to question everything, to live in a way they consider fit instead of how others feel they should, to offer solutions and not just complaints, to understand the blessings we afforded them, not by wealth, but by opportunity; and the way we chose to accomplish this was through homeschooling. Could we have achieved this if we had placed them in regular schools? Perhaps; but it was our personal choice instead, to home school.

When we started our journey so many people hit us with their cultural competence of homeschooling; questioning our motives, our ability, and our commitment. We were given the stern warnings that socialization would be missing significantly, and that we would hinder their ability to thrive. Every time we heard someone say, “Oh, I know about homeschooling,” as if it were a badge of knowledge that we were not privy to, we inwardly groaned because we knew what was coming. My counter-attack statement to the lack of socialization accusation, was always calmly the same, “They’ll be well socialized because we let them out of the closet three times a week for food, water, and sun.”

Yet thankfully, some individuals were different, and they approached us with genuine cultural humility. They asked, and we happily answered. We gave our reasons for committing to their education, and they listened. We explained our personal preferences towards our way of creating strong family bonds, and they understood. We disclosed our personal Christian beliefs for us as a couple to “train up a child in the way that he should go,” and they respected our choice.

So, I would certainly place cultural humility way above cultural competence as a way of dealing with cultures or sub-cultures that are different to our own because it “asks” rather than “tells”. Also, I think cultural humility displays a heftier dose on empathy, and fosters a culture of acceptance and respect, both of which our society is in desperate need of.

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From → The Wife's Side

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