Teaching ‘sensitivity’ to teachers

Boston teachers need training in cultural sensitivity, says Sociedad Latina, a local advocacy group. Insensitive teachers create an unwelcoming climate for students, “potentially contributing to their loss of classroom focus, poor test performance, or a higher dropout rate,” advocates tell the Boston Globe.

“The kids are right in demanding more training for teachers,’’ said Carroll Blake, executive director for the School Department’s Office of the Achievement Gap.  “It’s not just valuing an individual student’s culture, but acknowledging it and integrating it into classroom lessons.’’

On Flypaper, Liam Julian scoffs.

Fifteen-year-old Shantal Solomon told the newspaper that she can “vividly recall the day two years ago . . . when she observed her teacher scolding her friends for speaking Spanish.” “I felt offended,” she said. “I don’t even speak Spanish. But it’s a free country. We should be able to speak the language we want.”

Bien sûr, reply school leaders, who reportedly think that “more comprehensive cultural training” for educators is right and good, and that such instruction “could provide a critical link in closing an alarming achievement gap between students of different races and ethnicities.”

. . . It is not a free country, especially not for fifteen-year-olds, and public-school pupils do not have the right to take tests in Tagalog.

Also on Flypaper, Jamie Davies O’Leary disagrees. Cultural sensitivity won’t lift test scores but students and teachers should treat each other with respect. As a kindergarten teacher, she witnessed five-year-olds trading ethnic slurs and spit.

The children may need training in behavior and manners, but do teachers really need a course in cultural sensitivity?  Common sense and common courtesy should be enough, I’d think.

On Fox, Amber Winkler of Fordham and Melissa Luna of Sociedad Latina discuss sensitivity training. Note the fair and unbiased intro.

About Joanne


  1. “Teachers just don’t have the training to educate a culturally diverse student body,’’ said one of the organizers, Jhoannette Arias, 17, a Brighton High School senior who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. ”

    Yes, the musings of a 17 yr old should be carefully considered. Somehow, I get the whiff of “made for admissions essay” about this youth organization.

    Celebrating a culture means what exactly? Flags and songs?

  2. Students should not be chatting during class time, regardless of whether it’s in English, Spanish, or Ig-pay Atin-lay. Shantel will get a lot more out of her time in school if she keeps her mouth closed and ears open rather than being so quick to cry “discrimination!”

  3. It seems to me that students who do not speak standard English outside of school hours would be best served by a standard-English-only policy at school, because that is the best way to learn to speak it well and speaking it well is an important academic and workplace skill. My niece is about to start a year abroad and a program requirement is a contract to speak the local language only, because that’s the way to master the language.

  4. Going to disagree with the 3 posters above. Not on the bare facts; it certainly is important for ethnic minority and immigrant students to gain proficiency in English and standard English at that. BUT, it’s equally as important for students to feel welcomed in every classroom they enter. No exceptions. I don’t think most teachers will benefit from learning the specifics of the cultures their students come from (for one, there are too many in most schools. My children went to a school with multiple races and nationalities; then there’s the reality that there are many diffierent subcultures within each minority). But they sure can take the initiataive to know enough to help students make connections in classes where that’s appropriate. Back to what Joanne said: respect!

  5. Excuse me, but doesn’t “cultural sensitivity” include not speaking a language that others present do not speak? After all, that constitutes intentionally excluding others because of their ace or ethnicity.

  6. To say nothing of the fact that they holler out the answers to each other in Spanish.

    However, the cultural demagogues then demand to know why you don’t speak Spanish.

  7. Richard Nieporent says:

    Obviously this is the culturally sensitive type teacher they need to feel welcome.

  8. Who would get paid for the training? I smell consulting fees!

  9. This doesn’t even merit discussion.

    Show me one school where disrespect from students toward the teachers isn’t 1,000 times greater than that going the other way. It’s ludicrous and outrageous to think that TEACHERS need to show more respect. God, this galls me! Ugh, will we ever solve our education problems when there’s so much ignorance of what really happens in our classrooms?

    Teachers suffered from this line of bashing at my old school in New Jersey. The student body was 60% black; the staff mostly white. Without a shred of evidence “advocates” for the blacks students declared that the achievement gap was due to “institutional racism” in the souls of the white teachers. Even though, if anything, the white teachers were biased IN FAVOR of black kids –affirmative action lurked in their souls. Nevertheless expensive sensitivity trainers were hired. We were told we all must talk more openly about race, etc. etc. Nothing changed.
    One colleague wryly mused that if black teachers were the key, schools in the neighboring all-black district must be nirvana for black students, since the majority of teachers there were black.

  10. I guess this makes it official: American culture is in a total tailspin. What will become of this country when it crashes?

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Is this the E*D*U*C*A*T*I*O*N O*F H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N I”ve heard about?
    This is the assimilation the proponents of unlimited immigration assure us will take care of problems?
    Used to be, balkanization was considered a bad thing.

  12. Maybe the teacher was afraid that if a white student was laughing at the same time that they were speaking spanish and the hispanic ones, blacks or others minorities heard the white student laughing they would think they were laughing to make fun of them and the minorities, and they would have gotten offended and attacked them.