On December 16, 2019, the Charleston County School District adopted a “Cultural Competency” policy in an effort to become more “culturally proficient.” The policy explains that the phrase “cultural competency” consists of four components: “awareness of ones own cultural worldview,” “attitude towards cultural differences,” “knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews,” and “cross-cultural skills.” The policy explains that the school district “will adopt the following elements that are essential for its employees to contribute to the district’s ability to become more culturally proficient”:
- Value Diversity: Claim Differences
- Incorporate differences in the curriculum – students must see themselves in their curriculum and instructional materials
- Acknowledge the contribution of various cultural and ethnic groups through teaching and learning
- Institutionalize Cultural Knowledge
- Incorporate cultural knowledge and training into the professional development of all district staff
- Ensure educators’ pedagogy is culturally responsive
- Structure opportunities to engage parents and communities in cultural awareness
- Adapt to Diversity
- Develop structures for revisiting community needs and values to align school policies and resources
The policy states that the school district’s curriculum will be changed because “students must see themselves in their curriculum.” The policy also explains that all teachers will be trained in cultural competency and that their curriculum must be “culturally responsive.” The term “culturally responsive” is often used to describe a method of teaching that includes critical race theory and the use of students’ race and ethnicity as part of the lessons taught in classrooms.
The school district has a “Cultural Competency Task Force” with a separate website that features a video from School Board Chair Eric Mack promoting what the school district is accomplishing to achieve equity, including teaching educators about their “implicit biases.” He pushes for educators to “shift the system” but also explains that the “system will resist”:
In short, you are beginning a journey to transform the lives of our students now and in the future. As you start this journey, know that you have an awesome responsibility. But as the first in the district to start on the path, you also have the power to help shift the system. Change does not come easy. The system will resist. But if you believe in the righteousness of this journey, it is my hope that you will not become discouraged in the face of resistance. Rather you will stay the course until step by step we get it right.
The school district also published a statement that explained “around 300 staff members” participated in “Racial Equity Institute (REI) workshops.” The statement then specifically explained that “staff in leadership and teaching roles will participate in REI Phase 1 virtual workshops.” The goal of the workshops was “to develop the capacity of participants to better understand racism in its institutional and structural forms.” The statement also explained that all of the school district’s staff will eventually receive similar training:
This training is part of the Board of Trustees’ plans to train all CCSD employees in Cultural Competency. The initial training for more than 1,000 employees began in the summer and continues to reach across the organization. All district leaders, as well as hundreds of teachers, engaged in the Implicit Bias Professional Development. Each participant watched the Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute Implicit Bias Modules, followed by a circle conversation via Zoom to explore implicit biases and how they affect our day-to-day lives.
The Racial Equity Institute explains that its “Phase 1” workshop features topics including the organization’s “fish/lake/groundwater analysis of structural racism; understanding and controlling implicit bias; race, poverty, and place; markedness theory; institutional power arrangements and power brokers; importance of definitions of race and racism; history and legacy of race in American economic and policy development; racial identity and its interaction with institutional culture.” The Racial Equity Institute also explains that the so-called “groundwater” approach mentioned in the “Phase 1” workshop is a metaphor “designed to help practitioners at all levels internalize the reality that we live in a racially structured society, and that that is what causes racial inequity.”