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Beginning this week, Minnesota teachers must now complete cultural competency training with a special focus on Native Americans.
Per Minnesota law, cultural competency results in acknowledging personal bias concerning
“racial, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; American Indian and Alaskan native students; religion; systemic racism; gender identity, including transgender students; sexual orientation; language diversity; and individuals with disabilities and mental health concerns,” and how that bias impacts relationships with students, students’ families, and the school communities.
The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) first enacted a more general version of cultural competency training in 2020; in April, Native Americans and Alaskan natives were separated into their own category.
In order to pass the training, teachers must meet the Standards of Effective Practice. This requires teachers to not only understand the various identities and beliefs of their students, but to affirm them and help them develop “positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.”
Teachers are further required to not only understand, but support students in the recognition of “dehumanizing biases, discrimination, prejudices, and structural inequities.” Additionally, teachers must demonstrate their respect for and responsiveness to the identities and beliefs of their students both verbally and nonverbally.
PELSB argued that since most teachers are white, they must come to terms with their implicit bias.
“[T]he predominantly white teacher workforce must be equipped to understand their own implicit bias and the unique lived experiences of all their students as a core requirement of teaching,” stated PELSB.
A cultural competency training can cost anywhere from $30 to $670 for two graduate credits.
PELSB’s Committee to Increase Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers approves who provides valid cultural competency training. The committee assumed the responsibility in January 2021.
Current members of the committee are Angela Osuji, Reuben Moore, Jessa Cook, and Gift Saloka.
The cultural competency training changes didn’t pass without resistance throughout the public input period last year. One group, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) Twin Cities, argued that cultural competence training results in divisiveness through a rejection of common culture and fairness in treatment.
“[This training] prescribes the segregation of students by group or cultural identity (commonly race or gender, but also many others throughout the proposed rule) and the subsequent incessant recognition and affirmation of such segregation,” stated FAIR Twin Cities. “Teachers should encourage each student to examine varying points of view rather than to reflexively conform to views attributed to that student’s groups or cultures.”
However, PELSB defended the licensure requirement as necessary for teachers to foster trust with their students and, consequently, impart a proper education.
“[The] pedagogical knowledge of how to create positive learning environments and how to work with all types of learners is essential in fostering student learning,” stated PELSB.