“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that.  So are we all.”  –James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son


One of Roycemore’s core values is “community.”  As a small but diverse community, when we engaged in the process of articulating the School’s Portrait of a Graduate, Citizenship was selected as one of the three primary tenets of the Portrait.  

What does it mean to be a good citizen in both a school community that is notable for its diversity and in a global community that encompasses many different values, beliefs, and cultural identities?  In Roycemore’s Portrait, Citizenship includes curiosity for diverse perspectives, cultural humility, respect for multiple pathways to understanding, and globally focused problem-solving.  Last week this newsletter examined curiosity for diverse perspectives.  This week we will explore the term cultural humility.

The term was first introduced in 1998 by two physicians, Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia to encourage the healthcare community to think beyond cultural competence training which they believe tended to result in reinforcing stereotypes.  Their view was that a focus on cultural competence supported the idea that one could become “competent” in a culture other than their own, ie. that they could be “certified” in culture.  They posited that an approach based on cultural humility instead would foster ongoing self-reflection of one’s own culture and how one’s personal beliefs and cultural identities could result in healthcare guidance that did not align with the needs of their patient.  They made the case that an approach informed by cultural humility builds more trusting and honest relationships between the physician and patient.

Today, approaching one’s work or studies through a lens of Cultural Humility has been embraced in public health, social work, medicine, psychology, education and other fields.  It encourages one to be open to a lifelong process of learning about oneself and others with respect for all.  

In selecting Cultural Humility as one of Roycemore’s aspects of Citizenship, the aim is to foster recognition that when you respect all cultures and traditions, you open your mind to understanding other points of view, values and beliefs.  Embracing cultural humility fosters more flexible thinking about how one’s own lived experiences have influenced their thinking and actions.  At times it requires courage to consider that what seems obvious to you from your personal experience may not be shared by someone you thought you knew.  A community that embraces Cultural Humility provides a safe space for community members to share their thinking as they are able to do so knowing that their peers will hear their thoughts respectfully regardless of whether they hold those same beliefs.  It requires us to really listen, not only to what others have to say, but also to what we are saying and to examine our views in ways we may not have previously considered.

Fostering a school community where students and teachers enter into conversations with Cultural Humility consistently is a mighty aspiration.  It requires each community member to engage in an ongoing reflection and examination of their values and beliefs.  It begins, however, with a foundation of respect and integrity, encircled with compassion and desire for community.  It advances inspired scholarship.  These five just so happen to be Roycemore’s core values.

To learn more about Cultural Humility, consider viewing the short 7 minute excerpt of a documentary film by Vivian Chavez, Associate Professor of Health Education, San Francisco State University.  Or view the full 30 minute documentary for a deeper examination of the concept.