Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Training Clinical Psychologists for a Mulitcultural World

If there could be professional psychology training programs in which the explicit commitments to social justice, where the unpacking and critiques of the values, assumptions, and practices (Prilleltensky & Nelson, 2001) in psychology were incorporated into in their curriculum, what would they look like? What would such programs contain, both in their coverage of theories and research and in their transformative practices (praxis)? I could begin at any number of points, but for now I will consider the competency of Diversity.

Multicultural Education for Social Justice

. . . multiculturalism is about social justice, cultural democracy, and equity. (Sue, Carter, Casas, Fouad, Ivey, Jenson, et al., 1998, p. 5)

In this section, I will begin by introducing some criticism of the current state of multicultural education, the thrust of which is that what began as a transformative endeavor has become controlled and diluted affirmation. I will then emphasize the importance of liberation pedagogy as praxis for social justice. The last two sections recognize the necessity of acknowledging the linguistic turn in theories of oppression and the transformative potential of postcolonial criticism for our contributions in a globalized world.

Critique of contemporary multicultural education

Multicultural education, envisioned at its inception during the 1960s civil rights movement as “an effective counter-hegemonic strategy to reverse centuries of racialized domination in the United States” (Baltodano, 2006, p. 123) has failed to achieve its goal. Baltodano mourns that,

"what began as a politically inspired counterhegemonic movement was gradually appropriated and soon became merely another mainstream policy, more and more defined by the interests of the dominant class. . .Consequently, the institutional and social policies of the multicultural project stagnated, leaving untouched the complex economic conditions that transformed the welfare state of the 1960s to the transnational, global economy of the 21st century. (2006, p. 124)"

Stephen May (1999) concurs that multicultural education has not resulted in significant improvements for minority students, has not effectively altered majority students’ racism, nor replaced “the inherent monoculturalism of school practice;” further, multicultural education has seemed to have little or no impact on our society’s racial inequities (p. 1). The failure of multiculturalism, according to some, was its oversimplification of social power relations, its “deracialized” conceptualization of education, “an educational approach which reifies culture and cultural difference, and which fails to address the central issues of racism within society” (May, 1999, p. 2). In addition, there has been little “substantive change in the structure of teacher education and in the attitudes of teachers toward cultural diversity” (Baltodano, 2006, p. 124).

On the other hand, there are problems related to a program based on race-oppression alone. For one thing, the focus on color reinforces the binary dimension of black and white, and is thus requires a perpetual bond with its uniformly constructed oppressor. There is also the likelihood that the privileging of race obscures other potentially involved marginal subjectivities, such as gender, class, and religion (May, 1999, p. 2).

The Critical Pedagogies, as articulated by Paolo Friere, Henry Giroux and Peter Mclaren, have introduced a non-racist, theoretically sophisticated, transformative model they have linked to

"wider issues of socio-economic and political inequality. The ongoing ravages of late capitalism-particularly on the poor and the marginalized-are increasingly being addressed and contested by critical multicultural educators, again most notably in the US. . .In the process, the inexorable globalization of capital, its effects on the economies of nation-states, its links with historical and contemporary forms of racism and colonialism, and its impact on the changing nature of work and patterns of employment are also being critically examined."

The critical multiculturalists influenced by Freire and others have been criticized for their failures to effective link their theories to actual educational programming or policies.

Finally, all of the above have stayed within the boundaries of specific western nationalities, addressed themselves to “national markets with their own particular historical and ideological emphases. Little, if any, reference is made to developments elsewhere and attempts to build a cross-national perspective have been extremely rare” (May, 1999, p. 5). In my next post, I propose a shift to a transcultural education for clinical psychologist of the 21st century.

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