Karen's Corner: What Is Cultural Competency and Why Is It So Important?

by Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Dr. Karen Bradberry

Not too long ago, the business industry reported that, while their applicant pools were rife with brilliant, academically prepared job applicants, they were sorely lacking in applicants who also knew how to collaborate, interact, and communicate effectively with people of diverse backgrounds. They had the degrees, the desire, the acumen,  but they couldn’t apply it effectively because they lacked cultural competence. 

The 21st-century world that awaits our children is richly and beautifully diverse, and our students’ ability to succeed in that world requires cultural competence, the willingness and ability to interact and communicate effectively within and across differences. We all must have the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills needed to work with others, and Galloway is committed to ensuring our students are prepared. 

People who struggle with the concept of diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural competence haven’t really paid attention to the actual cost and ramifications of being culturally INcompetent. I have shared some resources on Galloway's DEI Resource Board to affirm why cultural competence must be a foundational part of anyone’s educational experience.

I have worked in independent schools for nearly twenty years, and I can say with certainty that our schools are going to deliver the best education money can buy, literally.  As I think about the vast experience and knowledge my own son gained in his independent school journey, I see the true value of our family's investment. However, that ROI devalues exponentially if that education cannot be used because our children lack the cultural literacy needed to work effectively within the multicultural world they will encounter once they leave the proverbial “independent school bubble.” Need proof?

I’ll start with our youngest generation. Start with preschool. Next, take a look at unconscionable skyrocketing of bullying, depression, and suicide statistics of school-aged children based on their cultural identities.   

Lack of cultural competence impacts our independent school children. Just ask any of the devastated independent school graduates who had college admission invitations rescinded because of ridiculously hateful social media posts. And we can’t blame it on age and immaturity.  

In higher education, expulsions, litigations, and felony charges have evolved into “normalized” language, thanks to an onslaught of racist, misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, religiously discriminatory, Islamophobic, etc. crimes students are committing against each other.  

Where are they learning this?  Who is modeling this behavior?

Sadly, I wouldn’t count on legislative leaders, mega-ministers and their ministerial peers and yes, even some teachers because you will be disappointed. Don’t look to our paid protectors, like firefighters or police, nor billionaires, lawyers AND the firms they work for, newly-elected politicians, professional athletes, Hollywood producers, directors, actors, chefs, or nationally known business icons.   

Whether you look in the adult workforce or even among seniors who have retired, cultural incompetency is rampant, and it is ruining lives - and not just those of the victims. Our humanity grants us membership into one, global community. Dr. King was right when he said said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We all pay the cost in one way or another.