Brendan Largay, Head of School

Cultural Competency and a Call for Skill-based Instruction

With each passing day, I am convinced more and more that we are living through one of the great revolutions of thought in world history. Never has information been more easily accessible in real time to more people. Technology has been the great accelerant, to be sure, taking any idea and extrapolating its impact (for good or ill) exponentially. So, too, has technology been the great equalizer, making information more available to more people globally and providing educational opportunities across lines of socio-economics in ways that our world has never known before.

This is why, I believe, that if school leaders were given another chance to design the educational model from the ground up with a truly blank slate, it would look profoundly different than it did coming out of the Industrial Revolution (which is, in large part, the model most schools continue to abide by today). This new design would be more reflective of the fluidity and flexibility of the way information is made available today.

Significantly, this new model would shift the educational balance of skill and discipline. Where today, skill is often taught by way of discipline, this imagined model would find discipline, or more to the point, inter-discipline as the byproduct of skill instruction rather than the driver of it. As such, the skill, be it problem solving, communication, collaboration, entrepreneurialism, would be the organizing factor. And among its fundamental underpinnings would be the skill of cultural competency. It would be right there, next to critical thinking, as an imperative for the next wave of well-educated children.

If you are wondering why, I would invite you to watch the news or give your Twitter feed a quick scroll. As our access to information becomes easier, so too does our need to be able to distill meaning from it and understand the source of it. To do so without a culturally competent lens would be to leave a significant part of each story, and in many cases, the entire story, misunderstood.

Everything, from the impact of the flooding in the Carolinas to the latest Supreme Court appointment to the US Open women’s tennis final, will be processed and understood differently depending on how intentionally one applies the lens of cultural competency to the conversation. All of these moments are imminently teachable, and cultural competency – the impact these events may have across identifiers of socio-economics, race, gender and many others – can be an incredibly powerful place to start.

Here at Belmont Day, the opportunities to extend our own learning in this area, as children and as adults, are myriad:

  • With a curriculum review process intentionally guided by a diversity strand
  • In our professionally facilitated race-based affinity groups (which kick off on October 17)
  • At our Braiding Different Strands community programming (which kicks off on October 24th)
  • During our afterschool student affinity work, the upshot of a summer innovation stipend
  • During parent and faculty SEED programming (which are already up and running)

The terms of education are changing. What is important today to our children for the world they will inherit tomorrow requires a flexible curriculum ready to adapt to those changes. We are lucky to have a community so deeply committed to keeping up with those changes, and recognizing the importance of a balanced curriculum of discipline and skill with cultural competency as one of them.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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