News that a Florida Atlantic university student was suspended for refusing to take part in a Jesus-stomping class exercise has drawn attention to a little known skill called “intercultural competence”. According to the Daily Caller,  ”Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon”, was told by his professor “ to write the name JESUS in bold letters on a piece of paper, then drop the papers and stomp all over them.”

He objected, which was a bad move.

Rotela was suspended on the grounds that “that the Jesus-stomping was part of a classroom exercise from a textbook: ‘Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.’”. Who could be against the broadening influence of education?

Just what does the textbook teach? The blurb at Amazon describes it as: “a clear contextual circular model for examining communication within cultural, micro-cultural, environmental, socio-relational, perceptual contexts, and verbal and nonverbal codes. The text begins with the broadest context; the cultural component of the model and progresses chapter by chapter through each component of the model. The later chapters then apply the model to the development and maintenance of intercultural relationships, the management of intercultural conflict, intercultural management, intercultural adaptation, culture shock, and intercultural competence.”

For a discussion on the meaning of these words see the previous Belmont Club post, The Destruction of Writing.  Anyone who knows what it means can enlighten me in comments. To the untrained eye the book evidently opens a doorway into a world that I at least, hardly suspected existed. Take one subject with which the book deals: intercultural competence.

Wikipedia says:

“Intercultural competence is also called “cross-cultural competence” (3C).” It is apparently a vast field of study. “Organizations in academia, business, health care, government security, and developmental aid agencies have all sought to use 3C in one way or another. … One survey identified 86 assessment instruments for 3C. A United States Army Research Institute study narrowed the list down to ten quantitative instruments that were suitable for further exploration of their reliability and validity.” Wikipedia advises readers to also see:

Stomp On Jesus

3C is to be distinguished from that obscure and simplistic branch of knowledge known as C3, which means “command, control and communications” or from that type of plastic explosive which goes by the same name.

One can readily see, from the sheer volume of writing on the stuff that it is serious business. A search on cultural competence jobs yields 1,590,000 hits. Businessweek describes the importance of this field.

Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and IBM consider cultural competence an important (important enough to hold managers accountable with financial incentives) management requirement. Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare’s Vice- President of Diversity Barbara Stern, explains, “Cultural competence should be a part of everyone’s strategy. We need to be good at working with people of all walks of life.” R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., founder of The Institute for Managing Diversity and well known author asserts, “Companies that want to compete successfully must hold managers accountable for underutilizing people who are not like them.” He adds, “This has nothing to do with prejudice or guilt. Managers must perform their role or be removed to another area where they can be effective. Understanding differences helps individuals learn how to get along.” In essence, cultural competence and strong diversity management will help companies effectively draw upon talent, intellectual capital, and motivate more employees.

Failure to take this subject seriously may result in “worker alienation … costly discrimination suits … unnecessary terminations … reluctance to hire and work with culturally diverse workers … racism and discrimination”. Run, don’t walk to your computer and order the said textbook right away if you have this serious void in your education.

Preparation for a career in cultural competency may be obtained by enrolling in any number of fine institutions of higher learning. It is money well spent, a fact you should reflect on the next time you contemplate a bank account emptied to pay for tuition. One reference material  is abstracted as follows.

Secure forensic mental health inpatient services are influenced by a complex, socially constructed tangle of institutions, policies and practices. The ‘caring’ mental health system and the ‘custodial’ criminal justice system often have conflicting goals and expectations. Furthermore, public and media perceptions of danger frame the policy context. This leaves patients commonly experiencing discrimination, disempowerment and social exclusion. However, patients from indigenous and CALD populations are further marginalised and have reduced ‘social quality’ (social inclusion, socio-economic security, social cohesion and empowerment) (Huxley & Thornicroft, 2003). The literature attributes this to factors including: discriminatory and reactive government policies, an ethnocentric mental health system that relies on culturally invalid classification systems, and culturally incompetent clinicians and organisations.

Social workers have been implicit in these systemic failures through their lack of contribution to the literature and their lack of influence in forensic mental health. This is despite the compatibility of the social work person-in-environment perspective, and its focus on social justice and social quality, with good cross-cultural practice. Frequent references to ‘unexplored’ socio-cultural and environmental factors in the literature, and a mental health policy shift in Victoria towards social inclusion and community development, provide a timely opportunity for social work to assert itself.

What the devil this means, God only knows. Once you realize this, the necessity to take revenge on God becomes compelling, for He has an unnatural advantage. The frustration, bewilderment and stress inherent in this complex field makes performances not only suitable, but rational. For having entered a field whose concepts and application seem to the untrained eye  indistinguishable from shamanism it is eminently appropriate to dance on pieces of paper. If you become a witch doctor in one, why not become a witch doctor in all? Stomp on Jesus?


The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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