"Required, ongoing, cultural competency training for all Academy employees" is dangerous and unethical.
I am a proud member of the Exeter alumni community -- see also: What it's Like to Go to Phillips Exeter Academy, the "Best High School in the Country". Exeter made me a thinker. It made me a listener. It made me unafraid to share my opinions. The Harkness Method of teaching, in which every class is a debate, a dialectic, or a discussion, was a foundational part of who I am now.
And now, due to an ill-informed Change.org petition, the future of that is at risk.
This morning when I logged onto Facebook, I saw a post by a fellow alum, encouraging me to sign a petition called "Cultural Competency Training for all Employees of Phillips Exeter Academy". It read:
On February 20th, 2017, the Afro-Latino Exonian Society (ALES) met with Principal MacFarlane to discuss the ALES proposal. We expressed the demands of our members and in doing so, we shared our anonymously submitted narratives of racial prejudice that has occurred during our time at Phillips Exeter Academy. It has been over 100 days and we have not received any word about the proposal’s progress. With this petition, we are specifically focusing on one item from our proposal:
I'll be honest: the last year or so has been a little rocky when it comes to me and Exeter. After a series of sexual assault scandals, I even wrote the first negative words I've ever written about Exeter -- Phillips Exeter Faculty Lie to Sexual Assault Victim, Tell Her She Wasn't Assaulted.
Exeter isn't perfect. But I think it will be even less perfect if administrators take this ridiculous petition seriously. Specifically, as I wrote in my reply to the post on Facebook (I can't link to it, since it's a private group -- but I can definitely link to The Happy Talent's Facebook Page, and I shall; after all, if you want to get ahead, don't check your privilege -- check your ego. Shamelessly self-promote. See also: Everyday Feminism Just Posted the WORST Advice for Women and POC EVER):
This is the kind of thing that is not necessarily a good use of teachers' time. I would rather have them available for muffins and math help before class (muffins and math was a wonderful Wednesday morning ritual for me)...than have them tied up in a "competency training" whose effectiveness is untested, at best. What would this training entail? How many hours per week/year/term would it require? Has it been critically reviewed in a scholarly and scientific way -- or is it, to use the words of Duke divinity professor Paul J. Griffiths (who was ousted for expressing this view):
"Intellectually flaccid: There’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show."
Furthermore, as a psychologist, I'm stunned at how widespread this kind of "training" has become, without anyone making any effort to make sure not only that it is helpful... but also to make sure that it ISN'T harmful. I couldn't run a pilot intervention study on 20 people without doing that.
It's not ethical.
As per Students of 2016 Were Exposed to Fewer and Less Provocative Ideas Than Students of 2014:
"What are you doing to make sure that trigger warnings, safe spaces, disinvitations and other forms of coddling/censorship aren't harmful?
Yes, this is about college, not high school, and it doesn't specifically comment on faculty (re)training and indoctrination. But the fact remains: we don't know nearly enough to be signing this petition demanding that faculty and staff participate in "required, ongoing, cultural competency training."
It would be kind of like signing a Greenpeace petition -- you feel like you're doing something good, but, really, there's a decent chance you're supporting anti-intellectualism and causing great harm to the environment.
Misinformed and anti-scentific terrorists (disguised as farmers) destroy a golden rice field -- and the hopes of millions of children to stay alive. From: Scientists Have Discovered a Way To END Malaria (And Zika, and Dengue), Saving Millions of Lives. But Will the Western World Allow It?
I forgot to include this (maybe I'll go back and add in an EDIT), but I totally should have mentioned a recent study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science. In Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence, Emory scientist Scott O. Lilienfeld points out that, though leading "microaggressions scholars" make huge claims about microaggressions -- which, of course, a mandatory cultural sensitivity training would spend a lot of time focusing on -- there is actually little (if any) evidence to support these claims.
A review of the literature reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. More broadly, the MRP has been marked by an absence of connectivity to key domains of psychological science, including psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health, and industrial-organizational psychology. Although the MRP has been fruitful in drawing the field’s attention to subtle forms of prejudice, it is far too underdeveloped on the conceptual and methodological fronts to warrant real-world application.
Of course, "microaggressions scholars" like Derald Wing Sue were quick to point out that it's "oppressive" to ask for things like data and evidence, instead of relying on anecdote -- err, "lived experience."
(And I shall be quick to point out that saying data and evidence is too "hard" for women and people of color is the most benevolently sexist and racist shit I've ever heard.)
But the fact remains. Exeter's ALES is asking for a mandatory, ongoing training to address a problem that hasn't even been demonstrated. As Christina Hoff Sommers said in a recent video,
I'm not bothered when someone addresses my friends and me as "you guys," or someone tells a "lame" joke -- pardon the expression. I mean, who cares? Not me, and I suspect not most women.
I hope that Phillips Exeter will make informed, data-driven decisions as it moves forward, rather than letting students govern based on their emotions. Because Exeter is totally my happy place, and I don't want it to start sucking.
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