deficit view

person blindfolded with leaves
deficit view. A view that individuals from some cultural groups lack the ability to achieve just because of their cultural background. There’s an underlying belief that the other culture is deficient in important ways from the dominant group.

We are all called to contribute to the world around us. Read on for this reminder that we can flip the script on how culture is viewed, so it doesn’t have to be seen as a deficit.

I was a mother of two and a new teacher in education, primary school. My classroom culture was evolving. I was designing a space where all voices could be heard and everyone felt safe. We recited our love of ourselves, our classroom, our school, and our community each day. Do yourself a favor and imagine it right now. I see you smiling.

During the Fine Arts rotation, I would need to release my students to another teacher, run to answer emails, contact parents, attend data meetings. But as I was “schooling,” unbeknownst to me, my students were often experiencing a completely different environment where what  made them unique was being stifled, sometimes even rejected. As I would retrieve them, totally oblivious to any differences, we would enjoy quiet laughter and connection on our journey back to our classroom. One day a few of my students shared what they were experiencing . . . “Speak English,” “Make eye contact,” they were told. I cringed in pain. I was in angst not only for my students but also for my colleagues. After all, how long or how frequent has this gone on?

Why do I share this sad, painful and heartbreaking story? To assure you this.

As we well know, there are going to be unforeseen differences to culture that trips us up in life. The cause may be someone else’s poor choice of actions or words, it may be self-inflicted because of shame of who we are or where we come from, or hear me when I say it can simply be because we are a part of a broken world. Whatever the reason, we have our own choice of what comes next. Some choose to remain stunted by the kick in the gut a deficit view can deliver. Here are some options to shift our mindset.

  • Remove the pop-up tent positioned around yourself and see the beauty of cultures and all the strengths on offer. This is done by truly seeing others through a positive light. See the change, be the change.
  • Some choose to raise hell about the hurt a deficit view delivers. Rather than putting up barricades, build bridges. Find common ground. Be different by bringing people together rather than apart.
  • Pretending something isn’t happening doesn’t make it not real. No one should have to bare the marks of a dominant group inflicting pain due to a false underlying belief that another culture is deficient. Speak up, speak out. Be loud and proud of, for, and with cultural diversities.

Can you self-evaluate and be honest with yourself here? Because it matters not only where you are in your view of cultural differences but also what you project. I’ve got good news. No one has to stay silent in any of the above scenarios. Even if you’ve approached cultures with a deficit view in the past, today is a new day and you can rebuild a view by flipping a deficit view to a strengths-based approach. Are you ready to flip the script on how culture is viewed? If your answer is “yes,” [SEE] is here with you in seeing things differently.

Back to that game changing moment. I looked each student in the eye and reminded them of the incredible leverage they have on life because of their culture, not in leu of it. I also spoke to my colleagues and coordinated a common approach to inclusivity. Education is empowering but we can overlook the need to plan for the empowerment. That night, I had a discussion with my own children in not only valuing their heritage but also recognizing and valuing the heritage of others. Actions can speak louder than words.

An equity consciousness overcomes a deficit view and changes negative energy into positive. Free yourself from a deficit view and see what you are now free to become. It’s life altering. There are several ways for you to be a part of the movement. Pick one, or two, or three, or all. You’ll be so glad you did.

  • Share. Spread the word through Likes, shares, and following us on social media.

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