Here Comes “Cultural Competence”

John Rosenberg (Discriminations) and Mickey Kaus (Kausfiles) note that the slippery term “cultural competence” pops up often in the health care bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Once a harmless term in medical literature referring to the need to understand and communicate with patients of different races and ethnicities, “cultural competence” mutated into a more ideological expression in higher education, particularly in the training of teachers and welfare workers.
Now it means support for affirmative action, bilingualism, respect for “the dynamics of difference,” a commitment to social justice and equity and—-according to the State of Oregon, which held a Cultural Competence Summit in 2004 for educators—a need to “acknowledge institutional racism (and) power differences and silencing.” When the term is dangled before students who want to be teachers or welfare workers, it usually indicates mandatory support for a cultural agenda of the left.
“Cultural competence” is the subject of a great many conferences and articles. One article in the journal Transitions, argues that since social inequality adversely affects health, health workers must achieve “socially just cultural competence” through self-awareness, self-analysis and community partnership. Rosenberg notes that the House Energy and Commerce bill calls for the “addressing, or partnering with, an entity with experience addressing , the cultural and linguistic competency needs of the populations to be served through the grant or contract.” What group might like to have that money? Rosenberg wrote: “Can anyone say, ‘ACORN Enrichment Provision?”


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

One thought on “Here Comes “Cultural Competence””

  1. Cultural competence – typical intellectual nonsense that masquerades as concern for people but is much closer to National Socialism

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