Having been in meetings yesterday and today about our next steps regarding counseling training in Rwanda, I’m wrestling with the best way to address cultural differences in whatever training we do. And specifically I’m wrestling with a particular dilemma forming in my mind:
Teach what we know about counseling NOW but be unaware of subtle but important cultural differences vs. listen, learn, and teach LATER what we know (but in culturally relevent terms)
It is not the first time that I have been asked to do something sooner rather than later with these words. “Don’t worry about the cultural relevance. We’ll tell you when something doesn’t work or our students will do the application to their own situations. If you try to be culturally sensitive, it will end up being watered down. We want our students to get the best education, something that the US would recognize.”
Why do I struggle with this request? Well, in my head it sounds like, “hey, come bring your colonialistic methods of evangelism and we’ll handle it.” I struggle with it because I know American counseling culture has significant problems with it. And, I struggle with it because I know that some students (this is a universal truth!) are really good at critical thinking while others blindly ape what we say without much thought at all. AND YET, I know that waiting until I’m culturally aware enough to teach means I wouldn’t do so for a very long time.
So, part of my struggle is not wanting to look like a culture boob by just assuming that what I teach US students is what Rwandans would need. I suspect the answer is (a) being courageous enough to risk looking like a fool, but (b) flexible enough to change on a dime when I am aware of a disconnect.
Hmmm. I may have a problem with both.