Forty Years of Using Labels to Communicate About Nontraditional Students: Does It Help or Hurt?


Franklin D. Westbrook and William E. Sedlacek


Research Report #9-91





Franklin D. Westbrook and William E. Sedlacek

Research Report #9-91




Forty Years of Using Labels to Communicate About Nontraditional Students: Does It Help or Hurt?


This manuscript deals with two topics: How the education literature describes minority students, and how to effectively communicate with minority students. An analysis of articles in the Education Index since 1950 showed that despite increased concern for minorities in the literature, the labels used to describe them may have done much to exacerbate problems. The oldest term expressing concern for minorities was "acculturation," and "intercultural education" was the most popular in the 1950's. In the 1960's "culturally deprived" was the most common. References to cultural deprivation remained common in the 1970's but "multicultural education" became popular in the late 1970's and through the 1980's.


When talking to minority students the writers recommend using Bowen's triangulation concept to discuss racism and negotiating the system. Handling racism has been shown to be a critical ability in minority student retention by Tracey and Sedlacek. Bowen suggests that one learns ways to negotiate the racist system from parents and grandparents; the individual being the third point in the triangle. Under stress a person tends to regress and rely more on learning from previous generations.


It is not clear what it will take to eliminate the distance that has developed between U.S. ethnic groups, but it is clear that only communications unfettered by suspicion will enable fair-minded individuals to work together to discover solutions.



Forty Years of Using Labels to Communicate About Nontraditional Students: Does It Help or Hurt?


Over the past 20 years African American students have matriculated in increasingly greater numbers at primarily White educational institutions. There has been less legal segregation against Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, than that which restricted African Americans. However, these nontraditional groups have begun to attend primarily White educational institutions in greater numbers. This influx of nontraditional students has changed both the demographic character and the philosophy of these institutions in most profound ways.


United States colleges and universities have for generations welcomed foreign students. Until 1964, the students were primarily White and had plans of either going back home where they would become ambassadors of goodwill for the U.S.A., or of remaining in the U.S.A. to integrate relatively freely and easily into the White population. The culture of the student body was not in question. Since 1964 much of this has changed. The foreign born and the nontraditional student populations who represent all of the racial groups mentioned above, enrolled in the higher education in greater numbers. Many had decided they could neither integrate nor assimilate, and many did not have other nations and homes to which to return. Vocal members of ethnic groups across the country made demands that their rights be recognized.


Glazier and Moynihan (1963) had noted, "The notion that the intense and unprecedented mixture of ethnic and religious groups in American life was soon to blend into a homogeneous end product has outlived its usefulness." The institutions needed to learn to accommodate the newly arrived, nontraditional student without expecting to change anything about them other than their information base. One way they sought to do this was by developing educational, social, and financial support programs within the institutions (Pate and Garcia, 1981).


The philosophy of higher education was constructed along pragmatic lines. It tolerated a few voices, in the name of free speech and academic freedom, that criticized the separate but equal laws, but it cooperated with segregation and resisted change along with other elements of the society. The Civil Rights Laws of 1964 exposed the university to native born, nontraditional students who expected an education but did not necessarily expect to acculturate. All of them planned to stay here, and many of them planned to retain their differences (Vela, 1977 and Henkin, 1985).


Because African American students had been so completely cut off from the opportunity structure, they often came to higher education behind White students in college preparation (Scanzoni, 1970). Their lack of preparation was understandable from the perspective of expectation theory. They came to college because the opportunity presented itself; they came less than adequately prepared because they had not expected to have the opportunity to come (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968), but they came with many of the same values, aspirations, and traditions as those held by the White population.


To a much greater extent, however, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans came with national identities, which they, as groups, intended to maintain while asserting their rights as United States citizens. This posed an identity problem for the institutions. The institutions had needs to assert their level of compliance with laws that mandate the enrollment of minority students; and they had needs to demonstrate the extent to which they attempted to serve special needs for the different groups; but they also had needs to demonstrate that their images remained in tact.


In terms of dealing with the nontraditional student, two problems presented themselves: First, how institutional representatives should talk about the issues that related to nontraditional students; and second, how they should talk to nontraditional students with whose groups they had only stereotyped familiarity? These were large issues for higher education personnel because from the recruitment process through the service practices that must be used for the students' benefit, communications is the basic tool.


Some of the larger problems have come during efforts to communicate about African American students. Service personnel have had to be more concerned about those African American students who are inadequately prepared for the institutions'




academic requirements than about those who are well prepared. Thus, in discussing minority students, they have found themselves "falling into the trap of identification and diagnosis by terminology rather than etiology" (Lipton, 1962). They have referred to the students as disadvantaged, culturally disadvantaged, educationally disadvantaged, economically disadvantaged, socially disadvantaged, culturally deprived, educationally deprived, economically deprived, socially deprived, etc. (Bossone, 1970; Glatt, 1965; Congreve, 1966; Hawk, 1965, 1967; Henson, 1973; Weiner and Murray, 1963).


Deprivation is a major issue for the minority populations that have been so affected. They have a history of having been deprived of freedom, of human rights, of equal education, and of dignified jobs. Declaring them to be culturally deprived leads the White majority into scapegoating the persons who have the problems that attend deprived backgrounds, and away from their responsibilities as educational, political, and psychological practitioners (Buchheimer, 1968).


Benelli, Arcuri, and Marchesini (1988) indicated that adults adjust their definitional criteria to meet the needs of their audience. If this be the case, the use of cultural deprivation to define characteristics of ethnic groups who show differences from those of the definer's group, means they and the audience judge the described peoples' background in terms of good versus bad, important versus unimportant, and usefulness versus uselessness (Lipton, 1962).


"In other words," said Lipton (1962, p.8), "our definition reflects our cultural backgrounds and attitudes which are indicative of the middle class concept of culture which may involve knowledge, attitudes, learning, and understandings in . . . music, art, academic apperceptions, social relationships, emotional development, and a whole gamut of intangible elements which transcend racial, religious and socio-economic lines." He went on to say that the use of the word "deprivation" suggests a feeling of superiority and "other patterns of non-accepting attitudes" which are basically rejecting. Such attitudes appear negative, aggressive, and rejecting and contribute to, but was not totally responsible for, the problems they encounter as new arrivals on campus.


Many Native Americans assert their cultural identities through the maintenance of ties to their various national identities. Many Hispanics and Asian Americans assert their cultural identities through the maintenance of their language and other traditions. The students who come from these families, to a significant extent, retain those cultural identities. African Americans have a rich tradition in America, but they have neither another language, nor a collected memory of themselves as inhabitants of other lands. Their ample contributions to, and involvement with, the national life have been noted by Harper (1973) and Griffith (1978), and they appear to represent an investment in the national culture.




Culture is not neatly defined in the minds of social scientists. Rather, it is a human structure which has variations in meaning depending upon the branch of social science from which the definition is provided. Although "no one person has internalized it all," the explicit portions of a culture are "internalized by participant individuals. A composite (of a culture) exists in the total group as well as being manifested in its artifacts" (Kluckhohn,1962, p.72).


"Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other as conditioning influences upon further action" (Kluckhohn, 1962, p. 73) .


By the Kluckhohn definition of culture, African Americans' contributions in the areas of art, music, literature, and technology are etched so deeply into the fabric of the United States that they cannot be extracted. In spite of those who may dislike the fact, African Americans appear to be as much a part of the "American culture" as any of those persons who claim it (Franklin, 1967 and Woodson and Wesley, 1966).


But higher education personnel lump all of the nontraditional students together as culturally different. The current strategies for communicating with them are called "cross-cultural" Because nontraditional students are clearly from different ethnic groups than the White ethnic groups represented in the traditional student body, college and university personnel think they have to use different strategies than the ones they use when they attempt to help White students. Although this may be true, it does not necessarily follow that nontraditional students come from a different culture, and such a generalization should never be made. Some of the issues have to do with eye contact, proximity during a conversation, directiveness versus the providing of options, and self disclosure (Keneshige, 1973; Sue & Sue, 1973; Watanabe, 1973; Littlefield, 1974; Ruiz & Padilla, 1977; and Seligman, 1977).


The problem with attempting to use special strategies that are designated to satisfy nontraditional students' needs in E:;, of these areas is that the needs do not generalize well either within or across groups. Some students react differently in interpersonal situations than would many other individuals from their group. Higher education personnel need to be sensitive to the interactional needs of groups of nontraditional students, but more than that, they need a set of strategies that will enable them to establish rapport with any individuals that arepotentially different from themselves in interpersonal interaction styles.


The purposes of this study were to survey educational and psychological literature, as cataloged in the Education Index,



for (1) labels used in talking about nontraditional students and (2) understandings about problems in inter-ethnic interactions, or problems in talking to (i.e. developing and maintaining rapport with) nontraditional students.




In an effort to explore appropriate ways of referring to nontraditional students, the last 40 years of educational and psychological articles, as indexed by the Education Index, were surveyed. In the Education Index subject headings are written to reflect the terminology used in articles. The headings change as new terminology dictates. When new terminology begins to appear, the user is alerted to this phenomenon by "See references" from the old terminology to the new.


In the next section will be found one table which lists terminology that is used to identify articles that were published about minority people and related issues, and one table which shows how cross-cultural is typically used in educational and psychological literature. The key to entering the Education Index was the term "disadvantaged." Articles that were published under a given label were counted. The point at which the term branched or was retired was noted by a new entry. The new terms were added to the table, and the same process was repeated. The survey began with indexed articles on January 1, 1950 and ended with articles indexed through December 31, 1989.



            Results and Discussion

1950-1959 - Focus on Acculturation


In early 1950's there was relatively little concern expressed in the educational literature about the second-class citizenship that had been imposed on minority groups in the country. The oldest term found in the literature that reflected concern about them was "acculturation."


"Acculturation is a process of developing one culture system out of two or more culture systems whose human representatives are in contact with each other . . . . It occurs to a degree in the realm of the unconscious and a new culture mosaic becomes accepted before its subjects are aware of its adoption" (Bogardus 1950, p. 203). The process through which acculturation takes place can be (a) blind, (b) imposed, or (c) democratic. Democratic acculturation is thought to be the best of the types It starts with the assumption that all cultures are equal and served the purposes of the groups who caused them to evolve. However, culture, is perfect and herein lies the advantage of having people from other cultures immigrate. They can bring culture patterns that can be useful to the host culture (Bogardus, 1950).


When acculturation evolves imperfectly, friction can develop among the different ethnic groups. Intercultural education i6 process which has been developed to study such conflicts, and to provide resolution for them (Bogardus, 1949). An intercultural workshop was developed in the Bureau of Intercultural Education





at the University of Southern California, and it was devoted largely to moderating tensions that developed in the Los Angeles public school system among ethnic, racial, and religious groups (Cole, 1946).


The indexing of an average of 185 journals over the period of 1950 through 1959 showed that an average of about two articles per year were published on the topic of acculturation (See Table 1, Column 1). Writers, however, were generally more concerned about foreign nationals being acculturated.


Acculturation had been in use for some years and had branched into "intercultural" concerns. There were a number of articles indexed under intercultural education (M=15.6 per year) which discussed various racial and religious concerns, but was largely international in focus, including education concerning learning more about the cultures of individuals who migrated to the United States.


There was, however, a radical shift in authors' interest in issues indexed as "racially different." Interest in racially different issues went from an average of roughly three per year in 1950-1957 to an average of 10 per year in 1958-1959. This was the period during which African Americans, under the leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, made a vigorous push for human rights, public accommodations, and equal education in general. Under the




banner of "scientific" education and psychology, writers were raising issues which would ultimately be used to delay African American's enjoyment of opportunities in the United States.


1960-1969 - Focus on Differences, Deprivation and Disadvantagement


During the period 1960 through 1969 an average of 291 articles which relate to minority issues were indexed (See Table 1, Column 2). Interests in acculturation remained at about the same level while interests in intercultural education dropped a bit. Acculturation branched a second time into "culturally different" which was a subtle but aggressive and regressive shift. It was directed away from the consideration of cultural groups being equals (Bogardus, 1949) to a focus on differences.


       Some examples of how writers were thinking about non-Anglo ethnic groups are as follows: African American parents and their children differed from middle class--primarily White groups—in their willingness to persevere to goals in the face of obstacles, and they differed in their assessment of real versus ideal goals (Weiner and Murray, 1963).


"The advantaged person, on the whole, takes pride in himself and his life. He feels comfortable in, and able to cope with, our complex society. His values are in order. He knows the difference between right and wrong. He has the social skills get along effectively with his fellowman, and he accepts some responsibility toward those less fortunate than himself. He has




a purpose in life. He is aware of his abilities, and he is reasonably certain he can achieve his goals.


"The disadvantaged person has difficulty thinking well of himself, and he uses devious ways to justify his existence. He feels he has been cheated of the chance to develop into a successful person. Fair play and moral and social responsibility make little sense to him. He is reticent or insecure about his abilities and unsure of his goals. Often the disadvantaged person is convinced that he cannot achieve any commendable goals" (Congreve, 1966, p. 4).


"Disadvantaged children are usually too demoralized and frustrated, and too powerless to combat the forces that confuse and ensnare their lives. They 'know' they are failures, and they are convinced they always will be. They live in defeat and despair, and feel inferior and exiled from the prevailing society. The majority are too disillusioned and dispirited to care. They have been rejected and discouraged too many times to have any ideas of hope or ambition. They will not even try to do what is necessary to escape their deprivation -- stay in school for instance.


"Also, the disadvantaged cannot cope with humiliation, nor can they assimilate an attack on their dignity or values. Resentment, intense anxiety, and often direct hostility are manifested among these adolescents. Any aspect of authority: their parents, their teachers, the law, the school, is a direct target for their anger. Similarly, emotional disorders requiring





specialized treatment are common among many of these children" (Ornstein, 1966, p. 155).

The last example establishes an interesting equation between "deprivation" and "differences." Glatt (1965) said, "deprivation can quite obviously be related to certain ethnic and religious groups, social classes. and residential districts. But to say so is to invite a whirlwind of unfavorable reaction," and for that reason authors are less clear about cultural deprivation than they could be. He goes on to be clear by saying, "Common and often easily identified causes of deprivation are economic status, housing, previous formal education, physical and mental health, and access to religious instruction. Other just as significant but less readily specified reasons for differences include family attitudes and values, use of free time, maturation, interests, appreciations, and accessibility of learning materials outside of school.


"The students coming into our schools bring with them diverse backgrounds and reflect differences based on these and. other causes. Growth and development that occur in the classroom often tend to accentuate rather than to ameliorate such differences" (Glatt, 1965, p. 6).

This is the period during which the first significant Civil Rights legislation, since the Supreme Court's 1954 decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional, was passed. "Culturally different," which later elaborated into "cultural differences," reflected authors' recognition of the ground swell




of concern in the educational community for how to deal with unfamiliar ethnic groups who were rapidly becoming the majority in urban schools. The "cultural differences" literature often purported to specify what the differences were and that they could often be found in the communities represented by Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans who were "culturally deprived" (Riga, 1977), and proclaimed their needs for specially trained teachers.


"Racially different" gave way to "race differences" which grew steadily from its entry into the Index in 1961 through the end of the decade. "Race discrimination" and "race prejudice" became higher level concerns and reached their peak during the period 1964 through 1969. Many authors were interested in understanding the reasons behind the inner city riots, which were labeled the "long hot summers."

"Racism" arose as one of the answers (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968), however, many articles were critical of the African Americans who reacted with riotous behavior to historical frustrations as well as to events such as the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Concerns for racial tolerance and "race relations" were raised to their highest levels during this period.


1970-1979 - Focus on Culture Specific Differences


During the period 1970 through 1979 authors' interests in cultural deprivation and the culture-specific labels arose. Under the 11 culture-specific labels beginning with "cross





cultural studies" and ending with "education for the culturally deprived children" (See Table 1, Column 3) more than 1000 articles were published. Henson (1973) took the position that writers and speakers on cultural deprivation or the general topic of "disadvantagement" had not been careful to talk about the same things. Their messages and presentations were therefore inconsistent and basically negative. He discussed an instance in which one writer, David Coyle, had labeled as "unlucky" "American Indians, Mexican-Americans, Negroes, migrant Americans, and adolescents." At a later date, an educator cited Coyle's "unlucky" group along with others and labeled all of them "disadvantaged." Henson thought many groups of Americans had a way of life which left them somehow short of the ability to achieve the education that is currently needed. He thought that "Programs and people are needed which will focus on helping identify these special needs and to find ways to filling them" (p. 120) but without confusing the issue with inconsistent labels.


Hawk (1967) believed the "disadvantaged" students' problem to be one of a negative self-concept. He cited research to support his notion that their problems are resolvable (1) if they are given experiences which encourage them to think of themselves as equal and acceptable to people around them, (2) to think of themselves as the prime determiners of their behavior, and (3) to view themselves as adequate, valuable, and worthy but not through the environment of the integrated school (busing was at that time




a primary mode of accomplishing integrated schools). While several studies had shown that upward social mobility is more probable when the lower-class child has access to the behavior patterns and the value standards of the middle-class child, Hawk (1967) found that "culturally deprived" children in "predominantly deprived schools received more friendship choices and leadership choices from their classmates," which suggests an environment which can support the building and maintenance of a positive self concept.


Bossone (1970) discussed the problems of teachers and administrators who were motivated to do an effective job of educating ethnic group children but who were defeated by their inept educational backgrounds. He said "Education must place more emphasis upon affective and less upon cognitive objectives; that is, there must be more attention given to the concerns of the learner and not just the concerns of the academic discipline."


While each of the latter positions appears to attempt to take some of the negative valence away from the massive aversive characterization of nontraditional students, they raise their own "yellow flags." Nontraditional students are certain they have not enjoyed sufficiently concentrated concern. Henson (1973) would dilute what they get. Hawk (1967) made a credible case for the self-concept issue, but his solution cut across the educational environment strategies that had long been accepted as important to the achievement of equal education. Bossone (1970)





made appropriate criticisms of professionals' failing to teach children of ethnic group families, but he appeared to focus away from the necessity of the achievement of cognitive objectives, which was precisely the problem.


1980-1989 - Focus on Multicultural Education


During the period 1980's acculturation continued at a low level of interest to authors, and intercultural education and intergroup education elaborated into assimilation, or merging into the dominant culture, and multicultural education (See Table 1, Column 4). The label of multicultural education (M=44.7) suggested authors' interest in recognizing the existence of other ethnic groups, but the impulse had inherent problems. It assumed an "ours versus theirs" view toward culture. It also risked confusing ethnic with cultural issues, and in the process paying inappropriate levels of attention to them, e.g., rating cultures based on the nutritional contents of certain preferred foods when it is probably an ethnic issue.


The use of culture to characterize interactions among U.S ethnic groups is questionable. When people from different cultures live side by side, they tend to adopt the parts of each others culture that they feel to be superior to their own (Bogardus, 1949). Although it is possible for groups to clash because of conflicting traditions, problems between people are likely to be at a less macro-level.


Pate and Garcia (1981) attempted to study the extent of multi-ethnic/multi-cultural programs in schools represented by





700 members of a national social studies supervisors organization. They received a 21 percent return rate from a questionnaire, which was too low for generalization, other than perhaps, in a negative way. Many of the programs appeared to have been put together in a thoughtless fashion, few had any standard form of evaluation, few had human relations goals, and some of the programs appeared to have been traditional courses in traditional academic divisions rather than special ways of treating content about other cultures.


Ornstein and Levine (1982) noted that, "multicultural education can be indispensable in helping to achieve constructive cultural pluralism in a nation composed of diverse ethnic groups. At the same time, however, multicultural education can be potentially harmful or damaging. In general, the potential dangers of multicultural education are the same as those associated with the larger concept of cultural pluralism. The major dangers according to Ornstin and Levine are:


(1) "Multicultural education can emphasize separatism in a way that is divisive and disunifying:"

a)Emphasis on differences may give impetus to those who always wanted and continue to want segregation.

b)Emphasis on differences may make it impossible to develop a citizenry which values a national identity.


(2) "Multicultural education may be used to justify second class


    a)Programs may be generally thought to be second rate.





      b) The Pate and Garcia experiences above may be cases in


(3) "Multicultural education may lead to fragmentation of the

school curriculum;"

a)Irrelevant or at best elementary facts about an ethnic group may be substituted for more relevant information.


b)Simplistic presentations of material about ethnic groups, when it could otherwise be integrated into general information of the topic, could be more damaging than helpful to the group. Ornstein and Levine further reflected upon the general reversal in the Nation in the early 1970's on the notion of the "melting pot" in favor of cultural pluralism. What they failed to mention is the fact that the reversal coincides (a) with the periods when non-White ethnic groups, African Americans in particular, were demanding equal treatment and (b) with the period when the culturally deprived labels became so prominent in the educational literature.


Cross cultural studies (M=31.1) is another way of saying "we are different." It pays attention to differences rather than to similarities, and the differences observed were of people who, by the observers' definition, could not cope. Authors had become so convinced that culturally deprived was an appropriate descriptive label for Hispanic, Native American, and African American students (Higa, 1977), although primarily the latter, that they had begun to devote their time to prescribing the kinds of services that were needed by these groups. There were high



priorities placed on counseling services (M=17.6) and education for counselors (M=53.6) and, to a lesser extent, for education for psychologists, teachers in training, inservice teachers, and for culturally deprived children.


      Of the hundreds of articles that were written about different aspects of "cultural deprivation," few statements in any of those that were reviewed could be read by ethnic minority persons without some loss of pride. But another group of articles categorized as cross cultural studies were of a very different character.


Over the past few years, cross cultural has become more often used to describe interactions between ethnic minority individuals and White persons. It should be noted, however, that this trend, regarding inter-ethnic interactions, has not been picked up in the indexed literature where it has been in use otherwise for over 20 years.


As can be noted from Table 2, since 1970 over 550 articles have been indexed under "cross cultural studies." Over 60 percent of these articles have the name of a foreign country, e.g., Sweden, as one source of data for the study. In the remaining 30+ percent articles, there are also likely some with a foreign country data source. This means that over thelife of the use of the term, cross cultural has been used primarily to signify interactions between persons from the United States and some other country.





If non-White ethnic minority groups cooperate in having themselves labeled with any of the current terms that include "cultural," they have a choice between being put-down with "culturally deprived," or of being put-out (of the national citizenship network) with "cross cultural." On the other hand, "inter-ethnic" logically describes interactions between or among ethnic groups, of which the United States has many. Several are White; several are Hispanic; several are African American; several are Native American; and several are Asian American. Ethnic groups are assumed to have human rights within the Nation. The constitution does not permit de jure discrimination. If labels are essential to communications, the best that can be done is to begin with one that treats all groups equally. Interethnic appears to have the edge on any label that has "cultural" in its name.


There were still strong needs to discuss race differences (M=39.9), and there was little concern that this contributed to racial discrimination or prejudice. There was, however, heightened concern that racism was somehow involved in the problems between the races, and expressions of needs for race relations (M=18.9) activities were at the second highest level for the 40 year period.




Over the 40 year period during which articles were reviewed, the professions moved from relatively little concern for the plight of African Americans who were denied human rights, to a



great deal of attention which might at times be mistaken for concern. As a matter of fact, many of the expressions probably did more to exacerbate problems for the groups than they did to help.

Buchheimer (1968) and others saw the "disadvantaged" label as scapegoating persons to whom opportunities had been denied. It probably affected the self esteem of some individuals (Brookover, Erickson, and Joiner, 1967; and Epps, 1969), discouraged others, contributed to the suspicion of still others, and got the latter labeled by what Grier and Cobb (1968) and Ridley (1984) called "healthy cultural paranoia."

Sedlacek and Brooks (1970), in a national survey of university admissions personnel, reported that authors recognized that Black and disadvantaged were not synonymous. They also discussed Blacks having had different cultural experiences without attributing "cultural differences" to the individuals. Kluckhohn's (1962) definition of culture raises profound questions about the appropriateness of labeling U.S. minorities with any kind of cultural term because of the experiences they have had in the country.


Clearly all of the worlds' racial types are represented among the minority groups under discussion. Sedlacek and Brooks (1976) advocated acknowledging those differences, but the context is important. When it is done in the context of a workshop to reduce racism, as they suggested, the purposes for doingthe exercise can be discussed and participants can adjust erroneous





impressions given or mistaken impressions received. When individuals take it upon themselves to counsel others in writing, the best intended communication can be mis-stated or mis-read with little chance of amends ever being made.


Communicating about minority groups can be a hazardous or cumbersome exercise. Calling them disadvantaged, deprived, or by any other deficiency label can be disastrous for communications. The differences among the groups in question are probably ethnic and racial, and nothing else can be certain until a number of hypotheses have been tested with each individual encountered. Since "communicating about" suggests the absence of the objects of the communication, no hypothesis testing is possible. If identification of the group interaction is essential to the communication, inter-ethnic would appear to be appropriately descriptive and sufficient.


Counseling between two individuals from groups that have a history of different customs or characteristics, or a different language or common history is by definition inter-ethnic counseling. There is no reason, however, to elevate such interactions to the level of cross ­or inter-cultural interaction. A culture, according to Kluckhohn, can accommodate many different ethnic groups. To be an integral part of the culture, they need only contribute to the patterns of behaviors ideas, values, and the transmittal of the same to successive generations. Griffith (1978) suggested that such contributions





by African Americans are well known in the history of the United States.

It is not respectful of a group, as some would declare, to infer a cultural difference between two individuals simply because they are from different racial or ethnic heritages, or because one has more money than the other. To do so, in the United States of America, is to infer a superiority-inferiority continuum between the two "ethnic" representatives. It is unlikely, under current circumstances, that ethnic minority groups in the United States could feel complimented by such a characterization.




This area raises issues which are relevant to professionals who work with individuals on one-to-one, small group, and small gathering (as in workshops) bases, and possibly not for others. "Talking to" here assumes that the speaker is in a situation in which there is a two-way communication. Westwood and Ishiyama (1990) proposed that the communication process is an intervention for client change, in and of itself, and not just as a medium through which change concepts are implemented. This makes it imperative that the communication carry with it valence that supports the general purposes of the speaker.


Although some of Griffith's (1978) conclusions are arguable, he made a credible case regarding how the primarily White university environment impresses African American students, as opposed to how it impresses the White population for whom it was



designed. One of the reasons is that for many African Americans, being at the university is the first time they have been in such close contact with White persons who are obviously in control of

them. While White students are also controlled, they may have had more prior experience being in such situations.


Potkay and Fullerton (1973), from a primarily White sample of college students, found complaints among them which they labeled "negotiating the university system." In an independent study, Westbrook and Smith (1976) found that African American students were particularly impressed by the control that primarily White university personnel had over them. Some examples are, "who they had to talk to in order to resolve particular problems," "how to determine who would make decisions them," etc. These problems were characterized the same as Potkay and Fullerton had, i.e. "negotiating the university system." The basic issue in here is the effect of talking to university personnel.


Westbrook, Miyares, and Roberts (1978) administered a 20 item Student Problem Survey to samples of African American students at an African American university, and African American and White students at a White university. There were several interesting items that were significantly different between African American students and White students, but negotiating university system was not one of them.


Negotiating the university system is of interest here for two reasons: (1) In the Westbrook, et al (1978) study both



African American and White students felt more intense about the effects of talking to university personnel (negotiating the university system) than they did about some of the items where there were significant differences between them, but their levels of intensity were relatively equal; and (2) Tracey and Sedlacek (1987) have a scale on their Non-cognitive Questionnaire, "understanding and dealing with racism," which measures very similar concerns.


One level of assessment on the Tracey and Sedlacek racism scale is directed at determining the extent to which the person understands racism. The second level is an attempt to determine the extent to which the person is willing to confront racism in a healthy manner. Individuals who are in vulnerable positions are encouraged to confront racism when there can be important positive outcomes, but not when negative outcomes are more likely than positive ones.


Bowen's Differentiation Concept


Family systems theory provides a model for beginning a positive communication process with nontraditional students. Radke-Yarrow, Trager, and Miller (1952) found some verification for parents exercising a major function of teaching children how to relate to the outside world. Bowen (1978) proposed that this instruction, either direct or indirect, goes back as far as three generations through a process of projection. How independently persons interact with the outside world is determined by the persons' level of differentiation from her/his family.



If persons remain undifferentiated from their family of orientation, they interact through the process of triangulation. Triangulation describes the way three people relate to each other around emotional issues that are among them. A triangle is the smallest unit of any stable relationship system. Dyads function efficiently until anxiety arises, at which time the third party in the relationship triangle is used to bring stability to the dyadic relationship. Triangles develop in families through the "family projection process." Bowen (1978) indicated that the triangulation process begins before the birth of a child as the mother (parents) plan(s) for its coming (p. 127). After the child is born, the parents begin to project expectations upon him/her.


The child typically accepts the projections and may in addition introject some of the parental values on its own accord The child may incorporate parental values, attitudes, and characteristics that range from minor and inconsequential to major and pronounced. It is through this process that the individual remains involved to some extent with past generations.


       Triangles are normal and natural building blocks for relationships units. They exist in all families, but few if any family members are carbon copies of their nuclear family systems. The variable which makes this possible is called differentiation. The extent to which successive generations differ from their

ancestors is a function of individual differentiation and the merging of alien members into new nuclear family units.




Several researchers have commented upon the differences they have observed between the ways some Asian American (Sue and Sue, 1973), Native American (Henkin, 1985), Hispanic (Vela, 1977), and African American and White (Ridley, 1984) students conduct themselves when they are interviewed by an "authority figure."


Radke, Trager, and Davis (1949) studied the social perceptions and attitudes about racial matters in African American and White children from kindergarten through second grade in a northeastern city. The researchers showed the children a group of pictures and asked them questions about the pictorial content. In one of the pictures, an African American child was standing off alone while a group of White children played. The following are excerpts of typical responses by grade when the interviewers showed the picture and asked, "Will they (the other children) ask him to play? They all answered no and added: White child, second grade--"Because he is colored and don't want to play with white boys, and white people don't want to play with him because they know he cheats and is too tough." Second child, second grade--"All of them go away and leave this little boy alone. That is what happens around my street." White child, kindergarten--"A colored boy is in our neighborhood and we don't play with 


him. I don't trust him A colored pulled my hair in this school, so I ain't playing with

no more niggers." White child, kindergarten--"I know (the little boy is

colored). We have colored people in our neighborhood. My father wants to get out of

that neighborhood because he doesn't like colored people." Negro child, second grade-­

"They won't let him play. They don't like colored. "Negro child, first grade--"Colored boy can't play with whites" (p. 367).


The researchers reported that most of the children showed some reluctance to talk about racial issues. When they were prodded to give their impressions of the pictures, the White children quickly lost their resistance to talking. On the other hand, a significant number of African American children showed their inhibitions to talking about race by never mentioning it without being asked. Another percentage of them showed discomfort and anxiety as they cooperated.


       Radke-Yarrow, Trager, and Miller (1952) replicated the study with parents and children and found identical attitudes among the children, and they found that the parents either taught negative ideas to their children, discussed racial matters in earshot of the children, or restricted the children's activities such that they got the ideas they expressed at school. The researchers




concluded that the parents in both groups communicated prejudices and misconceptions to their children and gave explanations that would neither represent true racial differences nor would they solve racial problems.


Ridley (1984) discussed, the disinclination of African American students to self disclose to a White counselor. He quoted Grier and Cobb (1968) who stated (p. 149) that "it is necessary for a black man in America to develop a profound distrust of his white fellow citizens . . . If he does not so protect himself, he will live a life of such pain and shock as to find life itself unbearable." Myrdal (1944) reported that because of their experiences in a segregated society where they had only the most primitive human rights, African Americans were reluctant to talk to White people about anything. Grier and Cobb and Ridley called this defensive behavior "normal cultural paranoia." Ashby (1986), Bronstein (1986), and Thompson, Neville, Weathers, Poston, and Atkinson (1990) take issue with the "paranoia" part of the description. Thompson et al, renamed the response "racism reaction." None of the authors was willing to "blame the victims" of segregation, discrimination, and rejection for acting cautiously in the presence of a White person. \


An Example Using Bowen's Differentiation Concept


Westbrook and Sedlacek (1988) used the Bowen differentiation concept in a series of vignettes to teach workshop participants how to begin to obviate the racism reaction (Thompson, et al.





1990) as a barrier to their communications with ethnic minority students. One of the vignettes has to do with taking a hypothetical student of 18 years old and assigning an average age, at the student's birth, to his/her same-sex parent, e.g., 25. The 18-year-old student's parent would then be 43. One then assigns a similar child-birth age to the student's grandparent and great-grandparent.


The hypothetical student's age is 18 and was born in 1973, the parent is 43 and was born in 1948, the grandparent is 68 and was born in 1923, and the great-grandparent is 93 and was born in 1898. Participants were then asked to remember what was happening in the United States for African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans at times that parallel the different generations for the student's family. Within these time lines major periods of official disadvantagement were either in process or recently past. Of course, workers with ethnic minority students need to know this history (Griffith, 1978; and Westwood and Ishiyama, 1990).




Reasoning from Bowen's position, it must be assumed that ethnic minority students know things, which they learned from their families, which justify the racism reaction. Whether or not their suspicions about a given majority worker are true, the majority workers who want to communicate effectively with them need to be willing to do what it takes to build rapport with the helpee. They will need either to reflect upon, research, or





speculate about the messages they themselves got in their families about ethnic minority people, and how their attitudes may affect their working relationships. They will need to understand their level of differentiation from detrimental attitudes and values that might have existed in their families, and be willing to discuss these matters with the student in order to clear the air.

Communicating effectively with minority students may be no more difficult than it is to admit that one may be among those persons in our culture who have had, although unsolicited, advantages that have given them a head start on certain ethnic groups in the country. An act of this type may serve to remove barriers caused by the racism reaction, which Schmedinghoff (1977) believed to exist.


There has been a great deal of scapegoating of ethnic groups in our culture. The labeling has often prevented students at all levels to prepare to contribute optimally to the culture. The assigning of deficiency labels neither relieves educators of the responsibility of educating students nor does it deny students learning opportunities. Students learn outside of school, and they may learn things that are most beneficial for the culture.


The Report of the National Advisory Commission on civil Disorders (1968) said "Our Nation is moving toward two societies, one white and one black -- separate and unequal" (p. 1). We are 23 years closer to that point. It is not clear what it will take

to eliminate the distance that has developed between ethnic



groups, but it is clear that only communications unfettered by suspicion will enable fair minded individuals to work together to discover solutions. Negative labels will not help.







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definitions. Journal of Child Language, 15, 619-635.


Bogardus, E. S. (1949). Cultural pluralism and acculturation. Sociology and Social Research, 34, 125-129.


Bogardus, E. S. (1950). Intercultural education and acculturation. Sociology and Social Research, 34,



Bossone, R. M. (1970). Disadvantaged teachers in disadvantaged schools. Contemporary Education, 41, 183-185.


Bowen, M. (1978). Family practice in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson.


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Grier, W., & Cobb, P. (1968). Black Rage. New York: Bantam,


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19, 249


Harper, F. D. (1973). What counselors must know about the social sciences of Black Americans. Journal of

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Hawk, T. L. (1967). Self concept of the socially disadvantaged. The Elementary School Journal, 67, 196-206.





Henkin, W. A. (1985). Toward counseling the Japanese in America: A cross-cultural primer. Journal of

Counseling and Development, 63, 500-503.


Henson, K. T. (1973). Who are the disadvantaged? Clearing House, 48, 117-120.


Higa, G. (1977). Ethnic scholarship and the 14th Amendment. Journal of College Student Personnel, 18,



Keneshige, E. (1973). Cultural factors in group counseling and interaction. Personnel and Guidance Journal,

51, 407-412.


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Myrdal, G. (1944). An American Dilemma. New York: Harper.


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Ornstein, A. C., & Levine, D. U. (1982). Multicultural education: Trends and issues. Childhood Education, 58,



Pate, G. S., & Garcia, J. (1981). Multi-ethnic/multi-cultural education: A review of program. Clearing House,

55, 132-133.





Potkay, C., & Fullerton, J. (1973). Student perception of pressures, helps, and psychological services.

Journal of College Student Personnel, 14, 355-361.


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Monographs, 40, 360-367.


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ethnic attitudes. Child Development, 23, 13-53.


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Ridley, C. R. (1984). Clinical treatment of the nondisclosing black client. American Psychologist, 39,



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unintended determinants of pupils' intellectual competence. In Deutsch, M., Katz, I., & Jensen, A.R. (eds.) Social Class, Race, and Psychological Development. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.


Ruiz, R., & Padilla, A. M. (1977). Counseling Latinos. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 55, 401-408.


Scanzoni, J. J. (1970). Opportunity and the family. New York: The Free Press.


Schmedinghoff, G. J. (1977). Counseling black students in higher education: Is it racial, socioeconomic, or

human question? Journal of College Student Personnel, 18, 472-477.





Sedlacek, W. E., & Brooks, G. C., Jr. (1970). Black freshmen in large colleges: A survey. Personnel and

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Seligman, L. (1977). Haitians: A neglected minority. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 55, 409-411.


Sue,   D. W. & Sue, D. (1973). Understanding Asian-Americans: The neglected minority--An overview. Personnel

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Thompson, C.E., Neville, H., Weathers, P.L., Poston, W.C., & Atkinson, D.R. (1990). Cultural mistrust and

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Tracey, T. J., & Sedlacek, W. E. (1987). Prediction of college graduation using noncognitive variables by

race. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 19, 177-184.


Vela, J.E. (1977). A comparison of chicano and anglo perceptions of the university environment. Journal of

College Student Personnel, 18, 462-466.


Watanabe, C. (1973). Self-expression and the Asian-American experience. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 51,



Weiner, M., & Murray, W. (1963). Another look at the culturally deprived and their levels of aspiration. The Journal of Educational Sociology, 36, 319-321.



Westbrook, F. D., Miyares, J., & Roberts, J. H. (1978). Perceived problem areas by Black and White students

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Westbrook, F. D. & Smith, J. B. (1976). Assisting Black resident students at a predominantly White

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Associated Publishers.




Table 1: Descriptive Terminology for Articles Published between January 1, 1950 and December 31, 1989






Mean Per Year

Journals Indexed






































































Cross Cultural
















































































Teachers for





 the C.D.





Education for





 the T.C.D.















Education for



































Education for



































Race Prejudice





Race Relations










-      = Years before articles were indexed under term.

0 = No articles were indexed under the term.

C.D.=Culturally Deprived

T.C.D.=Teachers of the Culturally Deprived

I.T.C.D.=Inservice Teachers of the Culturally Deprived

C.D.C=Culturally Deprived Children


Table 2: Numbers and Percentages of Articles That Were Indexed under Cross Cultural Studies with Foreign Country Names in the Titles











Country in Title