Educational Editorial: Sensitivity training

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The media has recently carried stories about controversies involving sensitivity training. Wikipedia defines it as "a form of training that claims to make people more aware of their own prejudices and more sensitive to others."

It goes on to say that its critics claim that it uses "psychological techniques" identical to brainwashing tactics. Wikipedia also states that Training Groups, or T-Groups, were developed by the National Training Labs, now a part of the National Education Association.

Well, what should this mean for schools? My bias is that T-Groups have no place in schools.  The practice of asking people to emotionally undress without providing any clothes in return leaves them psychologically naked. Its like Linus without his blanket.

We must also be careful of code words. While speaking to a group, I said that bigotry knows no race. I have met people who were bigots of all colors.

Following the meeting, a lady passionately explained to me that you could not be in the minority and be a racist. She stated that it is a behavior that is only applied by the majority on the minority.

Wow! Does this mean that if you are a minority you can not be prejudiced? Certainly not the case!

Lastly, if we are going to teach sensitivity, understanding others, we should include all religions or cultures or ethnicities. To assume that you are understood because you are in the majority, it perhaps prejudice as well. If we invite a Buddist Monk into the schools it is called enlightenment but an invitation to a Baptist minister is called insensitivity.

And a caution as well, perhaps we are to sensitive. Awareness and understanding are critical to living together. Maybe the role for schools is to focus on the things that we have in common rather than our differences.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.