(His)tory

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the places that I have been to or lived in the past several years, and I feel a certain amount of culture shock because of all this relocating.  The talk in class about privilege, inclusion, and diversity gave me the idea to blog about my experiences.  By the time I will have graduated from Virginia Tech, I will have earned four different college degrees from four different colleges across three states.  This includes a community college, a private 4 year university, and two state schools.  The very fact that I have been able to pursue this much education is evidence of privilege itself.  In reflecting on all that I have learned through this process, I can see that I’ve experienced a number of cultural differences in each of those universities as well as cultural differences in each of those locations.  I want to take away better ways of doing things from each of these colleges and locations in order to help improve the universities and cultures I encounter in the future.

 

This learning process of mine has definitely led to a number of challenges along the way, but I am a proponent of experiencing diverse locations and cultures as a way to learn and grow.  I think that people can find themselves in situations in which their privilege is reduced (and hopefully still be safe) as learning experiences.  I can see how the experiences that I have had in which my privilege has been taken away have given me better empathy, recognition, and understanding for diversity.  When I was younger living in Montana, I thought I had an idea of what it was like to be discriminated against based on one’s race, but I was completely wrong!  I could not have known that experience when I was surrounded by so many people that looked like me.  When I moved to Hawaii and was a racial minority for the first time in my life, it provided me with an eye opening experience.  Actually being discriminated against because of the color of my skin felt so real and raw, in a way that I never could have imagined before that.  Without giving away my entire history, the situations in which I’ve come across threats to aspects of my identity (such as a reduced socioeconomic status or an injury that limits my physical abilities) have all been reminders of what some people have to face every single day.  Some of these events have been very hard for me, yet provided opportunities for me to grow as a person.  Being a counselor, these experiences of reduced privilege have been extremely valuable to better understand the clients that I work with.  I recognize that everyone’s experiences are different, so I wouldn’t want to compare the events in my life to what others have experienced.  However, having more of an understanding how someone might feel is so important to me being able to help others.

 

Growing up in Montana was so different than the years I lived in Hawaii, and is different from living in Virginia.  Being in all of these different cultures has been just as much of an education as the counseling classes that I have taken over the years.  I don’t know that I would be the person I am today without having had those experiences.  I know that I have a lot of privilege being a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, Christian male who was born in this country, and I used to feel a great amount of guilt for that.  But at this point in my life, I don’t want to feel guilty for privilege that I never asked for.  If anything, I want to use the privilege in order to reduce oppression that takes place in our world.  I want to be able to speak up when I see injustice and hope that my voice can help reduce the inequities we face every day.  I think the discussion in class on Monday is another good step along the way to educate each other about how bias, prejudice, discrimination, etc. can really affect a lot of people.  And I’m not perfect by any means!  I have been guilty of making assumptions about people too.  I think I learn more every day about diversity, and I encourage each of you to be aware of the diversity around you, notice your own biases (we all have them), and learn from the experiences that you encounter.  Each of us has so much to offer to this world, and I hope to continue learning from each of you how to create more inclusion and diversity in the systems we live in.

 

I hope these words can be inspirational to people.  Choosing what to say in this blog was an emotional process for me but one that I hope benefits people with a positive message.

Livin’ on a Prayer

Ok, so after looking at a number of ethical issues, this article stood out to me:

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/columbia_university_miracle_study_flawed_and_fraud

This miracle study came out in October of 2001, right after the attacks of September 11th.  This study found that the success rate for in vitro fertilization increased by 100% because of prayers from people in prayer groups.  This could have been a good time in our nation’s history to have some extra hope.  But if it seemed to good to be true, it was!

 

What I find to be so outrageous is that this study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University.  This is no small school that people haven’t heard of.  The researchers claimed that this was a randomized controlled trial in which all of the women in the study were unaware that people were praying for them in various places of the world.  Following the link above, you can see how complicated this study was arranged, with prayers about prayers for the women being studied.  An investigation of the study found that there was no Internal Review Board (IRB) approval for the research and no informed consent was even given to the participants.  The authors of this study either refuse to comment or claim no affiliation with Columbia University in the third author’s case.  And that third author has since been indicted for fraud separate from this study.  I don’t even understand all of the convoluted details of this study, so if you want to know more, the link above is the place to go.

I find myself wondering why researchers would even attempt to fabricate these findings and how they would think that nobody would look deeper into it.  A study with this amazing of findings would seem to me to draw a lot of attention.  I recognize that there is pressure to “publish or perish” in higher education, but what is it that leads people to so blatantly create false data?  I can see how some researchers would want to edit a couple of numbers here and there to make their research look better.  Who would ever find out?  I couldn’t live with myself for doing that, but I can understand how some may have motives for such actions.  But this prayer study that is so clearly fabricated probably wouldn’t go unnoticed!

 

It seems like many of the studies we have been discussing in class are related to human subjects.  People can be hurt with these false results!  Part of me wants to take more of an active role in monitoring research in my field for unethical kinds of research.  What is it that journals can do to reduce these instances of fake research?  How is it that we as students, and someday faculty, can help improve ethics in research?  We spoke in class about how high the percentage is of high school and college students that cheat.  It would appear that cheating doesn’t stop completely at the researcher level.  One would imagine that we are held to a higher standard at that point, but somehow these unethical research projects keep popping up.  If anyone has answers as to how to reduce these infractions, I am open to hearing it.  I think we have to keep an open dialog about this because ignoring the problem won’t make it go away!

Culture and Codes of Ethics

After discussing the various code of ethics that we each encounter in our class last night, I found myself wondering how unique counselor education is from other fields.  Based on our discussion, I can see that our our code of ethics is very comprehensive compared to fields that don’t involve human subjects.  The question was posed in class about how ethics changes over time and from one place to another.  We frequently discuss this in counseling classes that so much of this is based on cultural differences.  Each of us sees the world from a unique cultural perspective, so ethics are relative to every culture and different from one field to another.  Within the counseling field, a major focus point of practice, research, and ethics is in multicultural competence.  One of my research interests is multicultural counseling, so I found myself wondering how being culturally aware may apply to other fields.  The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics references culture more times than I could count.  But other professions probably do not require such a specific focus on culture.  It seems like engineers for example do not need to be as culturally sensitive as counselors are.

 

However, as I looked around the classroom, I couldn’t help but notice all of the diversity in the room.  In this course we have people from different countries, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ages, etc.  These are all aspects of people’s culture that we speak about regularly as counselors but probably not as much in other disciplines.   If we are moving into professor positions, we can all (across each and every discipline) improve our education by being aware of how to communicate to those from different cultural backgrounds.  The communicating science class from last week is a great example of how we encounter moments when we communicate with different fields and people of all sorts of backgrounds.  Cultural competence may be an ethical code that requires more attention in counseling than in other fields, but it can still be a vital part of instruction.  Insulting cultural aspects of any of our students is not the best way to reach out to them.  However, being aware of how to teach in a manner that is culturally aware will not only the best practice for teaching, but it also gives us better opportunities to communicate between fields.  It does not happen all the time, but this class is an excellent example of how people from many varying disciplines and numerous cultural backgrounds come together for a single purpose.  It provides a great learning experience and a chance for us to see the world from others’ perspectives.  Hopefully we can all take that opportunity to improve how we communicate and teach those entering our respective fields.