11.2.06

WORKS WELL WITH OTHERS. Scott at Inside Higher Ed interviews sociologist Carrie Young Costello on some field work she has done with social work and law students.
Costello finds that there is an undeclared yet unmistakable WASP accent to the professional roles that students are training to acquire. Along with technical expertise, they have to assimilate the necessary demeanor and attitude. For students of some backgrounds, that presents no real difficulties — so they can, as Costello puts it, “focus on the intellectual tasks of professional school with little distraction.” But for those with “a mismatch between the personal identities they possess upon entering their professional programs and the professional roles those schools proffer,” there can be a jarring dissonance.
Once upon a time, our common schools attempted to inculcate habits of punctuality, dependability, and a respect for evidence in everybody. Might a misplaced "affirmation" of bad habits as cultural characteristics be setting up people for future failure?
Race and gender aren’t the only factors making for identity dissonance in professional schools; so is strong religious commitment. “Particularly at risk in my sample were evangelical Christian women who used a ‘what-would-Jesus-do’ standard to guide all of their behavior and decisions,” notes Costello, “but students from other religious backgrounds whose religious dictates took precedence over other commitments could also be at risk.”
No easy answers.

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