On 30 May 2018, The Daily Vox published an opinion piece about a LGBTQIA+ student’s experience of the South African College of Applied Psychology’s (SACAP) curriculum on transgenderism and non-binary identities. DR ASHLEY SMYTH responds to Luke Sadler.
The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) would like to thank The Daily Vox for the opportunity to respond to the recent article by Luke Sadler.
As an academic institution we apply a number of criteria in selecting a prescribed textbook for a subject including, inter alia, that it facilitates the key learning objectives for the subject being studied, is broadly academically robust and credible within the context of these learning objectives, is as up to date as possible, and is consistent with textbooks used by other mainstream academic institutions both locally and internationally. In this regard, the textbook under discussion is in fact widely prescribed by major South African academic institutions.
SACAP consulted with a number of internal and external academics in the field to ensure that our students are continuously being exposed to the cutting edge of the discipline of psychology. However, no academic institution can ever make a claim of selecting a prescribed textbook that covers all facets of the subject at hand and which is reflective of all theories, opinions and perspectives. This is particularly so in the field of psychology where a broad range of theories and approaches exist including those which reflect a strong medical bias relative to others with a stronger cultural and social emphasis.
Furthermore, it can never be said that by prescribing a popular and relevant textbook for a given subject, that SACAP conveys institutional support for any and all views expressed in that textbook. The text will simply represent one particular view or a few select views, using particular evidence to back its claims.
The aim of any meaningful higher education teaching and learning environment is to encourage students to engage with academic literature in a way that develops strong critical thinking skills. We encourage our students to read texts critically and to broaden their scholarship (through additional readings and access to extensive library resources) to include texts with alternative theories, perspectives and opinions. This is precisely what we did in this case where two additional and important academic readings were sourced and added to the module’s curriculum, in order to provide alternative viewpoints to the prescribed textbook, with both a social and cultural emphasis on the matter of transgender identity.
SACAP’s educational philosophy is transformative and grounded in relevant, contextual and established theory and the application of skills in real world settings, encouraging critical thinking, scholarship, advocacy and social justice. Therefore, although we differ with Luke Sadler on the matter of our curriculum, we fully support Luke’s endeavours to act as an advocate in the important field of transgender identity.
Dr. Ashley Smyth is the academic dean at the South African College of Applied Psychology.