Sunday, October 14, 2007

Social work: conservatives need not apply.

George F. Will - Code of Coercion - washingtonpost.com
In 1943, the Supreme Court, affirming the right of Jehovah's Witnesses children to refuse to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag in schools, declared: "No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." Today that principle is routinely traduced, coast to coast, by officials who are petty in several senses.
In 1997, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) adopted a surreptitious political agenda in the form of a new code of ethics, enjoining social workers to advocate for social justice "from local to global levels." A widely used textbook -- "Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skill" -- declares that promoting "social and economic justice" is especially imperative as a response to "the conservative trends of the past three decades." Clearly, in the social work profession's catechism, whatever social and economic justice are, they are the opposite of conservatism.
At Arizona State University, social work students must "demonstrate compliance with the NASW Code of Ethics." Berkeley requires compliance as proof of "suitability for the profession." Students at the University of Central Florida "must comply" with the NASW code. At the University of Houston, students must sign a pledge of adherence. At the University of Michigan, failure to comply with the code may be deemed "academic misconduct."
What goes on under the cover of this miasma of jargon? Just what the American Association of University Professors warned against in its 1915 "Declaration of Principles" -- teachers "indoctrinating" students.

In 2005, Emily Brooker, a social-work student at Missouri State University, was enrolled in a class taught by a professor who advertised himself as a liberal and insisted that social work is a liberal profession. At first, a mandatory assignment for his class was to advocate homosexual foster homes and adoption, with all students required to sign an advocacy letter, on university stationery, to the state legislature.

When Brooker objected on religious grounds, the project was made optional. But shortly before the final exam she was charged with a "Level 3," the most serious, violation of professional standards. In a 2 1/2 -hour hearing -- which she was forbidden to record and which her parents were barred from attending -- the primary subject was her refusal to sign the letter. She was ordered to write a paper ("Written Response about My Awareness") explaining how she could "lessen the gap" between her ethics and those of the social-work profession. When she sued the university, it dropped the charges and made financial and other restitution.

The NAS study says that at Rhode Island College's School of Social Work, a conservative student, William Felkner, received a failing grade in a course requiring students to lobby the state legislature for a cause mandated by the department. The NAS study also reports that Sandra Fuiten abandoned her pursuit of a social-work degree at the University of Illinois at Springfield after the professor, in a course that required students to lobby the legislature on behalf of positions prescribed by the professor, told her that it is impossible to be both a social worker and an opponent of abortion.
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4 Comments:

Anonymous said...

A focus on systemic issues and social justice is what the profession was founded on. In the last 30 years, it has been confused as largely a mental health profession, and not as one that addresses systemic issues in our society. Take a look at the book Unfaithful Angels, for a look at the roots of social work.

If a student is not committed to advocating for social justice and is unable to advocate for development of his or her clients regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or ability, then in my opinion, they have NO BUSINESS being a social worker, and they should go to school to be a counselor or a psychologist.

ornery elephant said...

anonymous-

First off, just exactly how do you define, "social justice" ? And secondly, you need to enlighten me as to the "development of his or her clients."

Are you saying that as a social worker, if you have a client that is purposely defrauding the state of funds, you MUST advocate for the continuation of that?

Is it your contention that a "conservative" could not be a social worker because he/she is what? Racist? Homophobic? Sexist?

I'd love to hear some feedback on that.

ejackson said...

Here is the Response from NASW's Executive Director that was sent to the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/19/AR2007101902281.html

Code of Concern

Dear Washington Post Editors:

Conservative columnist George F. Will has taken public umbrage with the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Code of Ethics and its mandate that adherents advocate for social justice. In his review of a National Association of Scholars report, Mr. Will ignores the context in which professional education and training occurs—for all professions. This criticism misrepresents social work education and is a disservice to our members and the clients they serve.

Social workers are committed to solving social problems while helping people improve their quality of life; fairness is a defining characteristic of the profession. Like all citizens of a participatory democracy, it is critical for social work students to develop the skills necessary to advocate within available legal and political structures.

Social work students learn to use advocacy for the benefit of individuals, families and populations who are most vulnerable to the unresolved social problems of the day. Services for veterans, children, chronically ill persons, the elderly, and struggling families are improved by social work advocacy.

Members of NASW hold a diverse array of opinions on many social issues, including abortion and homosexuality as mentioned in Will’s column. However, professional social workers are united in their commitment to respecting the rights of clients to access services and expand options available to them. Social workers do not apologize for caring about people who are marginalized by society, nor do we apologize for holding members of our profession to high standards.


Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, MSW, MPH
Executive Director
National Association of Social Workers

1RedThread said...

That letter didn't respond directly to anything that George Will had to say.