Archive for Monday, October 15, 2007

Social work mandates are indoctrination

October 15, 2007


— 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.

They are teachers at public universities, in schools of social work. A study prepared by the National Association of Scholars, a group that combats political correctness on campuses, reviews social work education programs at 10 major public universities and comes to this conclusion: Such programs mandate an ideological orthodoxy to which students must subscribe concerning "social justice" and "oppression."

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.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the national accreditor of social work education programs, encourages - not that encouragement is required - the ideological permeation of the curricula, including mandatory student advocacy. The CSWE says students must demonstrate an ability to "understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination."

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."

Schools' mission statements, student manuals and course descriptions are clotted with the vocabulary of "progressive" cant - "diversity," "inclusion," "classism," "ethnocentrism," "racism," "sexism," "heterosexism," "ageism," "white privilege," "ableism," "contextualizes subjects," "cultural imperialism," "social identities and positionalities," "biopsychosocial" problems, "a just share of society's resources" and on and on. 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 two-and-a-half-hour hearing - which she was forbidden to record and 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, 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.

In the month since the NAS released its study, none of the schools covered by it has contested its findings. Because there might as well be signs on the doors of many schools of social work proclaiming "conservatives need not apply," two questions arise: Why are such schools of indoctrination permitted in institutions of higher education? And why are people of all political persuasions taxed to finance this propaganda?

- George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Alia Ahmed 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm a social worker and think the "ideological orthodoxy" of social justice and fighting oppression sounds remarkably similar to the Declaration of Independence ( who know, the all men [people] are created equal thing). That's probably why I was so easily "indoctrinated".

Ragingbear 10 years, 8 months ago

I always loved how that entire Declaration of Independence thing said all men are created equal, yet virtually every one that signed it owned many slaves. I guess all men are created equal, unless they are different somehow, then they aren't men.

jonas 10 years, 8 months ago

In any light, the reported actions, should they be true, would constitute a clear violation of true ethical behavior on the part of the department and university in question. At least, in my opinion. I also think it's perfectly possible to be a social worker and oppose abortion. I would think that part of being a good social worker would be to try to help decrease unplanned pregnancies, and hopefully to pursue instilling in women a further sense of sexual liberation, which should include sexual self-discipline and care.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 8 months ago

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.

I'm for gay adoption, but it is absolutely frightening to think that students would be required to sign an advocacy letter. These are Nazi tactics.

moo 10 years, 8 months ago

It does seem like you should be able to be a social worker and have differing politics. The important thing is that you see that social change is needed and try to respond accordingly, not that you follow only the program-endorsed method in order to achieve that change. And I say this as a definite liberal. People can do good things in different ways and it is unfair to deny them the chance just because the program thinks there is only one way.

On a different note, why is it only in women that sexual liberation should mean including sexual self-discipline. Men can go around as undisciplined as they please just because they can't get pregnant, while women should suppress their natural urges because they are the ones who will have to pay the consequences? I don't think being opposed to abortion should be a disqualifying characteristic for social work, but I do dislike the implication that only women are responsible for decreasing unplanned pregnancies and safe sex in general.

badger 10 years, 8 months ago

I don't have any idea how accurate the examples are in this article. I have friends in social work, but they're all more liberal than I am, so anything that could ethically be considered 'indoctrination' would also be considered 'preaching to the choir' for them. If their coursework was biased against conservatives, they probably wouldn't even think to complain, so I don't know if it was.

On some level, all coursework that works in the realm of theory will have a bias. I took a Peace Studies course with a decidedly liberal bias, all my biology professors believed in the Darwinian theories of selection and species change, and my 'Geography of the Western Hemisphere' class was decidedly Eurocentric. My roomate's freshman poly sci seminar was being taught by a political candidate in the midst of an election who, though he never actively campaigned in class, certainly taught from a moderate conservative perspective.

However, an ex-military student who challenged a Peace Studies guest lecturer's assertion that 'soldiers are all murderers' got class participation credit for doing so, one of the highest grades in my evolutionary bio went to a kid who consistently asked questions from a Creationist perspective, and my hippie liberal roommate got the same ten extra credit points for voting as everyone else did, even though she wore a button for the other guy to class every day but election day and used a lot of words like 'capitalist hegemony' and 'imperialism' in her papers.

At the college level, bias will exist. Anyone who's completed four years of undergrad, a Master's program, and a Doctorate will have opinions and when subject matter is subjective, those opinions will influence the interpretation that's chosen. It'd be nice if multiple perspectives were presented, but there's not enough time in a semester to cover every single angle of opinion on, say, poverty. I'm comfortable with some element of bias because by college-age, kids should be thinking critically about the information they're being presented, not swallowing it whole without question.

The ethical problem, to me, comes in when (as described in the article) people who don't fall in line with the bias are singled out and disadvantaged because of it. Things like supporting political causes or signing petitions should never be part of the class, and a logical argument that opposes the professor's shouldn't get a failing grade for being 'passionately argued and well-written but still wrong' (written in the margins of my answer to the mid-term essay question in my one and only Women's Studies class).

I hope that the cases discussed in this article are looked into. It doesn't seem right. Besides, people going into social work should support conservatives, not liberals. Job security, don't you know?

Confrontation 10 years, 8 months ago

Social workers should be able to advocate on behalf of all of their clients, regardless of their clients' liberal or conservative values.

BrianR 10 years, 8 months ago

Trying to eliminate any kind of bias would result in an epidemic of political correctness. There is already too much of that.

Even more pressing than the PC disease is that schools need to do a better job of screening out applicants who enter social work or psych to deal with their own unresolved issues.

You're correct Confrontation, social workers are there to help with whatever the person needs and people seldom com into contact with The System because of how they vote or what they think.

I don't know anyone that remotely resembles the social workers George is talking about, he is talking about extreme cases and extreme cases can be found anywhere.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 8 months ago

Marion wrote "the term 'men' in the...time the Declaration was written, only included free white men...."

Which I would amend to include "property owners."

kugrad 10 years, 8 months ago

I thought this was an interesting article. It raised more questions than it answered, but I think that is a good thing. One bit that struck me as odd. While listing off a bunch of "progressive" vocabulary, Mr. Will included "ethnocentrism." Very strange. Suddenly awareness of people's undeniable tendency to see things from the perspective of their own culture is "progressive?"
I found it distrubing that "racism" and "sexism" were also on the "progressive" list. Does this mean conservatives like Will are opposed to "progressive" ideas like having social workers oppose sexism and racism? Should we not recognize ethnocentrism?

It was a thought-provoking article - above average for Will. Did he just get carried away in the moment, or are conservatives really wanting to turn back the clock on core American values like equal rights? I personally give conservatives way more credit than that.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years, 8 months ago

huh-huh ... he said "heterosexism" ... huh-huh-huh ... huh-huh ....

Amesmb 10 years, 8 months ago

Pogo: Every profession has those who aren't good at what they do and social work is no exception, but that doesn't mean all of them can be described the way you describe them. I don't know what social worker you've had experience with or what kind of experience it was, but it obviously was different than mine (particularly the "holier than thou part" -what's up with that?).

ErinP 10 years, 7 months ago

As both a student and a professional in the field of social work, I'd like to comment that the author's description is NOT that experience that I have had. In my 4+ years of social work education, I have NEVER been asked to complete an assignment or perform an activity (e.g. sign an adovcacy letter) that have forced political ideologies on me. In fact, respect for other's ideas is highly regarded in the social work classroom.

I find it disappointing that a few examples of "what shouldn't be done" is casting this negative shadow over the social work education system. I can honestly say that I have had those ideas forced on me from faculty in OTHER departments, but not in my social work courses. This is part of the liberal arts education though. Academia in general is liberal. You have to get what you can out of courses that aren't in line with your personal philosophies and then move on. There are bigger and more important things to focus on instead of targeting a group of academic professionals who by and large exhibit more commitment and professionalism than I have ever witnessed in other fields.

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