6 responses to “Unfaithful Angels? Social work and social change

  1. Bravo Melinda, I so appreciate your posts. Today’s post reminded me of another article that I regularly share with the BSW students I have in class. This one was published in 2007 in “Social Impact” Fall 2007 21-22 (published by the George Warren Brown School of Social Work)
    http://gwbweb.wustl.edu/research/SocialImpact/Documents/Image%20of%20Social%20Work.pdf Titled “Scattered Image,” the article shares the perspective of several “leaders in social work.” I would specifically direct you to the portion authored by the Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. Here are some key snippets: (pay particular attention to the second and third paragraphs below.)

    “All professions have image problems — physicians, lawyers, journalists. Reverence for professions has been dwindling. For social work, there’s a large gap between perception and reality. … It hurts recruiting in the sense that people are concerned about being negatively stereotyped. … But underpaid and overworked represents a lot of professions …”

    “Most social workers don’t work with the poor anymore, but with the mentally ill, in schools, hospitals, substance abuse, and aging. … The majority of new social work schools are small, rural, or church-related, training foot soldiers. We need that, and I don’t mind supporting that.

    “But that’s not how we prepare our students. We charge so much, we have to prepare them for something different and more broad. We have a special role as private universities. I’m interested in preparing our students for the exceptional. When we do place them in conventional roles, we train them to do exceptional things. … But others are working at Ernst & Young, in management and consulting, in public policy … “Private universities have to do training for leadership. If we don’t, we lose the rationale for a certain kind of existence. Once public universities took on the role of public service, private schools had to take on a different role …”

    Ten years ago when I transitioned from practitioner to full time educator I expected to find the heart of altruism and a pervasive passion for matters of social justice. I have been more than disappointed. What I have found is a faint but steady rhythm, sustained by a scattering of faithful, passionate, articulate, and vocal advocates: struggling to maintain a presence in a system, really a series of systems (from our accreditor to our professional organizations to our universities and social institutions,) that largely treats them as an annoyance.

    So on this snowy day, you motivated me to go re-read my NOOK copy of Unfaithful Angels only to realize that my wife has my Nook with her in southern Florida where she is at a conference all week. (she called this morning: the forecast is for clear skies and temps in the 80s: another manifestation of unfaithful angels…) For what it’s worth, that text is a supplemental reading in our BSW level – Macro HBSE course. I appreciate that you are regularly posting on issues so dear to my own heart: I often send our students links to your columns.

    Final thought for the moment: In the past month we have made the move towards the establishment of a MSW program at Park University. And yesterday we received authorization to fill two full time faculty positions, to begin in August, who will have significant opportunities to help build that program. (One position will be for a clinical instructor, the other is for field director. -as I’m supposedly transitioning into the position of BSW program Director- Both are 10 month positions. If you know of anyone who is interested: http://newton.newtonsoftware.com/career/CareerHome.action?clientId=8aa00506324c433f013264d420f9206f

    Gary Bachman MSSW, LSCSW

    • What a treat, Gary, to get this comment from you on this snowy day! And exciting about the expansion of Park’s program! That quote is pretty alarming. What is ‘unexceptional’ about standing in solidarity with the most oppressed in our society? And since when are people in schools, people with mental illnesses, older adults, people with addictions, and people in hospitals not poor? The idea that we can or should segment populations, and our practice, like that is really disturbing. I do still encounter passion for social justice, fairly routinely, among my students, but they certainly struggle to find mentors and organizational opportunities for social change. That is one of our greatest challenges, I think, as a profession–to nurture instead of extinguish the commitment to justice. Great to hear from you, as always.

  2. All I have to say is that I wish I sat in your classes! This is one of my soapboxes too… and thank you for clarifying that micro to macro is a continuum! That paradigm seems to help a great deal. Thanks for this great resource!

  3. Bravo to this, Melinda! Love it. I read, even when I don’t comment, but this one is just too good. xoxoxo

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