Matthew Cohen, MSW

Matthew Cohen, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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A Defense Of The Conviction Of Social Workers

SJS was pointed toward an article recently, Real and Faux Diversity-Mindedness, written by Ray Woodcock. The author discusses the difference between being a profession that actually cares about diversity, and one that only appears to on the surface. This is an important topic, and I am sympathetic to the distinction, but I believe that Mr. Woodcock is being unfair to a profession that is, at the very least, trying when so many others are not. Here is an excerpt:

We can sum up this situation briefly enough; it is actually pretty straightforward. Fitting in is simply not compatible with change. Social work is not a radical profession. The radicals in social work tend to be misfits, shouting into the wind. They belong elsewhere, and that appears to have been true during most of the profession’s history. A substantial majority of social work professors and practitioners advance socialist views, but only to the extent that such views have become mainstream within American culture.


The full article can found here. I replied to the post as follows:

Perhaps it is not always the reality that matters but the intention. The forces that shape culture are powerful; I can’t imagine a profession that would be immune. Perhaps this is not a matter of conviction, but of execution.

What you are so aptly describing has been recognized in cultures for sometime, I have heard it called spiritual materialism. It seems only natural that a cultural dominated by materialism would not recognize entrance into the spiritual variety. Still, spiritual materialism is certainly a step in the right direction. It is by mimicry and pretending that behavior and identity take root. It is not easy to throw off cultural habits, or any habit for that matter. Ignoring the valiant attempts that people make does not seem like a good strategy for creating the sort of society that we envision. In fact that sort of attitude is self-defeating. Are we to say, unless you can be 100% real, 100% genuine, than your efforts are meaningless? By that standard only the very best of us would stand up; attempting to change would be irrational.

Recently being in an MSW program, and having experienced enough of the rest of the world, I can safely say that there certainly is a difference in the attitude of the students and faculty. I cannot vouch for how that will translate as they venture out into the field, but this strikes me as a failure of the profession and its leadership, not its members and their convictions.

Mr. Woodcock does acknowledge the cultural role that leads to the distinction between diversity and faux diversity; this is certainly to his credit. Still I feel that understanding spiritual materialism  should be the primary focus; if it is understandable it is fixable. We must not lose hope. I would like to open this up to our community, please share your thoughts.

** Written by Matthew Cohen – SJS Staff Writer **

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