Recently my eyes were accosted by an article asking, “What is Happening at the Columbia School of Social Work?” by Pamela Paul. Notice the lack of a BSW, MSW, LMSW, LCSW, or other degree that would offer expertise in social work education. Not only is the lack of the degree an obvious sign that the opinions about social work education following the lack of title are less valuable than an enema after explosive diarrhea, but the original title, “Is This Social Work or Social Indoctrination?” means that the author could have saved us all time and one of our 5 free articles a month by just titling it “I know nothing about Social Work, but I have to complain about something.”
For those who would like to understand what is happening at Columbia and every other social work school in the country, it is the education of a profession with advocacy as one of its primary tenets. There is no such thing as radical Social Work because all Social Work is, at its core, radical. It would be like differentiating between a dark night and night. They are one and the same. I can understand the confusion; when you drum up the image of a Social Worker, you probably visualize a female in a cardigan, holding a cup of tea, and saying things like, “How does that make you feel?” You may not be picturing policymakers, directors, members of Congress, researchers, and community organizers. The fact that social workers are often found in private practice, hospitals, agencies, and other micro or direct practice areas doesn’t negate that they create significant political and social change. The only thing that changes for us is who the client is: an individual or family? A community or social movement?
It’s also evident that the author is cherry-picking transparent information about the social work profession’s history, glossing over the ‘radical’ work of the early pioneers and the oppressive practices of ‘friendly visitors,’ something that Social Work has had to grapple with internally. Ignoring the rest of the NASW code of ethics and the social work profession’s mission also fools the reader because it’s half the story. Nothing has shifted in the social work profession; new theories have emerged, and contemporary practice has developed. However, the challenge of self-reflection, accountability, and becoming a change agent has always been what social work school encourages their students to learn in addition to all those treatment modalities and therapeutic practices. We are also not a profession of lazy individuals who just didn’t want a PhD. in Psychology. Social Work and psychology are as different as psychology and sociology. Many of us choose it because it allows more versatility and freedom than the psychology of sociology and many complete PhDs and DSWs in Social Work.
So, to answer the burning question, nothing new is happening at Columbia’s School of Social Work, but I will ask what is happening at the NYTs that any idiotic opinion without research or effort to speak to literally any social worker is considered to be a finished piece on Social Work? Give me a call; I offer free consultations, but if you want to learn something, join my class or one of the hundreds of others taught around the country and get to know some of the fantastic, versatile, and critical thinkers who are social work students and the incredible professors who are doing precisely what they need to be a social worker who educates social workers.
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