Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Can a social worker be conservative? 

If your answer is, why not?, you should guess again. I pointed out last year that there has been a longstanding effort of social work programs to impose ideological litmus tests on their students, an issue that has been on the SCSU campus for at least fifteen years. Today FIRE sends a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services pointing out that its requirement that social workers employed by HHS have degrees from accredited programs in essence creates an ideological test for public employment.
FIRE is deeply concerned that CSWE is promoting vague standards that facilitate and encourage discrimination against students on the basis of their political viewpoints. Certainly, the Department of Health and Human Services does not want to put its imprimatur on viewpoint discrimination.
Specifically, CSWE�s Educational Policy�compliance with which is a requirement of accreditation�effectively requires social work programs to impose ideological litmus tests on their students as a condition of accreditation. Educational Policy Section 3.0 requires that �graduates [of CSWE-accredited programs] demonstrate the ability to�understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social and economic justice.� CSWE�s requirement that graduates from its programs work to �advance social and economic justice� raises serious concerns. Because no objective consensus on the �correct� meaning of such terminology can reasonably exist in a diverse democratic society, these vague evaluative criteria too often become vehicles for pressuring students to alter or abandon their core political, philosophical, or moral beliefs. As the twentieth century well demonstrates, one man�s idea of �social justice� may be another man�s idea of totalitarian tyranny.
A social work student at Rhode Island College had a problem with the school's promotion of Fahrenheit 9/11 and asked for more balance. His professor responded:
Social Work is a value-based profession that clearly articulates a socio-political ideology about how the world works and how the world should be�. [I]n this school, we have a mission devoted to the value of social and economic justice�. [I]f a student finds that they are consistently and regularly experiencing opposite views from what is being taught and espoused in the curriculum, or the professional �norms� that keep coming up in class and in field, then their fit with the profession will not get any more comfortable, and in fact will most likely become increasingly uncomfortable�.
For at least that faculty member, the answer to the question in the title of this post is 'no'.