July 11, 2008

I Fear For The World

While I'm quite sure that many who graduate from my BSW class will be great social workers, there are many about whom I worry. Some of the "problems" I see include extreme idealism, lack of imagination, and plain and simple...well, stupidity.

Yesterday, we were in a Social Policy Analysis class and the topic was feminism. Since I'm one of the only male students in this BSW program, these classes are sometimes difficult. I never know whether I should contribute as much as I usually do or whether I should be more tactful. I remained quiet for most of this class. The observation turned out to be much more interesting.

The over-idealism that came out this class was scary! We were broken into groups and asked to do a mini-presentation based on the question: "What policy issue is most important for women, why and what should be done about it". My group agreed on poverty and listed the policy issues that it touched on, such as welfare rates, childcare and employment insurance. Then we started talking about ways to fix things. Right off the bat, people were throwing out these pie-in-the-sky ideas such as a guaranteed annual income for all citizens, in-home help as needed for all new mothers, free universal child care, etc. I tried to reel them in to reality, but it was just not happening. So I went with it. You know, thinking about these things are fun and can help lead us down the right path, but these people believed they were completely feasible, right now! In their mind, there was no reason we shouldn't be doing these things. Sigh...

What made this all worse was that these wonderful, idealistic ideas that we talked about were nothing more than what had already been lectured about in class before. If we're going the idealistic route, we can at least be imaginative and playful, can we not? We had the chance to go outside the box, but instead, we regurgitated what had been taught to us. My belief is that social work requires a great deal of imagination, and if you're simply going to repeat what you've "learned", you're going to be in trouble. Sigh...

On the topic of stupidity, a comment from one specific woman illustrates this quite nicely. This woman is known as not being, well, too bright. She'll often make a statement that's just so off-base that people will sit there in awe until some kind soul re-frames what she said in a more coherent light. The woman will then say "yeah, that's what I was trying to say" even though it CLEARLY wasn't and the class will then move on. Well, yesterday she came up with this gem during our discussion on feminism. Out of the blue she pipes up and says something along the lines of:
"You know, I think my boyfriend is a feminist. When we were trying to find a place to live, I told him he should decide for both of us, but then asked me why he should be making all the decisions. Hahaha...."
Yeah, sure, the comment MIGHT be related to feminism, but how does it relate to POLICY ANALYSIS? And she does this repeatedly. It's as if what we're talking about sparks something in her mind about a related event in her life and she believes this is how to contribute to class discussion. I imagine her doing this with clients in her future practice, too. Sigh...

I'm a pessimist on the best of days and am probably too hard on most people on those same best days! The people who graduate will probably be fine, but that won't stop me worrying. Just do no harm...please, do no harm.

In thinking more about it it's kind of humorous that I list idealism as one of the traits that I think are questionable, when deep down under all this cynicism is that glowing light of idealism trying its damndest to shine through. ;)


cb said...

When I was training, I used to run through in my head 'people I'd like to be my social worker' and there were a few that I worried about!

Idealism to be honest, will probably be dented quite quickly after a few weeks in practice - it's quite nice while it lasts though!
I see the job as being much more 'practical' - not 'what would I like to do' but 'what can we do with the tools that we have in front of us - right now'. Actually, I think it's one of the things I like most about the job.
And if you consider it in those terms - you really do need to be creative sometimes!

oregonamy1972 said...

In graduate school, I also had several classmates that troubled me. Trying to imagine them as social workers, for various reasons, was worrisome. Some were, like your classmates, had way too much idealism.

Then, there were some, that thought you had to totally identify with your clients. At the time I was finishing my MSW, I had not yet married or had children. I hadn't suffered through addiction or major mental health issues. There were several of my classmates that thought it would be a good while before I would be able to be a good social worker. It wasn't as if I had no life experience...I just hadn't had the type of life experience they felt made you a good social worker. They had the attitude of "It takes one to help one." These were some of my classmates that worried me the most.

antiSWer said...

Yeah, I forgot about those ones that think you have to have lived the life to be able to help. They're the ones that seem to be trying to "save" themselves or their family through their work.

I gave this impromptu speech in one class about how we shouldn't be trying to "save the world" or "save people" but that we should be about standing along side them and helping them where we can.

PPLIC said...

Bril­liant! Great talk that was extremely insightful and very enter­taining. It’s given me loads to think about.

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