December 14, 2008

Is Social Work Just for the Left?

"Former student sues RI social work school, claims political discrimination"

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A former student is suing the Rhode Island College School of Social Work saying he was punished for his conservative views.

William Felkner said after enrolling in 2004, he realized he would have to adopt a left-wing ideology to get a master’s degree.

Felkner said the school discriminated against him by penalizing his grades, filing ethics charges and delaying his graduation.
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I'm sure we have all met someone and questioned why they are becoming a social worker. And we all know the person that we wish would not become a social worker. However, should political ideology have anything to do with it? It's hard to imagine social work without left wing ideals, but doesn't that just mean I need to imagine harder?

If you are to look at social work ethics, there is no dividing line of political ideologies. You must maintain the best interest of the client, you must protect confidentiality, you must not abuse your relationship, you must respect the worth of all persons...and more along those lines.

However, this case is interesting in that we really don't know if there was any discrimination. There are no examples of what the student alleges took place and we really have no idea how his "conservatism" manifests. 

I believe that one can be conservative and still adhere to social work values. You can even be against governmental interventions and adhere to them. It will make your job 10x harder, but you can still do it. 

Here's a link to another article about the situation with a bit more information: 



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3 comments:

cb said...

I came across this news story and paused for thought as well. There is an element of radical social work and campaigning social work which does, I think, promote a primarily liberal approach - but it needn't be to the exclusion of other paradigms.
However, judging by personal experience, professors, tutors and other students should welcome the debate within their classes rather than feel challenged by it.
I studied alongside a student who was rather right-wing in her leanings. She rather liked the challenge of being different and loved debate. I'm sure she's a very effective social worker.

Reas Kroicowl said...

It's always a trip to run into them but they are out there. I used to work with a social worker who was a member of the National Rifle Association and a devoted listener to Rush Limbaugh, an extreme right-wing shock jock here in the states.

Doesn't mean she cared about her clients less than I did.

Silvia said...

There are clashes of values for ideologically conservative social workers. For example, if you believe abortion is murder, how can you support the self-determination of a client who decides to have an abortion. If you believe homosexuality is a sin and a perversion, how can you help a gay man with his relationship difficulties. And so on.

So I do see certain conflicts.

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