Are Social Work Educators Bullies? Article Review Example
Are Social Work Educators Bullies? Student Perceptions of Political Discourse in the Social Work Classroom
As a profession, like any other, social work is geared towards achieving social justice in the society especially for the vulnerable groups. The influence of social work on vulnerable groups such as conservative students in a classroom is live when evaluating educational programs. Essentially, the contribution of social work and the consequential aftermath in line with achieving social justice or political indoctrination is a subject for criticism. In this respect, Richard D. Stephen, the author of the article conducted a research to examine the perception of social work students regarding a political subject debated in the classroom. Additionally, the authors sought to measure the beliefs of students regarding issuance of degrees to individuals holding particular sociopolitical beliefs. Specifically, the author’s intention regarding the issuance of degrees to individuals holding sociopolitical views was to determine the proportion of students who believed that such individuals were not entitled to the social work degrees.
Admittedly, social work revolves around advocacy issues and often focusses on polarizing issues, which sparkle debate. As the authors argue, it is important to understand that achieving social justice has to start from having people who believe in the goals of the profession and stands by its values. Seemingly, social work is appealing to those who have liberal positions touching on contentious issues, for example, abortion. Noticing that polarizing issues change with time, the author’s view that social work is a comfortable subject for liberal rather than conservative students in a classroom is valid. Thus, the article discusses the perceptions of politically conservative students and their views in connection with the objectives of the profession.
The literature reviewed reflects on the report of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), which is an authoritative source of information. Following the concerns that certain learners may would have been oppressed by the course content because of their conservative views, the authors consider the role of the NAS and NASW (National Association of Social Workers) towards supporting any negative feelings of students (Stoesz &Karger, 2009). According to Ressler & Hodge, 2005), the authors observe that it is the responsibility of the NASW to emphasize on the importance of embracing religious diversity. From this perspective, the author finds it misleading to blame the profession because of the failures of bodies that are responsible for the prohibition of criticisms along religious lines. The position of the authors that social educators do not propagate any religious criticism is reflected in the NASW code of ethics, which provides for non-discriminatory teaching in the classrooms.
As observed by Hodge (2006), the conceptualization of social justice sometimes is different from the religious definitions and interpretations of terms. From the findings of this study, the authors argue that the criticisms, which are propagated on the intention of Social work, are excessive and cannot be justifiably substantiated. The authors believes that the interpretation of social justice among social work students is not as polarizing as it is purported. In fact, the author supports his claims using the findings of a study by Miller-Cribbs and Fram (2008) which revealed that political issues could be brought up by students in the classroom even without the contribution of the instruction. In addition, a large proportion of students reported that they had no issues or concerns with discussing political issues in class. This emphasizes the fact that most students have no problem with social work education. Alternatively, these findings imply that even those with conservative views on political subjects can adapt given proper directions and interpretations of the goals of advocating social justice. Moreover, as the authors of this article suggests, it is not valid to believe that students only are oppressed when discussing political matters with an instructor and not when the discussions exist amongst themselves.
Regardless of some studies revealing the progress of social work in advocating social justice, there are opponents of the profession whose conservative religious views are also supported by some studies. For example, the authors observe from Smith-Osborn (2009) that support given by conservative social workers may reflect discrimination on religious beliefs. Notably, the findings from the study reveal that workers who have strong religious views are less likely to offer support for lesbian and gay abortion rights. Typically, the manner in which the NASW operationalizes matters of social justice complicates the differences evident between values of the profession and conservative religious values.
The literature reviewed by the author of the article reveals conflicting findings, a situation that validates the intention of the study. Because of the need for more informative findings, the authors sought to examine beliefs surrounding intolerance in social work education as pertains to matters of conservative views.
Evaluation of Validity of the Study
Largely, the findings presented in the article have a close similarity to the findings compiled in the previous studies. Up to 58% of the students rejected the item, which expressed that there was blatant racism expressed by social work educators. The authors suggest that the student’s religious perspectives and sociopolitical views are connected to perceptions existent in the educational environment. The results presented in the article imply that most learners have no problem with values and perspectives of social work. On the other hand, the findings support the claim that with the increase in sociopolitical conservatism, the perceptions of intolerance and discrimination also increase. The findings discussed by the authors reveal that social work educations may be reluctant to engage students with conservative sociopolitical and religious views. This emphasizes the fact that most social workers may not be observant of the oppressive discussions in the classroom especially for the conservative students.
Like any other study, the authors discuss the limitations of the study especially in terms of the study sample. When using a convenience sample in the study rather than a probability sample, it is possible that the findings will not be authoritative. In fact, working with a convenience sample leads to weak research findings because the selection of the sample is often characterized by bias. In addition, using a convenience sample includes weak generalizations in respect to the larger population. Under the circumstances of working with a convenience sample, it is difficult to ensure that the students selected represent a respective university or a nation. In addition, it is also likely that the social work education students selected had a particular interest in the topic and thus they did not constitute a representative sample. In a study where the response rate is very low, it is possible that this had implications on the findings. However, the focus of the study was to examine the differences between political perspectives, and this renders the findings somehow valuable.
It is pertinent to agree with the authors that social work is not a neutral subject but rather a polarizing profession. Like other professions, it is not valid to expect that all students can find it easy to unite their personal values with the perspectives of social work. Contrary to the claim of the authors that social work is not a universal subject for all, it is essential to disown such a claim because it can pave way to the oppression of students having conservative views.
CHRISTOPHER, F., GRETCHEN, E., MEYER-ADAMS, N., BAER, J., & RICHARD D. (2013). Are Social Work Educators Bullies? Student Perceptions of Political Discourse in the Social Work Classroom. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 33, 59-74. doi:10.1080/08841233.2012.750259
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