A Vent: Those CJ Majors in My SWK Courses

teacher(Based on anecdotal course observations over the course of 7 years and not based on any actual rigorous data collection or analysis…which gives me an idea…):

One of the beautiful aspects of being in higher education is that each academic discipline really does attract a specific type of student.  In our undergraduate Social Work courses we tend to get a significant number of students who vote with the Democratic Party (or are not registered); are not particularly religious, are female, young, and Caucasian.  Social Work majors also tend to have had some personal interaction with or connection to the greater social service/welfare system.  As opposed to the stereotypical Criminal Justice major who is either Independent or Republican, maybe not religious but with a penchant for following rules, male, youngish, and Caucasian.  And contrary to my SWK students the CJ students I have encountered, have had some negative personal interaction or connection with the CJ system (victim of a crime) that leads them to their professional choice.  There are also some suspected personality traits that typically go with each major, but that I will not even touch (but you can use your imagination).

I teach a course on “diversity” and “cultural competence” in the human services. The course is required of SWK majors and also meets the University’s graduation requirement for diversity.  Thus, I tend to have 85-90% SWK majors; 5-10% CJ majors;  and 2-3% “other majors” (Business, Education, Sociology).  Did that add up to 100%??? The course is taught from the ethical & value-laden perspective of the SWK profession with my own twist (middle-aged female of color with a variety of life experiences and lots of opinions).

And here is what I’ve noticed and how my patience and acceptance has been tested:justice scale

  1. CJ majors sit in the back or on the far sides; never in the front or the middle
  2. CJ majors have no problem challenging the information presented and often do so from the perspective of personal experience as opposed to presenting factual data
  3. SWK majors tend to agree with everything I say (equally as annoying as challenging everything I say)
  4. SWK majors tend to roll their eyes at the CJ majors and vice versa
  5. CJ majors deny that there is any injustice based on a specific social identity (race, ethnicity, gender in particular).
  6. SWK majors think everyone has been wronged or oppressed (in fact when I give an exam I am the oppressor)
  7. CJ majors claim that our country and it’s social institutions are based on and operate under the premise of justice.
  8. SWK majors say justice is not SOCIAL JUSTICE
  9. When discussing a specific type of oppression that a specific group has experienced (i.e. Antisemitism or Homophboia) the CJ majors say “Well, that’s like the time I…”
  10. SWK majors say “NO. It is NOT like the time you…” and then they over empathize.

I am challenged to really TEACH as oppose to PREACH to the converted SWK choir. It is a challenge. I am embracing it.

  1. I am breathing deeply
  2. I am counting to 5 (sometimes 10) before I respond
  3. I am looking up tons of CJ facts to bring to class for rebuttal purposes.
  4. I am consulting with my CJ colleagues (thanks, you know who you are!)
  5. I am welcoming the CJ majors who keep me on my toes AND making sure they get a good does of social work values & ethical principles

I want everyone who wants and can access an education to receive an education (I really want higher education to be more accessible, but that’s another blog). And I want to encourage students to explore courses outside of their major (that’s what liberal arts is all about right?).

helpingAND I really want to convert all those CJ majors in my SWK course to become SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES as opposed to the deliverers of justice.

Goodness of Fit for Our Lives: A Form of Self Care

In one of my classes the students write a paper titled “Goodness of Fit.” The paper asks them to reflect on their semester-long volunteer experience and whether that type of agency and population as well as whether the profession of social work is a good fit for them.  Many students choose social work for what they think are altruistic reasons or because a social worker helped them…the profession is not always a good fit for them.

I do not make New Year’s resolutions – too much pressure to do something that I’m not really sure I want to do.  Instead I spend time reflecting and asking myself about the “goodness of fit.”

The Goodness of Fit includes people, places, objects, and anything that I have control over keeping or discarding.  I went through this exercise around my 30th birthday when I had a significant health/medical scare and I realized I had been tugging along and storing a lot of unwanted people, places, and things that did not fit well. It is an exercise in being attuned to yourself and who you are, where you are, and what you need (you know this changes over the course of our lifetime).  Take a look at:

(a) where you live

(b) where you work

(c) your friends and acquaintances (those face-to-face and in the cyber world)

(d) what you eat & drink

(e) what you wear

(f) your habits

(g) even your “responsibilities”

Does it all fit well into your life? Is something too tight, too loose, too short, too long??? Does anything cause you physical pain or discomfort? Is there a goodness of fit between you and your job, your neighborhood, your friends, your food, etc.? What about your actions/behavior? Do you have habits or do things for yourself or others that often annoy you; that you dread or regret?

I used to get caught up in the “right” thing to do, the “polite” or “respectful” thing to do.  I agree that there are common courtesies and exchanges that go along with our human relationships and job responsibilities, etc.  AND I firmly believe that sometimes those “should do” things also make us sick.  As well as do some people.

This is an exercise in cleansing yourself of toxicity in whatever form it comes.

Are your surroundings (people. places, and things) and habits a good fit for your life? Start cleaning! And create a Good Fit for yourself! Be well in 2014! No diet needed!