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.



teacher  I have recently been introduced to a different meaning for cellphones in the classroom.  Most of us in academia have policies about NO CELLPHONE USE IN THE CLASSROOM!  In K-12 I think phones are not allowed inside the classroom, in college we ask students to” turn the ringer off.”  Students often find a “good reason” why they are texting in class…I find no good reason in any circumstance…if it’s that important – go home!

But recently some situations have arisen that have made me think twice about the uncomfortable union of academia and cellphones:

(1) A student without a textbook the first couple of weeks of class took a picture of the assignment questions so that she could complete the homework (I wondered why not borrow a book from a classmate or go to the library…..?)

(2) Another student who was unable to use the computer software to create her diagram (ecomap & genogram) drew them by hand, took a picture, then sent them as an email attachment with her paper (I was thinking…you could scan them…)

(3) A student whose paper got lost in the e-learning system, took a picture of her paper and sent it to me via email….the same with a student whose test answer truly disappeared from my view sent me a picture of his answer to prove he had indeed taken the quiz!

(4)Some colleagues text their students reminders or check-in if they’ve been absent from a class because “Students don’t check their email” (I still don’t want students to have my cellphone number!)

(5) And of course you can use cellphones as “clickers” in the classroom to do class surveys or quizzes

While I am not sure I like the cellphone as the first choice for solving some of the above problems, I am impressed with the creative use of this technology (I am no techno-phobe, but #1-3 had not occurred to me at all until I saw it done).  It makes me wonder about how my 2 year old will interact with teachers and faculty int he future.  I hope not primarily by cellphone.