BPD Update Online, Winter 2002
Editor's Prerogative
President's Report
Helping in a Crisis
Teaching Social Policy from a Black South African Perspective
On the BSW Student's Mind - LICENSURE
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Denver, 2001
Denver, 2001, Continued
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Editor's Prerogative

by Ralph Holcomb, rjholcomb@stthomas.edu

Peace and Bread in Time of War

"We have to learn to use courage for peace instead of war."
Professor of religious studies, Pomona College.

In response to the September 11 attacks on this country the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a college watchdog group founded by the wife of our Vice President, published its findings on unpatriotic behavior on campus. The report, Defending Civilization: How our Universities are Failing America and What Can be Done About It, (available: www.goacta.org) contains examples of some truly outrageous statements made in reaction to the bombing and our present war. But the vast majority of the campus statements they label as subversive are similar in tone to the quote above: thoughtful reflections by students, faculty, and administrators on the troubling dilemma of this country's role in the world.

The report represents the antithesis of the free and open discussion that should typify academic dialogue, and I am disappointed it emanates from a source so close to the White House (Lynne Cheney is no longer associated with this organization, but its research still bears the imprint of her influence). The campus should be a sacred space that promotes dialogue and protects freedom of speech. Social workers understand that asserting a single true patriotic orientation is dangerous business, and that oftentimes what we label truth turns out to be nothing more than a mask of our own prejudice.

The report lists statements from faculty who represent the usual disciplines one would associate with teach-ins: international relations, political science, women's studies, and history. But it also lists "unpatriotic" statements from disciplines less associated with campus rabble-rousing: English, anthropology, linguistics, geography, and art, to name only a few. The punch line here is that not one reference was attributed to social work faculty. This may be an unfair observation; after all, social work faculty across the nation were as outraged as anyone and spoke out about the events of September 11. The fall issue of this magazine presented reactions from just such faculty. But our voices on campus and in the community are too often smaller than our numbers, and that fact requires some analysis.

Anyone who has written a self-study for CSWE understands that academic freedom in social work education is much more highly bounded than for our colleagues in, say, sociology or psychology. Is it possible we have developed an internalized a belief that we don't have the right to speak out? Certainly our distraction with conformance to various educational standards keeps us from thinking outside the box. Our theoretical orientations are pre-packaged for us, (despite the recent brouhaha over EPAS) which keeps us from having to defend our ideology to students or each other. Monolithic education breeds monotonous educators who may inadvertently teach the next generation of educators that alternate perspectives are unwelcome in the classroom.

During our rough and tumble early years, social workers embraced controversy. Strong advocates debated issues critical to the future of the profession and our clients. Social workers took to the national stage and espoused unpopular ideas to a nation intent on exploiting its own citizens for economic gain. A hundred years ago Jane Addams taught us that in war the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer, and that peace requires an international orientation. As I look out over the landscape of social work education today, I see we are only beginning to understand her radical vision.

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