Letters to the Editor (January 2013)

Critical thinking needed in social work education

I write in response to the article, “Social Work Education Needs a Boost,” which appeared in the September issue. Dr. Jeane Anastas, the current NASW president, raised some excellent issues regarding whether social work students score lower on critical thinking activities when compared with students in other academic disciplines.

Social work practitioners and educators should address whether students seeking to enter our profession acquire critical and complex reasoning skills necessary for the engagement, assessment and intervention activities that social workers regularly perform.

I believe our profession has become intellectually smug on one hand and perhaps lackadaisical on the other. The smugness, I believe, comes from a certainty of many social work educators and practitioners that what we present as knowledge carries the weight of “revealed truth.” Once a profession begins to feel that its tenets are irrefutable, intellectual argument discontinues and the development of new knowledge ceases.

My second argument relates to the intellectual laziness I am detecting. The PowerPoint presentation has reduced social work presentations, in classrooms and at conferences, to glorified outlines.

I agree with Dr. Anastas that social work should provide a very rigorous course of study in higher education. Let practitioners and educators work together to reopen dialogues that are lively, in-depth, and at all times contentious. This is how critical thinking flourishes.

Vincent J. Venturini, Ph.D.
Ridgeland, Miss.

Social work courses should be more rigorous

I firmly believe that if social work is going to be taken seriously we need to demand more of our students. Courses need to be rigorous and expectations high if we hope to graduate social workers who can enter the field truly prepared. This does not preclude “altruism” or the desire to “help people.”

It is difficult to change the world if we don’t know about the world. The truth is, in my opinion, that social work is not only a noble profession but also a demanding one, and if we do not prepare our students to face those demands, we cannot expect them to succeed.

Bette H. Boddy, MSW
Pensacola, Fla.

Athletes can benefit from help when careers end

As a social worker, mentor to high school runners, and former nationally ranked distance runner, I was fascinated by Rena Malai’s article, “Social Work Skills a Good Fit for Athletics,” in the November issue. I’ve been thinking about this issue for some time now, but not for the reasons expressed in the article. I’ve been contemplating the role of the social worker in the life of athletes when their careers come to an end.

Malai quoted Warde Manual in the article who stated, “College athletes spend a minimum of 20 hours a week playing and practicing, which means 20 hours taken away from other areas …”

In addition to being a full-time student (required for athletic eligibility), most student athletes consider themselves athletes first and students second. By the time they graduate from college, student athletes have spent nearly half their lives competing in one or more sports and often (as in the case of distance runners) training year-round.

My opinion is that perhaps the most important role of a social worker in athletics is to help prepare athletes for the next phase of their lives — to help them transition into a new identity separate from athletics.

We need to help them work through the stages of grief and loss of their athletic careers and identities, and help them move into advanced academic programs and life in America’s workforce.

Richard J. Nance, MSHHA, MSW, LCSW
Provo, Utah

Life coaching diminishes core values of social work

I was very disappointed to see NASW validating life coaching as a legitimate career option for social workers. Have the core values of the social work profession lost their meaning?

From the beginning of the profession, our focus has been on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Of course, we have expanded to work with other populations that are experiencing significant life challenges. But your article reminded me of the central message in the book “Unfaithful Angels,” by Specht and Courtney, when they warned that if the social work profession continued its steady drift into providing psychotherapy for middle and upper class “worried well,” they would lose sight of their mission to help underprivileged people.

This article even goes a step further to having social workers providing services in a field that serves particularly privileged people with the resources to afford a life coach. As social workers, we cannot even afford such services.

Deborah Foster, MSW, PhD
Twin Cities, Minn.