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Title

Jurisdictional Disputes In The History Of Social Work Education And Practice

Date of Award

1982

Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Abstract

Throughout its history social work has been enmeshed in a constant conflict between the two major factions in the profession; a conservative group with its roots in American philanthropy, the social caseworkers, and a more liberal group emanating from the settlement house movement. Although the settlement workers also practiced casework, their interests were more global and included participation in social reform. This was opposed by the caseworkers. These caseworkers have dominated the field during most of its history. Therefore, the mainstream of social work has emphasized practice oriented toward an individual counseling therapeutic model rather than involvement in the socio-political arena. This position has been reflected in a variety of areas in the development of professional practice and education. Social work moved from a social science knowledge base to one that was more exclusively psychological and psychiatric. Schools of social work, when they were founded, had a practical, atheoretical posture and opposed the idealism of academia. They started as independent entities from universities. In addition, the admission requirements to the schools as well as the profession stressed practical achievement, common sense and experience rather than intellect, academic accomplishments and philosophical commitment to liberal ideals. The curriculum also reflected an apolitical, atheoretical, practical stance by focusing primarily on skills and techniques of casework counseling. When the need for activist social workers arose during the Great Depression, professionally educated social workers did not have the skills to participate in government. Instead, social reform leadership came from liberal settlement workers. As this group was absorbed by government, schools were not able to replace them. Curricula remained narrowly concerned with casework. As time passed social work influence and status declined, as the profession was unable to meet the leadership challenge during the school change in the 1960's. The study of these basic controversies has provided insight into the direction and effectiveness of social work. The analysis of this historical evidence has provided an assessment of the potential of the profession to play a meaningful role in contemporary American society.

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