Here we are, back in social work school. Where the students are crazy and the teachers are enablers. A hint to anyone considering entering the field: tell your professor that you were struck by the “white privilege” or “heteronormativity” in the article you were asked to read. Instant bonus points.
Allow me to take you back to my social policy class. Here we learn the history of social work, how social policy has developed over the course of US history, and how politics affect the work we do.
We also complain. And try to one up each other with our liberalism.
“I’m a socialist!” “Really? I’m an anarchist. Socialism falls short for me.” “Anarchy? Interesting. It’s so male oriented. I’m a radical transfeminist cyberpunk.”
And so on.
One day, a fresh-from-undergrad student who still lived with her parents on the Upper West Side had a thought to share. (I knew that she still lived with her parents, because she put me on her phone one day to tell her maid, in Spanish, not to clean her room.)
“You know, there’s that old saying. I really believe in it. It’s like, don’t teach a man to fish. No, don’t give a man fish…give someone fish, he can eat now, but teach him to fish, and he’ll eat forever. Something like that. But I think that’s, like, what we’re supposed to do.”
Eloquence was not her strong suit. But I wouldn’t regard her comment as controversial.
Because I forgot where I was for a moment.
The focus in social work school is always on the circumstances that created the problem. We don’t want to blame the victim. This sometimes leads to us running to the “victim’s” defense, cloaking him in social work practice and railing against anything that contributed to him getting locked up, abusing his children, or living in poverty–the court system, the police, his parents, racism, too much TV, not enough vegetables, a culturally insensitive education system. (If you can think of at least six more factors, you win the liberal award!)
For this reason, the other, mostly older, more experienced students, felt the need to put this girl (and maybe her cleaning lady) in her place.
“Yes, but we need to consider where the person would be getting this ‘fish.'” “True, and where will they get supplies to ‘fish?'” “Right, and if they can catch any ‘fish,’ how are they going to prepare it?”
Yes, and what about mercury content? You have to be so careful these days. Honestly, some people shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near metaphors.
I don’t know what we accomplished that day. My head was spinning as we all got completely turned around from the issue at hand.
But one thing is certain-as I bit into a spicy tuna roll that evening, I felt, for some strange reason, that I was on the side of the proletariat.