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Impediments to MSW Satisfaction

Some Impediments to MSW Student Satisfaction

Special Studies (SW598) University of Michigan School of Social Work

Ray Woodcock May 2, 2010

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction

A masters degree in social work (MSW), earned in a graduate program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), can offer a broad range of skills, tools, and knowledge that prepares [the student] for advanced social work (University of Michigan, 2009). The process of completing that (or any) educational program should be subject to regular examination, to determine whether it can more efficiently or fully achieve its purpose. Student dissatisfaction can identify particular areas needing improvement. These are relatively straightforward and noncontroversial propositions; yet they are not easy to put to use. This paper addresses several barriers to execution. The discussion begins with a review of a few prominent definitions of the social work profession and of relevant views of various stakeholders in MSW education, in a bid to identify the central purpose(s) of that education. In response to the divergent concepts of MSW education stated or implied in those various perspectives, the paper proposes its own formulation of the purpose of MSW education. It is then suggested that, in fact and/or in conscious experience, significant portions of the student body find that, in certain regards, SSWs themselves frustrate the pursuit of that purpose. The paper concludes with questions for further investigation. Divergent Views of the Purpose of MSW Education MSW education is education in the social work profession. It would seem, then, that the purpose or mission of the profession must be central to the purpose of MSW education. On that basis, one might consult the opinions of leading social work organizations regarding the mission of social work. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is one such organization. According to the NASW (2008), The primary mission of the social work profession is [a] to enhance human wellbeing and [b] help meet the basic human needs of all people, with

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction [c] particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. The CSWE is another such organization; however, it does not phrase the mission of the profession in quite the same way. According to the CSWEs (2010, p. 1) Educational Policy (sic) and Accreditation Standards (EPAS), [a] The purpose of the social work profession is to promote human and community well-being. [b] Guided by a person and environment construct, a global perspective, respect for human diversity, and knowledge based on scientific inquiry, [c] social works purpose is actualized through its quest for social and economic justice, the prevention of conditions that limit human rights, the elimination of poverty, and the enhancement of the quality of life for all persons.

The NASW (2008) thus states two missions. Its clause (a) arguably matches the CSWEs (2010) clause (a); but after that, the best one can say is that the two seem to be talking about similar concerns and yet not saying exactly the same things about them. For instance, the CSWEs clause (c) says that the purpose of the profession is actualized through four different kinds of efforts. Does that mean that promoting human and community well-being (the stated purpose in clause (a)) means only, and exactly, those four kinds of efforts? And among those four, what about the prevention of conditions that limit human rights what does that entail? Human rights lawyers, for example: are they part of the social work profession? It might be possible to add explanations, caveats, and other verbiage, so as to make these two mission statements clear and compatible with one another. Doing so would tend, however, to call into question their quality as mission statements (see Williams, 2008). At best, it could seem that the two statements are working toward consensus, but have not yet reached it.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction Even if the NASW and the CSWE arrive at a consensus definition of the social work

profession, however, there would remain the uncomfortable fact that neither of them, nor even the two of them collectively, actually represent that profession. By its very name, the CSWE is oriented toward social work education, not toward the entire profession. It boasts about 3,000 individual members (CSWE, 2009). The NASW (2010), for its part, claims 150,000 members, but federal government sources indicate that there were at least 642,000 employed social workers in the U.S. in 2008 (BLS, 2010); elsewhere, the U.S. Census Bureau (2009, Table 603) estimates 729,000 employed social workers in that same year. Even using the lower figure, it seems the NASW does not speak for even a quarter of the nations social workers. Moreover, those who do become NASW members surely are not representative of the whole. For one thing, NASW takes positions that many social workers reject (below). NASW memberships also cost money, and poorly paid social workers seem likely to hesitate for that reason. In addition, people who are thinking of leaving the profession, or who got social work degrees but never entered it (possibly because of their educational experiences), as a rule are not going to buy NASW memberships. How many such people there are is not known, but there is some disturbing research on the question. Wermeling (2006) found that 44% of the MSWs she surveyed had left or were considering leaving the profession.1 Given the prospect of better incomes elsewhere, it is likely that a substantial fraction of that percentage did so; that is, there could easily be 100,000 social workers who are not employed in the profession. Meanwhile, in the mid-aughts (i.e., from 2002 to 2008), the available information seems to suggest an addition of at least 10,000 social

Siebert (2005) found that 39% of practicing social workers were experiencing burnout at the time of her survey, and that 75% had experienced burnout at some point in their careers. Wermeling (2009) indicates, in fact, that the very definitions of these terms (including social worker) are unclear, and suggests that [A] study of social workers not employed within the profession and their possible disaffection with the profession seems long overdue.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction workers per year.2 Yet NASW membership evidently dropped during that period; it was

reportedly over 155,000 in 2002 (Thyer, 2002, p. 3). Note, finally, that some social workers and social work organizations have adopted decidedly non-NASW stances (e.g., Rosenwald, 2006; NABSW, n.d.). In short, it is very unlikely that the NASWs mission statement represents the consensus of people trained in social work, or even of people currently employed in social work. Mission statements typically speak for an organization, not for an entire profession (see Woodcock, 2008, p. 582). If these statements by the NASW and the CSWE are therefore more appropriately construed as mission statements for their own organizations, there is no longer a problem; one would expect different organizations to have different purposes. The NASWs (2008) statement of its mission then has only indirect relevance to the purpose of social work education: its strictures may apply to various interactions within SSWs, but the NASW does not attempt to regulate MSW education directly. Likewise, if the CSWEs (2010) statement is construed as a summary of its own mission rather than of the entire profession, then its importance derives, not from its present positioning as a preambulatory dictum apropos of nothing, but rather as an integral component of Educational Policy (EP) 1.0, which is the only EP that cites it. Further, when translated into the more articulated form of Accreditation Standard (AS) 1.0, EP 1.0 requires only that an MSW programs mission and goals reflect and be consistent with that preambulatory mission statement. The CSWEs 2001 EPAS actually did state the purposes of the social work profession, and of social work education, in EPs 1.0 and 1.1 not, that is, in the preamble. The 2001 EPAS

This question is not addressed in detail here. BLS reportedly estimated a total of 477,000 employed social workers in 2002 (Robiner, 2006, p. 608). Even using the lower of the two figures cited in the text (above), a rise from 477,000 to 642,000 over a six-year period implies the addition of 27,500 social workers per year. There would be 10,000 new social workers per year even if the nations 400+ programs of social work education averaged only 25 graduates each. Some definitions may include practitioners without degrees in social work, who may or may not have been eligible for NASW membership in any case during those years.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction stated, not one, but six purposes of the profession, along with three purposes of social work education. Collectively, the several EPAS of the early 21st century have inspired a variety of statements of the purpose(s) of social work education, of which these are a few examples: The purposes of social work education are to prepare competent and effective professionals, to develop social work knowledge, and to provide leadership in the

development of service delivery systems (Wagner, Newcomb, & Weiler, 2001, p. 114). The purpose of social work education is the preparation of competent and effective social work professionals who are committed to social work practice that includes services to the poor and oppressed, and who work to alleviate poverty, oppression, and other forms of social injustice (Shank, 2007, p. 5).
[O]ne purpose of Social Work education is, To develop and use research, knowledge, and skills that advance social work practice (Finn & Dillon, 2007, p. 156, quoting the thencurrent text of EPAS 1.0).

[A] significant purpose of discipline-specific education is to provide socialization to the profession (Litten, 2008, p. 36).

Currently, the purpose of social work education is to enable students to integrate the knowledge, values, and skills of the social work profession into competent practice (Richardson, 2009, p. 12). Currently is right: history suggests that the stated purpose(s) will change and change

again. And yet these changes do not appear to prompt much revision of MSW curricula. It seems likely, then, that these are changes in the stated purposes of MSW education, as distinct from the actual purposes. That is, the CSWEs statements of purpose seem to be general and descriptive, not specific and prescriptive recurrently trying primarily to characterize or perhaps

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction

to idealize MSW education, that is, rather than to dictate particular realities. That interpretation meshes with the statement by Sowers and Dulmus (2009) that CSWEs stated views reflect the preferences of a majority of the CSWEs members, not empirical findings on what works, nor on what the public or other stakeholders want from social work education. The CSWEs members, says Stoesz (2008, p. 175), are selected on the basis of identity politics as opposed to traditional scholarship as a paradigm for professional education. This arrangement does not appear to prioritize effective outcomes. Stoesz and Karger (2009, p. 106) calculate that 80% of the members of the CSWEs board would themselves be terminated, due to their meager scholarly publications, if they were up for promotion and tenure within a university. Such observations suggest that the CSWEs actual role in accreditation is not one of providing expertise in the area of educational quality. The accreditation process itself has been characterized as an adversarial and bureaucratic ordeal that needs radical reform (Midgley, 2009, p. 119). There are indications, too, that the CSWE is more interested in appearances than in substance that, in other words, the subjects that it requires to be presented in MSW curricula are not covered very well (Karger & Hernndez, 2004, p. 60). As one indicator, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB, 2008) states that about one out of four MSWs fails the ASWBs licensing exam (Marson, DeAngelis, & Mittal, 2010, p. 98). Thyer (2010) finds that, at some schools, that rate is an unbelievable one of every two, if not worse: The MSW curriculum is centered on the CSWE accreditation standards. The LCSW examination is centered on the ABSW [sic] task analysis. There have been no formal investigations on the extent to which these two driving forces governing the profession overlap, supplement, or contradict each other.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction

Such investigations are hindered, Thyer says, by the ASWBs withholding of such information. It appears, in other words, that the divergence between the NASW and the CSWE (above), regarding the purpose of an MSW education, is joined by a different divergence between the CSWE and the ASWB, at least for the many MSW students who have a clinical orientation. As if these differences among the CSWE, the ASWB, and the NASW were not enough, there are also many differences of opinion among those large numbers of social work academics [who] view CSWE as an occupying army (Stoesz & Karger, 2009, p. 2). Not only do faculty interpretations of the EPAS diverge from those of the CSWE; some understand the profession and the purpose of MSW education in ways that are not immediately reconcilable with any of the above. For instance, Popple (1985) says that attempts to develop a unified definition of social work have failed because social work is not a unitary profession to which traditional models can be applied (p. 568); he suggests that what ties social workers together is not a shared body of knowledge and skill but a common social assignment dealing with dependency (p. 573). But Bar-On (1994, p. 65) asserts that social workers essential job is advocacy and brokerage, where they represent their clients unmet needs before other non-client resource controllers. Finally, for Butler, Ford, and Tregaskis (2007, p. 295), [T]he hallmark of a professional social worker is that she is consciously involved in the dynamic process of self-narration. Students, in turn, have their own views of the purpose of MSW education. To the extent that faculty can be said to share an emphasis on social action, there is some discrepancy between what a high proportion of social work students want and what many social work faculty members are prepared to provide (Reid & Edwards, 2006, pp. 480-481). It would not be surprising if students tend to reject what they could construe as the failed vision of e.g., the NASW (2008) mission statement (above). Reid and Edwards (p. 476) observe that US social

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction

work cannot be said to have been a central actor in the formation and implementation of public policy regarding the poor in the last third of the twentieth century. Nowadays, say Karger and Hernndez (2004, p. 51), social workers have little influence on the pressing social issues of the day. Under such circumstances, it would make sense for students to focus, instead, on market realities. For example, most who want to work in management appear to consider graduate degrees in business or public administration more marketable, and similar thoughts seem to divert many policy-oriented students toward law and related fields. There are also other, more remunerative fields for those who want to work in hospitals. In short, MSW programs have little practical choice but to tailor themselves for a clinically oriented majority of students. As yet another kind of stakeholder, MSW program admissions offices seem to be in the position, generally, of mediating among these divergent student, faculty, practitioner, accreditation, and budgetary perceptions of the purpose of social work education. The students who actually enter such programs may thus not correspond with any constituencys ideal. An unfortunate decline in quality of such students seems to be one result. Karger and Stoesz (2003, p. 283) suggest that a sharp increase in the number of MSW programs nationwide has led schools to accept less qualified applicants in order to meet their expenses. Sowers and Dulmus (2009, p. 115) echo this: Programs are lowering admission standards and graduating marginal students. At the same time, they say, practice in a competitive market increasingly demands empirically oriented knowledge and skills that are not being taught in MSW programs. Most stakeholders including some not discussed above, such as the university and the larger (i.e., supra-NASW) social work profession are unlikely to benefit from a vicious spiral of deteriorating MSW educational quality necessitated by students increasing numbers and declining academic capabilities. One possibility is that social work education cannot go much

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 10 lower: it already has a poor reputation and tends to attract among the least competitive students, in the U.S. and abroad (Sowers & Dulmus; Green, 2006). Another possibility is that budget cuts and developments in other kinds of programs (in e.g., nursing, public health) will continue to drive university reorganizations that will combine social work students and faculties, potentially raising standards and/or erasing at least some of the sense of social work as a distinctive profession (Reid & Edwards, 2006, p. 479; Robiner, 2006). Finally, the stakeholders with the most important vote on the purpose of MSW education are those individuals, families, and other clients who are supposed to benefit from social work services. Theirs is in some regards a proxy vote, sometimes cast by researchers who are positioned to gauge actual vs. perceived and longer-term vs. shorter-term outcomes; but it is also a somewhat market-driven affair, insofar as MSWs incomes flow from government agencies, insurance companies, clients, and others who have a say in the cost-benefit calculation. Increasingly, social workers who do not wish to be sidelined should be prepared to provide evidence of efficacy in serving their clients (Sowers & Dulmus, 2009). There are, in short, a number of divergent views of what MSW education is or should be. To sum it up: while both the NASW and the CSWE claim to speak for social workers across the board on at least the purpose of the profession itself, neither those organizations nor their putative mission statements embody the requisite coherence and representativeness; and yet the interests of other stakeholders are not uniform either. A Suggested Purpose for MSW Education It seems inadvisable to let matters rest with the foregoing statement of divergent perspectives. An intelligible discussion of student satisfaction with MSW education does call for a working sense of what that education is supposed to be accomplishing. In the interests of

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 11 simplicity and straightforwardness, it is proposed that the purpose of social work is to develop and refine the ability to provide services that clients need from social workers, and that the purpose of MSW (as distinct from BSW) education is to develop and refine that ability at a relatively advanced level. The list of needed services is not open-ended. If clients needed a better mousetrap from social workers, that would be part of the calculation; but in practice, that is not likely. Rather, there is a limited and possibly shrinking list of services that someone is going to be able and willing to pay social workers to perform, and those should dominate MSW education as it now exists within the university setting. In addition to services that someone will pay for, there are also services, needed by large numbers of clients, that neither government, insurance, or charity can fund on a nationwide (never mind global) basis. These services seem to have been most notably championed, in the U.S. and abroad, by people who have not been MSWs (e.g., Jane Addams, Harry Hopkins, Mohandas Gandhi, Muhummed Yunus) who, indeed, would not qualify as social workers at all under current definitions (Karger & Hernndez, 2004, p. 56). MSWs can talk at length about the needs of the poor, and some MSWs do work in agencies that serve the poor. Whether MSW education does, or can, uniquely enhance students inclination and ability to provide such service is another matter. Given the apparent disinclination and/or financial inability of most MSW students to devote themselves primarily to such work (especially after incurring the costs of graduate education), it appears that much of that work will continue to fall to those, with or without social work degrees, who do have the means to indulge a social conscience (Karger & Lonne, 2009, p. 34), while the main stream of the social work profession continues in what appears to be a historical pattern of desultory attention to its ostensible social action heritage (e.g., De Benedetti, 1984, p. 90; Bisno, 1956, p. 18).

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 12 At present, impressions of client needs relevant to MSW education tend to be conveyed most compellingly, to SSWs, via students broad-brush decisions regarding the kinds of training they need. This is not to say that students know exactly what they need to know, nor that they are always the best sources of information on how it should be taught to them (see Abrami, dApollonia, & Rosenfield, 2007, p. 414). To some extent, these are things that they are paying the school to figure out. Generally, though, they will not be inclined to attend a school unless it offers the credential they think they need in order to get approximately the kind of job they want. Students decisions on such matters are driven by their inevitably imperfect cognizance of the preferences of potential employers, which conform to varying degrees with inclinations of the people who pay for the services provided by those employers, which depend in turn upon those decisionmakers politics, research, personally held opinions, and other factors. In this process of identifying and communicating the needs of end users of social work services back to teachers, textbook writers, and other providers and facilitators of MSW educations, there are time lags (often measured in years), informational distortions and opacities, and other (sometimes profound) flaws and impediments. Students unavoidably supplement and revise their grasp of official knowledge sources, along the way, with their own personal discoveries and encounters. Some of their amendments to the official story turn out to be premature or faddish; others prove prescient; and it is generally impossible to know for sure which is which. Students can thus be viewed as an important source of information on what an MSW education should entail. They are not an entirely reliable source, but neither can their insights be rationally disregarded. They are, moreover, an important, paying clientele. When their views and preferences are overruled, multiple considerations (including good business sense, politesse, professional ethics, and a desire for logical consistency) call for faculty and administration to

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 13 present a sound rationale, engage in consequent dialogue, gather useful data, conduct follow-up research, improve the learning process that led the students to their overruled and supposedly incorrect conclusion, and respond flexibly to further developments (see Elias, 2007, p. 2543). In contrast to the dismissive environments found outside of higher education and in some other sorts of higher education programs, these considerations can easily extend, not only to those who are admitted to the MSW program, but also, as much as possible, to those who are rejected and, in at least a representative sense, to those who did not even bother to apply who went, for example, to programs in public administration or public health instead. The purpose of an MSW education, as proposed above, is to develop and refine the ability to provide advanced services that clients need from social workers. The purpose of an SSW, however, is not exactly to provide that education. That phrasing would make sense if the SSW, like the student, were engaged in a one-time trip through the process. The proposed purpose of an SSW is, rather, to develop the nature and quality of that process to improve, in other words, the iterative training of people who will provide services that clients need from social workers. The actual teaching follows from the purpose of the SSW: improved training implies training. In other words, the rote act of purveying the same material, semester after semester, is stultifying for students and faculty alike but, fortunately, the SSW is not a factory. An effective social work educational process should encourage faculty and students not only to improve upon the subject matter of a course, but also to question that subject matter and, whenever possible, to restate, supplement, abbreviate, or discard it. In this way, the SSW can work perpetually toward incorporating valuable new information and skills that students might not encounter otherwise.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 14 Achieving the Purpose of MSW Education There are many ways in which SSWs can strive to exemplify best practices in professional education. Among those suggested or implied above, one is to optimize licensing processes, so as to improve quality of services without inhibiting access to them (Thyer, 2007, p. 25; Smith, 1989, pp. 94-100). SSWs disclosure of ASWB pass rates would help administrators, faculty, students, and applicants alike to make more informed decisions about licensing-related aspects of social work education. Given the low academic standing of MSW education, it seems advisable, in addition, to investigate whether CSWE accreditation processes are helping the profession. The preceding paragraph suggests that the purpose of an SSW is to make progress toward these and other possible improvements in education-related matters. Whatever the case may be at the level of the SSW, the proposed purpose at the level of the individual MSW student is, again, to develop and refine the ability to provide advanced services that clients need from social workers. Students seek the MSW degree, as distinct from an MSW education, as an assurance to employers and clients that they do possess some such ability. If the quest for a sheepskin is the only reason for a particular students involvement with MSW education, it falls to the SSW to insure that the degree does provide that assurance. Regardless of whether the student is responding to intrinsic or extrinsic motivations, though, the SSW should seek to facilitate, and should also seek not to impair, his/her progress toward developing and refining the ability to provide advanced services that clients need from social workers. The SSW should try to insure, in other words, that the student could not have arranged a superior educational experience, for that purpose, elsewhere or on his/her own. It is suggested, then, that the SSW confronts two overlapping but non-identical duties with respect to MSW education. First, the purpose of an SSW, as noted above, is to improve

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 15 MSW education. This may entail assorted abstract and concrete measures having present and/or future impact, determined from the perspective of the SSWs administrators and faculty. Second, the pursuit of MSW education depends upon present facilitation and non-impairment of the students learning, from his/her real-time perspective. Where faculty and administrators seem more attuned to the interests of the SSW than of the student, this second obligation may tend to become a matter of advocacy or self-advocacy on behalf of the student vis--vis the institution. One could say that the first obligation calls for proactive gestures by the SSW toward the student, while the second calls for reactive yet constructive responses by the SSW to the student. From the administrators perspective, the second obligation constitutes an extension of best practices into the area of customer service while, from the students vantage, that second obligation provides an opportunity (possibly his/her first opportunity) to interact with a model organizational client. What is sketched is thus a picture of reciprocity, in which the SSW reaches out to students and also allows them to reach out to it. It may be relatively easy for administrators and faculty to identify and implement sensible, proactive steps to improve MSW education from their perspective. What remains is to consider the second, reciprocal obligation to facilitate and not impair the students learning. Since this obligation depends upon the students perspective, the following section introduces issues that seem likely to emerge, within an SSW that commits itself to support for and openness to student concerns regarding MSW education. MSW Student Perspectives on Student Satisfaction Scholars have investigated student satisfaction with various aspects of social work education. For example, Rogers-Freidenberg (2008) examined MSW student satisfaction with faculty, faculty availability, field instruction, course variety, advisement services, and career

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 16 counseling. Others have looked into MSW student satisfaction with respect to various pedagogical devices and possibilities, including portfolios (Schatz, 2004), face-to-face contact hours (Banks & Faul, 2007), and the use of technology (Coleman & Collins, 2008). Satisfaction of MSW students could also be studied with respect to other aspects of their experience that have not yet been developed in the literature, such as their satisfaction with university services (Gruber, Fu, Voss, & Glser-Zikuda, 2010). Like students across many disciplines, MSW students do commonly fill out semester-end evaluations of their courses and professors (Abrami et al., 2007, p. 454; Marsh, 2007, pp. 372374). Without denying the value of these sorts of investigations for other purposes, in the present context they tend to be peripheral, to the extent that they characterize areas of potential student concern from an administrative rather than student perspective. In other words, their identification of particular issues makes sense if one assumes that things are mostly OK, aside from perhaps a few areas that may need some adjustment. From a different perspective, however that is, without that assumption such gestures evoke the proverbial rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic. For many MSW students, things are emphatically not mostly OK. For such students, the canned questions on the evaluation forms (and the environment in which they are administered) can seem almost laughable. The following paragraphs identify several significant impediments that these sorts of students (and, through them, their future clients) encounter in their quest to realize the purpose of an MSW education. Discrimination against Certain Viewpoints and Identities There are a number of reasons why students might encounter such impediments. First, there is the suggestion (above) that SSWs are responding to the pressure to maintain enrollments by lowering admission standards. Where this occurs, it poses a serious risk of converting

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 17 unqualified applicants into marginalized students. At the same time, it creates the likelihood that, in at least some academic settings, people who were already among the most qualified will become impatient, if not bored, with the ensuing deterioration in the learning process (e.g., Gallagher & Harradine, 1997; see Peir, Agut, & Grau, 2010). Student alienation is also possible if social work curricula seem ideologically narrowminded (see Deal & Pittman, 2009, p. 97; Khinduka, 2007, p. 20). Alienation seems especially likely if students conclude that they cannot express their views safely that is, they cannot let their guard down and really become engaged in classes or other university contexts, but must instead insure that their views conform with those of the professor (Schrader, 2004). Indeed, not only conservative, but also moderate and openminded liberal students are likely to distance themselves from a campus or classroom environment in which people of unfashionable viewpoint are ridiculed, heckled, or prevented from speaking altogether (NAS, 2007; Sowers & Patchner, 2007; DSouza, 2005; Webb, 2005) or are treated condescendingly by social work professors who are unwilling or unable to see themselves and their own views in context (e.g., Fram & Miller-Cribbs, 2008, p. 895; compare Todd & Coholic, 2007). Students can also feel alienated for reasons related to identity. For instance, nontraditional students can experience social isolation, can be patronized for the ways in which their years away from school have shaped their words and thoughts, and can be disadvantaged by course schedules designed for young people who do not have to work during the day (see Gordon, 2008, p. 124). Further, while there exist (and apparently will continue to exist) areas of the university in which male or female students tend to predominate (e.g., engineering, nursing), the male privilege of previous generations has vanished overall: female students have outnumbered male students in graduate schools for the past quarter-century, and the rate of divergence

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 18 has accelerated (Snyder, Dillow, & Hoffman, 2009, p. 270). Worse, negative depictions of men in social work are pervasive, to the point that heterosexual white males in particular are fair game for sexist and racist statements and assumptions (Britton & Stoller, 1998; Kosberg, Adams, Wheeler, & Blundo, 2008). Not surprisingly, males, who comprised 43% of all MSW graduates in 1960, have vanished to such an extent that they constituted only 15% in 2000 (Schilling, Morrish, & Liu, 2008) among whom heterosexual whites are a fraction of the fraction. Bullying As one might infer from some of the behaviors described above (not to mention this writers personal experiences and private communications with others), bullying plays a role in alienating actual and would-be MSW students. Generally, bullying takes different forms. Among children, although the matter is debated, the dominant view at present seems to be that boys are more likely (and in any event seem to be voted by peers as more likely) to engage in physical aggression, while girls are seen as more likely to engage in social aggression (e.g., malicious gossip, social exclusion, interpersonal betrayal) (Waasdorp & Bradshaw, 2009, p. 732; Hawley, Little, & Card, 2008, p. 77). As boys mature, it seems that they are socialized toward social rather than physical aggression (Goldstein, Young, & Boyd, 2008, p. 651; Basow, Cahill, Phelan, Longshore, & McGillicuddy-DeLisi, 2007, p. 90; Kaukiainen et al., 2001). Acts of relational aggression, which can be difficult to detect and respond to, occur far more frequently than acts of physical aggression (Kevorkian & DAntona, 2008, p. 100; see Pepler, Craig, Yuile, & Connolly, 2004, p. 91). While many people (prominently including social workers) loudly denounce physical violence, they tend at the same time to be quietly complicit in many varieties of it (Pilsuk, 2007; Passas & Goodwin, 2004). And yet relational aggression can also do enormous damage (e.g., Klomek et al., 2009; Vossekuil, Robert, Reddy,

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 19 Borum, & Modzeleski, 2002, p. 21; Goldstein et al., 2008, p. 649) and, especially in the form some call mobbing, can be personally devastating (Hecker, 2007; Varhama & Bjrkqvist, 2005). Some consider relational aggression more harmful than the physical variety (Waasdorp & Bradshaw, 2009, p. 740), especially when it takes a psychopathic form (Kelly, 2007, p. 113); but others downplay it (compare e.g., Chesney-Lind et al., 2007, p. 330 with Hegarty, Sheehan, & Schonfeld, 1999, p. 401). In the latter instance, possibly it is easier for those who, themselves, have competed effectively in the realm of indirect aggression to excuse it as actually embodying higher social intelligence (compare Chesney-Lind et al., p. 335 with Hawley et al., 2008, p. 84). There does not appear to have been research on the prevalence of social aggression among social workers or social work faculty as compared to the general public. Interestingly, socially dominant boys seem to use relational aggression effectively (Hawley et al., 2008, p. 84). That raises the possibility (supported by this writers personal experience and by conversations with others) that it may take a certain kind of man to thrive in social work academia as a professor or administrator. (It is not clear whether this possibility applies especially to men who have come up through the ranks in what seems to have been a more established anti-male environment within the past few decades.) The possibility that comes to mind here is that the kind of man who can succeed in an SSW may be one who uses relational aggression, not only to interact with his colleagues in a manner consistent with the dominant organizational culture (see Kelly, 2007, p. 114), but also to maintain a sense of dominance over other men (including male students) by portraying them, in elite fashion (see Gambrill, 2001, p. 169), as boors as, that is, unenlightened or otherwise inferior (e.g., Pease, 2003, p. 135; Hogan, 1998, p. 19; Neuman & Kreuger, 2003, p. 429).

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 20 Regrettably, these various bullying phenomena tend not to be matters that actual and would-be MSW students, whether male or female, tend to find open for discussion in SSWs. In fact, victims of bullies (and males more than females) are evidently least likely, of all participants in a bullying scenario, to receive social support, despite being most likely to need it (Holt & Espelage, 2007, pp. 985-986, 991). It tends instead to be expected that MSW students will acquiesce in social works preoccupation with physical aggression, and will accept opacity (including non-transparency and an absence of accountability for social aggression) as a fact of life, in the SSW and in the very ethics of the profession (see Kelly, 2007, p. 116; Gambrill, 2006, p. 60). The point here is simply that those who experience such behaviors within the SSW itself are not likely to concur with an administrative assumption that things are mostly OK. Social Work University Mismatch Bullying gains traction in circumstances of unequal power (Haney, Banks, & Zimbardo, 1973, p. 94). Just as the majority of workplace bullying incidents are perpetrated by supervisors (Kelly, 2007, p. 119; LaVan & Martin, 2007, p. 149), so also educators abuse students, with surprising frequency, from elementary school all the way to the Ph.D. (Whitted & Dupper, 2008, p. 336; Hinchey & Kimmel, 2000, p. 107). But perhaps what should be highlighted here is not the more obvious instances of overt or covert bullying in which MSW program faculty and administrators may engage, including forms discussed above, but rather the more taken-forgranted misuses of power through which MSW education is dragged down to approximately the level of accounting, dental hygiene, or any other tedious, mercenary field of study. There is, first and perhaps foremost, the concept that social work should be taught primarily in a college or university, when that is so obviously not where most of those low-GRE MSW students think they should be. It is hardly a good practice to infantilize them by forcing

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 21 them to sit in classrooms for the equivalent of at least a solid year, where they may or may not be reading or otherwise learning very much, and are also being schooled in parochialism rather than interdisciplinary collaboration (Taylor, 2009). It is absurd, if not downright exploitative, to oblige those students to forgo a substantial amount of potential income, and often to incur large amounts of debt (Kim, 2007), knowing that most will not be making very much and that many will struggle to find employment at any price. Were it not for what appears to be a genderrelated conceit of academic superiority, the indicators would all seem to direct this sort of education to a vocational institution. Social workers often identify the field practicum experience as the single most important part of social work education (Ligon & Ward, 2002, p. 63), and with good reason. Indeed, for the large majority of social work students who want to be practitioners, an educational experience structured around a high-quality apprenticeship (see Fuller & Unwin, 2007, p. 456) of some type (see Jacoby, 1991; Swisher, 2008) would be far more likely to be educational, affordable, and responsive to their sense of what is most rewarding in their MSW education (see DAprix, Dunlap, Abel, & Edwards, 2004, p. 274; Carlson, May, Loertscher, & Cobia, 2003; Sigaut, 1993), and might at the same time teach coping skills for what can be, today, a startling disconnect between educational theory and practice realities (e.g., PrestonShoot, 2003). Such an education could still entail some academic coursework (Strauss, 1968) and result in a degree (Glover & Bilginsoy, 2005, p. 344), with an MSW option for those on an academic track. University education of social workers is objectionable, not only from the students perspective, but also from that of professional ethics. Programs and projects within universities tend to prioritize the best and the brightest, the highest-earning and the most prestigious. These elitist orientations (see Khinduka, 2007, p. 18) make sense within the world as the university sees

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 22 it. They are not, however, compatible with social work values. People who (from an elitist perspective) are the worst and most ignorant, pathetic, and desperate these are among the clients who most need social workers help. As some of the groups cited above (e.g., victims of bullying) can attest, years of steeping in the university ambiance do not incline MSW students or faculty to share or empathize with the situations experienced by needy clients. To cite apprentices again as a point of contrast, MSW students are not becoming acclimated to their clients environments and are not modeling a form of training to which clients themselves can aspire (see Pannabecker, 1991, p. 77; Hamilton, 1993). That sort of thing could reduce burnout and, in the process, might impair the demand for graduates of MSW programs. Instead, social workers are taught the mentality of an occupying force. One is left with Margolins (1997, p. 121) observation: [T]he stated goal is to empower clients, but there is at the same time all this talk of confronting, penetrating resistances, gaining client cooperation. People are seen, not as individuals, but as products of systems (e.g., Tam & Coleman, 2009, p. 53). Hence, to cite one outcome of MSW education, despite growing need, graduates from these programs still eschew the prospect of working with old people (Cummings & Adler, 2007, pp. 925-926; Simons, Shepherd, & Munn, 2008), when real-life exposure to such clients could instead have been generating students interest in careers in gerontology (Gutheil, Heyman, & Chernesky, 2009; Olson, 2007). Another example, evident in the preceding pages, is that of working with male clients: it will be difficult for the student to do so effectively, if s/he has been trained to problematize men has, indeed, been essentially cloistered from them in professional terms. An additional problem of social work education within the university environment: the university is hierarchical and authoritarian, with all the drawbacks of such organization from a social work perspective (e.g., Milgram, 1973; Barney & Dalton, 2006). Over the years, it gives a

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 23 small number of talented, shrewd, or otherwise advantaged individuals a great deal of power over the lives and futures of hundreds, thousands, in a few instances even hundreds of thousands of people. Authoritarian organization, at its best, may invite and use feedback from its minions; but it is not remotely an empowering form of structure, it rarely fosters anything resembling genuine dialogue, it tends to be unresponsive and burdensome, and at its worst it is, simply put, the very worst, the most oppressive and destructive, of all forms of human organization. This sort of thing may sound lovely, from the perspective of those social workers who love bureaucracy, but it is not very compatible with service, respect, or other commonly cited values of the social work profession. These are not abstract issues. One need only compare the functionality and motivation of MSW students in their field placements against their typically lethargic behavior in the classroom to reach the conclusion that, far from things being mostly OK, fundamental assumptions and accepted verities in MSW education are dramatically out of alignment with the needs and preferences of clients and of MSW students themselves. The purpose of MSW education to develop and refine the ability to provide advanced services that clients need from social workers is likely to be better served by a radical rethinking of the relationship between the academy and the profession, beginning with some maturation of an administrative ability and desire to detect what students themselves need from social work. Mental Health of MSW Faculty and Students A peek into the literature suggests that faculty members may experience depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances (Shanafelt et al., 2009; Lampman, Phelps, Bancroft, & Beneke, 2008); gender-differentiated psychological distress arising from work and family responsibilities and hassles (Dunn, Whelton, &

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 24 Sharpe, 2006, pp. 519-520); and, for increasing numbers of non-tenured faculty, pervasive exclusion, oppression, and devaluation and hierarchy, privilege, and oppression (Purcell, 2007, pp. 122, 130); and also that faculty use recreational as well as performance-enhancing drugs (Schnake, Fredenberger, & Dumler, 2004, p. 9; Chatterjee, 2008, p. 145). These realities pose an opportunity: Rasmussen and Mishna (2008, p. 201) suggest, refreshingly, that faculty make social work concepts more real to students by disclosing their own experiences (involving e.g., racism, hidden disabilities, sexual attraction to a client). In their understated acknowledgment, However, sharing such an experience always feels somewhat more risky (p. 202). Despite whatever personal issues they bring to the table, social work faculty seem to consider themselves obliged and able to perform a gatekeeping function. According to Grady and Mr. S (2009, p. 52), this function requires faculty to balance their personal principles about being fair to a student who meets the course requirements with their obligations as a gatekeeper for the profession. The purpose of the gatekeeping function is ensuring that students who graduate from their programs are prepared to be competent practitioners (Grady & Mr. S., 2009, p. 51). This concern, sensible enough on its face, is nonetheless ironic in the context of questions (above) regarding the suitability of CSWE board members, not to mention the very human faculty foibles just cited. In the particular case, Grady (2009) gave Mr. S (an unnamed student) an F. When she later discovered that he was smoking crack cocaine, she felt more confident in [her] role as gatekeeper and in the systems ability to weed out [sic] students who are either not ready to complete graduate-level work or who are ill suited for the profession (p. 59). It is an interesting sentiment, given her admission that students who are admitted into social work graduate programs have a higher rate of traumatic factors in their early lives compared with graduate

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 25 students in other nonhelping professions (p. 61). The reader may suspect, not that the system worked, but that S was unlucky and/or an extreme case, given Gradys acknowledgments that this was the first time she had ever given a student an F (p. 56) and that published reports of gatekeeping are rare (p. 61). Apparently the system does not succeed in weeding out most such individuals, else she would have flunked and gatekept numerous students previously. What appears to happen instead is that ill-suited students screen themselves out of the profession (Olson & Royse, 2006, p. 43), sometime after being admitted and paying their tuition. In light of the foregoing remarks regarding a competition for warm bodies to fill seats, it appears that the default position of the admissions office is to admit students, of whom a considerable number will have psychological difficulties that will reduce their likelihood of success within the environment of the typical SSW. The exception to that apparent policy arises in the case of students who pose a visible risk of causing problems. Rather than face potential legal difficulties when ejecting such students, senior social work professors Urwin, Van Soest, and Kretzschmar (2006, p. 169) recommend doing it at the point of admission whenever possible. In contrast to earlier years, when social work applicants are remembered as having had more of a sense of mission, these professors indicate that SSWs may now find themselves dealing with a variety of problem students. Some of the categories that they consider problematic are revealing: those with conflicts between their own views and social work ethical values; those who are defensive about performance feedback; those who display rigid thinking or lack of openness to learning (pp. 165, 169). There is, again, a point of comparison vis--vis faculty. A disinterested reader might wonder, for instance, whether one could detect rigid thinking or defensiveness in the social work professor who sticks stubbornly to a viewpoint despite its implausibility. A lack of openness to learning

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 26 certainly could arise in an academic environment where what counts is not a love of learning nor an ability to teach, but rather skill in attracting funding never mind the inbred social work academic environment in particular, where faculty are required to have earned MSW degrees in lookalike, cookie-cutter programs (Stoesz & Karger, 2009, p. 132) and doctoral degrees mostly from a smallish number of preferred universities. Despite encouragement to explore multiple intelligences (Matto, Barry-Edwards, Hutchison, Bryant, & Waldbillig, 2006, p. 415), MSW education is not renowned for its intellectual diversity. One particularly troubling category of problem student that crops up, in the list offered by Unwin et al. (2006, p. 165), is that of students with histories of psychosocial trauma or self-preoccupation or ability challenges. It seems that, if there were enough good applicants to fill those seats, these kinds of problem students would be rejected. Confirming a clear pattern of rejection of students with psychiatric disabilities, GlenMaye and Bolin (2007, pp. 127-129) state that, Despite 30 years of disability law, over two-thirds of the social work educators who responded to their survey stated that their programs had counseled out students who had psychiatric disabilities (where counseled out means pressured to drop out) and, in addition, that 20% of their respondents stated that counseling-out was their programs most typical response to students with psychiatric disabilities. The point is not so much the illegality of those programs behavior; it is that this happens in social work, where tolerance and inclusion increasingly appear to be reserved for just the right kinds of misfits. These are, again, the kinds of things that will not be OK for some number of MSW students. The singling-out of those students with psychiatric disabilities raises another concern. It is not clear what criteria were used to select students for counseling-out. Assuming that admissions officers did obtain transcripts and other verifications of basic academic ability, it

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 27 appears that those selected for elimination may have been academically capable but were in some sense unpopular, or may simply have failed to conceal their disabilities. That surmise emerges from indications that psychiatric disabilities are not uncommon among social work students. Consider this brief selection of results from studies, done in several SSWs, in which social work students (mostly MSWs) displayed disturbingly high levels of disadvantageous or impairing characteristics: 69% indicated that their family histories included problems of substance abuse, psychopathology, violence, and/or compulsive disorders, with 41% having problems in more than one such area (Sellers & Hunter, 2005, p. 877); 28% reported having experienced physical assault, 12% reported having attempted suicide, 50% reported having used illegal drugs other than marijuana, 34% were at risk for clinical depression, and 75% reported having sought mental health services (Horton, Diaz, & Green, 2009, pp. 467-469); 31% reported having been sexually molested, with an atypically high proportion of those incidents occurring in childhood (Russel, Hill, Coyne, & Woody, 1993); and, in two studies of social work students in Britain, 42% and 64%, respectively, were identified as having at least a minor clinical psychiatric disorder (Collins, Coffey, & Morri, 2008, pp. 13, 15). In other words, the rejection of some students with visible psychiatric disabilities seems to be an inside joke shared by others with similar disabilities. Since SSWs are emphatically not in the business of creating an environment in which students can safely recognize personal issues and work through them (Sellers & Hunter, 2005, p. 879) with collective support, many who do have such disabilities may have to endure them in silence if not denial, while those without such disabilities, deprived of the insight and understanding that transparency and rapprochement could engender, may have no recourse but to scratch their heads and wonder why so many of their classmates and, later, their professional colleagues behave so strangely.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 28 Recap This section of this paper suggests that student satisfaction surveys, focusing upon isolated aspects of the MSW educational experience, appear to rest upon an assumption that the MSW educational environment is largely satisfactory, such that what is needed is mere tinkering around the edges. The argument advanced here is, in effect, that a competent qualitative exploration of that environment would reveal major problems in MSW education, even at the best schools. Those problems include discrimination against unfavored people and ideas, bullying of students by faculty and by other students, distortions of social work ideals wrought by the SSWs location within a seriously incompatible university environment, and execrable attitudes toward discrimination (regarding e.g., psychiatric disabilities). A question not explored here is whether this sort of environment may breed, attract, or depend upon infusions of people and attitudes that are oriented toward and/or capable (through e.g., what some may consider optimism) of inappropriately disregarding or downplaying the regrettable features of such an environment (e.g., Crosno, Rinaldo, Black, & Kelley, 2009). Summary This paper began with a look at the purposes of MSW education. It did not appear that putative mission statements for the profession as a whole, as suggested by the NASW and the CSWE, could provide a basis for deducing the purpose of MSW education. There also appeared to be considerable disagreement among other stakeholders (including faculty, students, the university, and consumers of social services) regarding that purpose. In response to that state of affairs, it was proposed that the purpose of MSW education is to develop and refine the ability to provide advanced services that clients need from social workers.

Impediments to MSW Satisfaction 29 It was then noted that students occupy a communicative position in which they convey, to SSWs, the current cash-on-the-barrelhead interpretation of what clients need from social service agencies. There seemed to be a distinction between the purpose of an MSW education, as just defined, and the purpose of an SSW, which was proposed to be the pursuit of progress toward improved MSW education. That pursuit appeared to call for two forms of endeavor on the part of the SSW: to seek improvements proactively, and also, in an expansive sense of the term, to welcome that is, to take seriously; to treat as vital the views and needs of MSW students. If MSW student impressions of a proper MSW education are taken seriously, it quickly becomes evident that several significant aspects of current MSW educational processes desperately need reworking. It seems unlikely that social work educators are unaware of all of the concerns described above. What appears more likely is that they do not find them compelling, else they would long since have implemented appropriate changes. Since those needs are in fact compelling to many of the students affected, however, one may wonder what should be inferred from the fact that social work professors, who tend to have some knowledge of research methods, content themselves with the one-shot semester-end evaluation forms commonly used to gauge student satisfaction. Perhaps a case could be made that such forms are utilized, not as a genuine data-collection device, but rather as a shield to deflect calls for serious change. Making that case is a project for another day.

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