Alfred Kadushin on Professional vs. Personal Obligation for Social Workers

By | September 3, 2019

[Music] INTERVIEWER: When I think your position seems to be – I’ve said it very clearly as if it’s not necessarily the professional goal to make large societal changes a responsibility, but how do you feel about social workers being involved in those? It’s one thing I think you could say it’s not the job or technology exactly but on the other hand, is there not an obligation of a profession who talks about the importance of working with oppression, the importance of working with issues of discrimination, issues of poverty, is it not part of that job to-? KADUSHIN: No, it’s part of the individual as a member of society. As a citizen of society, but you can’t go out and reduce oppression. You can’t go out and reduce discrimination. We don’t have the professional technology or skills to do that. INTERVIEWER: Sure, but don’t we have some obligation to try and develop- KADUSHIN: We have an obligation, but not as professionals. I’m making a distinction between the individual and the professional. When I was on the campus, I made speeches against Vietnam. I didn’t make speeches as a social worker performing professional social work activity. I did it as a citizen of the United States and as a citizen of Wisconsin. When we try to get people to sign petitions to recall McCarthy. I didn’t do that as a social worker. I did that as a citizen. When we marched in the first gay pride parade, me and Sylvie, we didn’t do that as a social worker, we did that as a citizen. INTERVIEWER: People come into social work because they want to help people, right? The first thing we think about is that person or that family or that little group, but don’t we have some obligation as educators to broaden our students’ view to again, the fundamental cause, or contributing causes. I don’t think we’re that far away in our views. KADUSHIN: Alright, so the student comes to me and says, listen, I came to the school of social work and I want to help people on the macro level, you know. The big one is the macro level. [laughter] I’m sorry On the macro level- he says, teach me! I get it, he says give me a textbook on the macro level. I go to my library and I have an extensive library and I can’t find anything. What do we have in where we can reach in and reach out and say, go do this. INTERVIEWER: So what I think we’re saying is that we’re still developing and need to develop the technology and what might be the core part of what people do but before you’re suggesting- before we move into a much broader thing we either have to develop that technology or we have to acknowledge that we may not have that technology. Was that fair? KADUSHIN:Yeah, that’s fair, but let me add something else. See, the profession operates on the sanction of the community and that’s why they support the profession. The sanction of the community says we want this job done and we’re sanctioning you as a group. Nobody’s going to sanction the social work profession to change the world. They sanction you to meet with the family on the direct level- that’s what they’re sanctioning for you but they’re not going to sanction you to change the world. [Music]

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