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Article

Edna Comer

Paulo Freire (1921–1997), a Brazilian educator and author, is known for his theoretical contributions to education. His text Pedagogy of the Oppressed is considered one of the foundational texts of the critical pedagogy movement.

Article

Rhea Almeida, Diana Melendez, and José Miguel Paez

The process of decolonizing is a precursor to liberatory transformation and the foundation for the creation of liberation-based practices. Decolonizing strategies call for changing the lens and the language and debunking the myth of healing through diagnostic codes; and the rigid compartmentalization of mind-body of individuals, and of individuals with regard to their families, their context, and their healing spaces Decolonizing strategies encompass the multiplicity of personal and public institutional locations that frame identities within historic, colonial, economic, and political life. People in various global localities are unwittingly situated within a range of broad and nuanced descriptors, such as indigenous hosts, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religious preference or a combination of these. These personal economic, social, and political intersections are largely unacknowledged by early-21st-century Western models of psychological practice in social work and allied disciplines. Postmodernism and poststructuralism as epistemological frameworks still reproduce a particular form of coloniality. Alternatively, liberation-based practice locates the complexities of these frameworks within a societal matrix that shapes relationships in the context of power, privilege, and oppression. Accompanied by tools for identifying and decolonizing lived experiences within culture circles, liberation-based practice builds on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment, and accountability.

Article

Rosemary Barbera, Mary Bricker-Jenkins, and Barbara Hunter-Randall Joseph

Since the beginning of the profession, progressive social work has been characterized by a lived commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the mid-1980s, the rise of global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs and has had a conservatizing effect on the profession, rendering the progressive agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Since the economic crisis of 2008, with a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease that suffering have been cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain. This article is offered as an effort to discuss and define progressive social work and its connection to social work values with the hope of contributing to advancing social work practice that addresses social injustices and human rights violations.

Article

V. Thandi Sulé

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that unapologetically asserts how and why race matters in the maintenance of U.S. policies and practices. In doing so, CRT counters discourse that situates discrimination and disparities within the realm of individual behaviors or psychological deficits. Therefore, racism is seen for what it is—a willful, institutionalized, and dehumanizing way of being. Though racism prevailed as the quintessential problem of the 20th century, the 21st century has revealed that the color line remains remarkably undisturbed. Whether one is focusing on housing, education, employment, wealth, health, safety, or justice, racial disparities and inequities exist to the disadvantage of racially minoritized people. Born out of discontent for legal remedies for inequality, CRT speaks to the universal way that racism immobilizes minoritized people—thereby providing an almost unwavering advantage to white people. This review provides an overview of the tenets of CRT and how those tenets connect with social work values and practice.

Article

Jerry Floersch and Jeffrey Longhofer

A broad examination of the role of theory in social work practice requires answers three related questions: What is theory? What is practice? What is the role of theory in practice? In answering the first question, it is useful to examine the etymology of the word theory, identify its various meanings, and specify which meanings are relevant to a discussion of the role of theory in practice. Additionally, it is useful to understand the philosophical assumptions that inevitably influence the process of theory building and application.

Article

For social workers, developing cultural competence is a necessary hallmark for interacting with our increasingly diverse and complex world. Developing cultural competence, however, requires continuously raising one’s level of critical consciousness. Critical consciousness and related concepts such as reflexivity, critical self-reflection, and critical self-awareness are widely recognized as a fundamental building block of human service practice, including social work practice. However, the dynamics involved in raising our own levels of critical consciousness are lengthy and messy because we often encounter cognitive and affective roadblocks. Thus, there is no single pedagogical strategy that could help all social work students effectively engage with this process. In this article the concept of critical consciousness postulated by Pitner and Sakamoto is applied specifically to the social work classroom setting. Their Critical Consciousness Conceptual Model (CCCM), which describes the process of developing critical consciousness by engaging one’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains, is presented. How this model can be incorporated as a pedagogical tool to help social work students develop and further strengthen their own levels of critical consciousness in the classroom setting is discussed, as are various pedagogical methods, including classroom debate, identity paper assignment, “creating a world map” exercise, and mindfulness-based pedagogy. Finally, implications for social work education are explored.

Article

Darlene Grant

The soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as large numbers of nonwounded soldiers, experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Further, the families, groups, and communities from which all U.S. service men and women come, during and after these and other wars, have experienced their own war-related trauma. Stories on the nightly news reveal soldier reaction to combat stress, including intrusive memories, racing thoughts, nightmares, troubled sleep, irritability, anxiety, fear, isolation, depression anger, poor concentration, hyper- or hypovigilance, exaggerated responses, and increased alcohol and other drug abuse. The stories of family, friends, and community are filled with war stress symptoms of their own. Charged with keeping their families together, bills paid, jobs afloat, children safe and growing, families may experience a drop in income, loneliness and isolation, long deployments, multiple last minute combat redeployment and duty extensions, anger, frustration, depression, increased alcohol and other drug abuse, loss of trust, fear, increase in domestic violence, and school disruption. Not all of the change for family is negative as some spouses and children who are left behind find they have new skills and new independence with which to negotiate their world. The returning soldier's response to this newfound independence and skill may require the services of the clinical social worker.

Article

The educational imperative to study social welfare policy has remained a constant throughout the history of social work education. Although specific policies and social issues may change over time, the need to advocate for and create humane, justice-based social policy remains paramount. The study of welfare policy contributes to the effectiveness of practitioners who are knowledgeable and skilled in analysis, advocacy, and the crafting of justice-based social welfare policies. In addition to traditional policy content areas, students should develop knowledge and skills in critical thinking, understand a range of justice theories, and recognize the direct interaction between globalization and national and local policy matters.

Article

Juliana Svistova, Loretta Pyles, and Arielle Dylan

As awareness has grown about the damage being done to the natural environment, limits of the earth’s finite resources, and the realities of climate change, environmental advocates have demanded sustainable development practices so that future generations will be able to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the widespread exploitation of workers in the industrial sector triggered the labor movement’s fight for social-economic justice. This focus on socio-economic justice that characterizes the labor movements is enlarged in the “sustainable development” framework which articulates triple bottom line practices that emphasize the interconnectedness of people, planet, and profit. The social work profession has joined these efforts, expanding its notion of the person-in-environment as it advocates for the needs of individuals, families, organizations, and communities. However, some scholars have problematized “sustainability,” questioning what exactly is being sustained, how sustainability is measured/evaluated, and who benefits.

Article

Racism  

Selena T. Rodgers

Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.

Article

This article defines cultural competence and culturally competent practice and focuses on cultural awareness, knowledge acquisition, and skill development as key components. It traces the historical development of cultural competence in the disciplines of psychology and social work, pointing out how cultural competence has become a professional standard. Cultural competence has also been recognized on the federal and state health and human services levels. Cultural competence is viewed on the practitioner, agency, and community levels as well as the micro, mezzo, and macro dimensions. Among the implications for practice are the issues of cultural competence and cultural competencies, the ethics of cultural competence, social context, and biculturation and multiculturalization. Cultural competence research is briefly surveyed, as is the relationship between cultural competence and critical race theory.