Social Work Ed: Still Scandalous, But State Licensing Boards Not Scandalized

Glenn Ricketts

I know, every update about our ongoing dance with social work education sounds like the last one. Well, here we go again. As you know, we’ve been trying to persuade state licensing agencies to see that by relying on the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) as the sole accreditor of programs that train their social workers, they are unavoidably implicated in the kinds of unconstitutional viewpoint coercion documented in our report, The Scandal of Social Work Education.   We sent the study to them and argued that case, but only six of the forty-eight licensing boards using CSWE bothered to respond to our initial mailing, and none addressed the concerns outlined in our letter (“thank you for your interest,” etc.). This past September, we began sending follow-up letters to those who hadn’t answered, and the results of that effort aren’t significantly different: thus far, a whopping total of three boards – from Delaware, Indiana and Kansas – have gotten back to us. We provide the correspondence below, so you can gain some idea of what we’re talking about.   

Indiana’s reply is typical of the others we received after our initial mailing: “no action was taken.” In other words, “yes we’ve discussed your letter (not the study, evidently); what’s the big deal?” The replies from Delaware and Kansas are somewhat more elaborate, but also make no reference to the documentary evidence offered in our study. The letter from the Kansas board’s executive director is baffling. She insists that CSWE is not the sole accreditor of social work programs in her state and referred me to the appropriate regulatory statutes. I took her suggestion and checked them out, but came away still more confused than I was initially. As you can see from my most recent letter back to her, I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why CSWE’s standards aren’t a problem in Kansas. 

The Delaware board’s reply is somewhat distinctive for its courtesy and for the fact that our study seems actually to have been read and discussed by someone. Nevertheless, these deliberations still led to the conclusion that “most social workers receive training which empowers them to freely choose their social, political, economic and spiritual ideologies without being coerced by the Counsel [sic] on Social Work Education.” That’s pretty hard to swallow, in light of the evidence presented in our study and in the correspondence from those of you in the trenches who’ve seen social work education from the inside. I don’t doubt  that the Delaware board president did consult other board members and “social work colleagues” as his letter states, but if that’s the extent of their inquiries, who could be surprised that they came down where they did? In any case, what do you think, especially if you are, or have been, a social work student? Does this statement reflect the reality of your own experience? The correspondence we’ve received in response to this series paints a very different picture, and we’d like to hear from more of you. Has anyone out there felt obliged to clam up in deference to the ideological taboos of social work education? Have some of you considered, then decided against, a career in social work because of the political shoals you’d have to navigate in order to qualify? Let us know how it looks to you. And if you live in Delaware, Indiana or Kansas, how about giving the state’s social work licensing board a piece of your mind as well?

Click on the link below (PDF) to read the letters from the state licensing boards, as well as my reply to the Kansas board.

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