Dear Dr. Hurd:
I am wondering how you got through your social work program (Master’s in Clinical Social Work) not being a stereotypical liberal? I am in a social work program now and I’m having difficulty with this.
The main way to cope in such situations is to remember that you’re right and they’re wrong, and why. Try to focus on areas where you agree, at least with what they claim to be their ultimate goals.
Clinical social work programs generally emphasize the “person in situation.” This means that a person’s emotional health is influenced by issues in the wider society. As an advocate of laissez faire capitalism, I entirely agree.
Where I disagree with the socialist-leftists who dominate social work schools (and most other humanities departments) is that socialism makes life better for the individual. In my view, capitalism is the solution, because it lifts the standard of living for all, while socialism fosters dependence, misery, resentment and economic stagnation/decline.
Social work programs emphasize the vulnerability of the individual. However, it is the rights of the individual that have to be protected first and foremost. This not only applies to the capable and competent individuals who wish to innovate, create and profit with the government staying the hell out of the way, but also to the physically/mentally weak, the incapable and the disabled. Everyone has individuality and should enjoy equal individual rights.
Remember that such vulnerable persons do not flourish in a society where a corrupt government welfare state impoverishes nearly everyone. Any hardened social worker will tell you just how lacking in compassion and filled with red-tape government “charity” agencies are. The vulnerable only have a chance at getting help in a society where government stays out of the economy and leaves producers free to produce.
It’s true that help and charity in an economically free society are voluntary. I would make no apologies for that, because there’s no moral justification for the government to force some to take care of others. It’s wrong in principle, for the same reason that slavery and a military draft (two things most leftist social work professors would oppose) are wrong in principle. Slavery does not become right just because a government is funding a bureaucratic program aimed at charity.
Social work programs claim that under capitalism, the poor and the vulnerable get left behind. This isn’t true. Under unhampered capitalism, the poor, the middle class and the rich are getting richer all the time. Those who literally cannot work must depend on charity, it’s true. But there’s more charity to go around in a free society than there ever would be in a hampered or socialized economy.
As for those who can work but choose not to do so, they have no business relying on government to force others to pay their way, as routinely goes on today.
Social work programs and professors usually view charity and service as the central purpose for existence. They’re free to think this, but they’re wrong. Because in the kind of socialist world they envision and attempt to bring about, there will be no producers to lift the society out of poverty, and keep it out. They cannot have what they claim to want without the merits and virtues of the things they repeatedly condemn.
I’m not suggesting you have to go out of your way to involve yourself in these political arguments while in your social work program. However, remind yourself of the fact that you’re right, and why you’re right. Don’t be intimidated, but don’t be defensive, either. Try to keep your eye on the prize.
Remind yourself of why you’re in this social work program. Is it to obtain a clinical degree for licensing in a mental health field? If so, then concentrate your efforts on programs in that specialty. Be positive, try to find areas of agreement and focus on those as much as you can.
For example, Bernie Sanders liberals often oppose government subsidies to business. You can agree on that point. You might also agree on matters such as abortion rights, gay marriage and keeping prayer out of the public schools (so long as we still have public schools, that is.)
You can demonstrate these areas of agreement with integrity and, perhaps in a few cases, psychologically disarm a few people who might listen to the rest of what you have to say. Social work professors are extremely hostile to Republicans, but once they find out you’re no more a Republican than a Democrat, you might get somewhere. If not, you’re no worse off than you started. If you don’t think it’s prudent to bring up politics, then don’t bring up the subject. Don’t pretend you agree, either. Just walk away.
Since you have to work and to some extent live with these people for a couple of years, try to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they want the same things you do, only via a different means. This will be true of some, and not of others. Avoid the malevolent, angry and intimidating types as much as you can, and find the positive people. In many respects, this is the same rule of thumb that applies to being the minority in any environment or context. It’s a good rule of thumb, period.
Remember, you’re not a crusader for capitalism, and do not have to be. You have stepped into the lion’s den of leftism at a social work school, and have no illusions about this fact. So long as that program offers you what you’re seeking, keep your primary focus on what brought you there.
Opposing opinions will give you an opportunity to understand the many errors in thinking that are so prevalent today. It will better prepare you for all that lies ahead.
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