Monthly Archives: February 2014

Reflection on Visiting the UChicago SSA

Inspirational banners hand in the lobby of the SSA.

Inspirational banners hang in the lobby of the SSA.

Today I went on a “trek” (think field trip, but the version designed for college students who are being taught to practice their networking skills) with the Careers in Education Professions program to the School of Social Service Administration. While there is probably no more than a 1-2% chance (at most) of me deciding to either go into social work or attend the SSA, it was still a nice chance to meet new people with a fresh perspective on education.

In my opinion, the visit was probably a bit too much like one of the many college information sessions that I have no desire to repeat (though it seems like I’ll have to for graduate programs), but it was still an interesting experience. I enjoyed hearing about the mix of clinical and administrative focuses of the SSA student population. The most appealing aspect of the school is its fundamental (in some ways, even institutionalized) dedication to interdisciplinary study and discourse between individuals working in all types of social justice issues. While it is certainly overwhelming to think about all of the different actors, institutions, and bureaucracies that one must keep in mind when analyzing educational policy, it is nonetheless necessary, and incredibly stimulating intellectually. 

One thought that the trek to the SSA made me think about is the danger that arises from stereotypes of social workers.  Our host at the SSA spoke about the infamous, media-popularized stereotype of social workers, namely, an emotionless female bureaucrat holding a clipboard who comes into homes with the sole purpose of detaching children from their parents and destroying people’s lives. While I don’t think I would make a very good clinical social worker (and don’t plan to try), a few members of my family have backgrounds in social work and I have always had the utmost respect for them and their work. But this makes me somewhat of an exception. Social work as a profession faces a lot of distrust from society as a result of misguided media portrayals. Of course, there are always some members of any category who actually do fit the stereotype, but I want to believe that this is the minority of individuals in the case of social workers.

This leads me to wonder two things. First off, where do these stereotypes come from, and how are they perpetuated? I’m sure there’s a long history behind this particular stereotype, as is the case with most, along with a couple of not-so-great social workers who only made it worse. I’m inclined to believe that governmental bureaucracy also plays a huge role in perpetuating this infamy, even just by its severe lack of financial support encouraging social work as a profession valuable to society.

My second question: how much harm has the social worker stereotype caused? This is certainly a depressing train of thought to ride out, because I think it’s probable that many individuals and families who could have benefitted greatly from the help of social workers have not reached out for such help due to the societally supported assumption that social workers are vultures who aim to further hurt people who are already down on their luck. After visiting the SSA, at least I take some comfort in knowing that the future social workers being trained at the SSA will have the interdisciplinary abilities and knowledge of policy to fight the bureaucracy that aims to tarnish their reputation as important contributors to society.

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Brief Takeaways from Visiting the Academy for Global Citizenship

Today I visited the Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago with a student organization I’m involved with at school, Block 58. Honestly I had no idea what I was in for beforehand–no clue what kind of school it was, or even where it was–but it was a surprisingly interesting visit to a very unique school setting, and I’m really glad I went. 

While at the ACG, we had the opportunity to meet briefly with the woman who founded the school. She is an extraordinarily energetic and enthusiastic person (I mean, really energetic) who had the idea to start a school focused on global, holistic education after visiting about 85 countries, going to schools in many of these countries, and essentially becoming an autodidact in international educational systems. When speaking of her initial encounters with the CPS in her attempts to start a charter school, she readily acknowledged her initial naiveté, which is something I always respect, particularly when it comes accompanied by retrospection and visible growth. Though now a successful school founder who has “figured out” how to give the CPS what they want to hear, she still seems fairly idealistic in her future plans for the school’s growth, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Particularly in education, it can be really difficult to determine where the line falls between naive and productive types of idealism. It speaks a lot to what we’ve been discussing about “charismatic leadership” in one of my sociology of education courses, which is a really fascinating theoretical concept when applied to the practical implementation of charter schools, particularly in inner-city neighborhood bureaucracies….but I digress. 

What really impressed me about ACG was the (seemingly) successful implementation of a focus on holistic education (I say seemingly successful because we didn’t actually have too much time to observe classroom practice, but from the few classroomswe saw, the children seemed really engaged with the curriculum). There is a focus on wellness and health that certainly is not common in public schools, though it should be. The school provides students with breakfast, lunch, and snack, all from a fully sustainable and organic kitchen. They also learn from young age how to separate recycling, composting, and landfill garbage, which is not only healthy for the earth, but also plays a large role in helping children understand the consequences of their actions and gain a sense of responsibility for the world around them from a young age, which is always an important skill to acquire. Furthermore, they learn how to read nutrition labels from a young age as well, and last year provided a workshop where the students got to show off their skills by teaching their parents about nutrition labels. This anecdote highlighted the community-building spirit of the school, which is a really impressive ideal, though I’m always hesitant in believing that any school or small-scale institution can really engage the parents who could benefit the most (ie, those who have the least time/opportunity to get involved in such outreach efforts).ImageA mural on the wall at the ACG shows the importance of learning about environmental and personal wellness for students. 

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Announcing the Reimagination of My Blog!

This blog began as a summertime endeavor, a way of keeping myself actively aware of and engaged with the current events of the education realm. Since the summer ended and school has restarted, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to continue this blog, and frankly, I’ve missed it. Blogging provides a great opportunity to hash out my feelings about current events and, in doing so, figure out where I actually stand on the issues. There are still so many issues in education policy that I have yet to discover, and even more that I have yet to discover my stance on. The more I learn, both in school and in the outside world, the more I realize that with many of the major issues, I may never come to a fully formed opinion.

While I wish I had infinite amounts of time to spend on this blog reading, writing, and reflecting on the world around me, I have to admit that much of my time is taken up by schoolwork. This isn’t to say that I don’t adore schoolwork (because I do), but it does mean that the nature of my blog must change to better fit the life that I live at the moment. I’ve spent some time thinking about how blogging might fit into my life during the school year and have decided to reengage in blogging, though in a less involved way. Instead of trying to write about current events in education daily (or nearly daily), I am going to use this blog from time to time as a way to reflect on my experiences with education. There are so many amazing opportunities I’m getting to partake in while at school, and blogging about these experiences will allow me to get even more out of these opportunities. 

So, from now on, whenever I have an interesting education-related experience–whether it be an internship, attending a cool workshop, participating in a tutoring program, visiting a local school, meeting guest speakers at events, or even just a really interesting class–I’ll make sure to dedicate a bit of time afterward to jot down some notes on the experience and reflect on what it taught me. My posts won’t be as long, but I think they will be really helpful by allowing me to keep a sort of diary of my education-related life events and continue the journey of discovering how I want to fit into the world of education policy.

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