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Code of Coercion

By George F. Will
Sunday, October 14, 2007

In 1943, the Supreme Court, affirming the right of Jehovah's Witnesses children to refuse to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag in schools, declared: "No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." Today that principle is routinely traduced, coast to coast, by officials who are petty in several senses.

They are teachers at public universities, in schools of social work. A study prepared by the National Association of Scholars, a group that combats political correctness on campuses, reviews social work education programs at 10 major public universities and comes to this conclusion: Such programs mandate an ideological orthodoxy to which students must subscribe concerning "social justice" and "oppression."

In 1997, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) adopted a surreptitious political agenda in the form of a new code of ethics, enjoining social workers to advocate for social justice "from local to global levels." A widely used textbook -- "Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skill" -- declares that promoting "social and economic justice" is especially imperative as a response to "the conservative trends of the past three decades." Clearly, in the social work profession's catechism, whatever social and economic justice are, they are the opposite of conservatism.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the national accreditor of social work education programs, encourages -- not that encouragement is required -- the ideological permeation of the curricula, including mandatory student advocacy. The CSWE says students must demonstrate an ability to "understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination."

At Arizona State University, social work students must "demonstrate compliance with the NASW Code of Ethics." Berkeley requires compliance as proof of "suitability for the profession." Students at the University of Central Florida "must comply" with the NASW code. At the University of Houston, students must sign a pledge of adherence. At the University of Michigan, failure to comply with the code may be deemed "academic misconduct."

Schools' mission statements, student manuals and course descriptions are clotted with the vocabulary of "progressive" cant -- "diversity," "inclusion," "classism," "ethnocentrism," "racism," "sexism," "heterosexism," "ageism," "white privilege," "ableism," "contextualizes subjects," "cultural imperialism," "social identities and positionalities," "biopsychosocial" problems, "a just share of society's resources," and on and on. What goes on under the cover of this miasma of jargon? Just what the American Association of University Professors warned against in its 1915 "Declaration of Principles" -- teachers "indoctrinating" students.

In 2005, Emily Brooker, a social-work student at Missouri State University, was enrolled in a class taught by a professor who advertised himself as a liberal and insisted that social work is a liberal profession. At first, a mandatory assignment for his class was to advocate homosexual foster homes and adoption, with all students required to sign an advocacy letter, on university stationery, to the state legislature.

When Brooker objected on religious grounds, the project was made optional. But shortly before the final exam she was charged with a "Level 3," the most serious, violation of professional standards. In a 2 1/2 -hour hearing -- which she was forbidden to record and which her parents were barred from attending -- the primary subject was her refusal to sign the letter. She was ordered to write a paper ("Written Response about My Awareness") explaining how she could "lessen the gap" between her ethics and those of the social-work profession. When she sued the university, it dropped the charges and made financial and other restitution.

The NAS study says that at Rhode Island College's School of Social Work, a conservative student, William Felkner, received a failing grade in a course requiring students to lobby the state legislature for a cause mandated by the department. The NAS study also reports that Sandra Fuiten abandoned her pursuit of a social-work degree at the University of Illinois at Springfield after the professor, in a course that required students to lobby the legislature on behalf of positions prescribed by the professor, told her that it is impossible to be both a social worker and an opponent of abortion.

In the month since the NAS released its study, none of the schools covered by it has contested its findings. Because there might as well be signs on the doors of many schools of social work proclaiming "conservatives need not apply," two questions arise: Why are such schools of indoctrination permitted in institutions of higher education? And why are people of all political persuasions taxed to finance this propaganda?

georgewill@washpost.com

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