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Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman Principal Lecturer in Social Work

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Presentation on theme: "Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman Principal Lecturer in Social Work"— Presentation transcript:

1 Teaching Through The Tension – An Approach To Resolving Schism In The Classroom
Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman Principal Lecturer in Social Work Canterbury Christ Church University Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

2 Problem Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011
Homosexuality is sinful If you believe that homosexuality is sinful you should not be a social worker Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

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Context Divisions Society Anglican Communion University Social Work education Approach to discrimination Evidence of anti-discriminatory practice Suitability for Social Work GSCC Code of Practice Equality Act 2010 Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

4 Theoretical considerations
Professional Ethics Banks and Gallagher’s professional ethics in practice Norms of right action Character and values Social and moral philosophy Judith Butler’s rejection of a binary approach Teaching Knowledge versus skills Regulation/Legal Absolutist principles Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

5 Rejection of a binary approach
Butler (1998) argued against a binary approach to gender and sexuality However, we seem to adopt a binary approach in SW education Social work ‘binaries’ whereby people are congregated and segregated e.g. Mental health needs Physical disability Ageing Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

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Human considerations Acknowledgement: That these issues are difficult to think about and difficult to speak about Open and respectful debate is a key dimension of learning – prior to reflection Students are on a learning journey So are we Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

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Further background Early in the programme Team divided Invocation of conduct/suitability procedures Fear of ‘getting it wrong’ Low expectations of students ability to demonstrate anti-discriminatory practice Whatever else – we could not avoid the need to teach through this tension Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

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The teaching session Setting the scene Thoughtful approach Request that students listen before taking questions or discussion Clarify aims i.e. To resolve tensions All have something to learn Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

9 Rejection of an absolutist approach
No-one in our profession can claim to be devoid of discriminatory attitudes or discriminatory behaviour The development of professional values from personal values requires that everyone embarks on a journey that is characterised by: The need to be open about the individual personal starting point Reflection The most worrying values are hidden values Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

10 Application to social work values
It is not a social work task to discern the meaning of religious or faith based texts It is a social work task to work with people who share your personal values and to work with people who have conflicting values Homosexuality is sinful If you believe that homosexuality is sinful you should not be a social worker Social workers will almost never work with anyone who has identical personal values to their own Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

11 Establishing professional values
Professional values are characterised by: Shared Defined through a common process Difficult to teach and difficult to learn Have been established over time to protect vulnerable people and the honour of the profession Some people have a longer journey than others in order to reconcile conflicts and tensions between personal values and professional values Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

12 Laying down the challenges
This part of the process was designed to: Establish shared challenges to becoming a professional social worker Recognise the diversity of people they will work with For example asking questions such as: How do you work with someone if they are homophobic? By agreeing/disagreeing with their position? By refusing to work with them? By becoming upset? By using ‘self’? By withholding ‘self’? Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

13 Spirituality and social work
The spiritual needs of vulnerable people are often marginalised Thinking about the spiritual needs of vulnerable people can often make a substantial and positive difference A growing area of interest in social work research It is an offence to treat people unfairly because of their religious beliefs and social workers need to know how to challenge discrimination on the grounds of religion/faith Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

14 Helping students understand the risks
If you express a value judgement about sexuality or religion/faith in certain circumstances you may risk: Causing distress to anyone in earshot Being perceived as discriminatory Being seen as possibly not suitable for social work: In breach of student codes of conduct In breach of GSCC codes of practice Being subject to legal proceedings If you make assumptions about certain faiths and their views/position on sexuality or about people who are lesbian or gay and their religion or faith you risk: Being wrong (inaccurate) Causing distress Not understanding the nature and extent of homophobia and heterosexism and where it exists Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

15 Concluding statements
Learn how your personally held views conflict with social work values/the law and plan your ‘learning journey’ in this regard Your tutor/lecturers will help You have two years to resolve these issues You may decide that social work is not for you We may decide that you are not for social work In addition if: You target any discriminatory attitudes personally to an individual here (staff or student) You may be subject to the university conduct or GSCC suitability procedures These issues take courage – but you need that anyway to be a good social worker Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

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References Banks, S and Gallagher, A. (2009) Ethics in Professional Life. Palgrave MacMillan. Basingstoke. Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble. Routledge Classics (2008 edition). Abingdon. Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011

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Context Anti-gay Christian couple lose foster care case Court rules against Owen and Eunice Johns who refused to tell children a 'homosexual lifestyle' was acceptable. Photograph: Ellen Branagh/PA A Pentecostal Christian couple have lost their high court claim that they were discriminated against by a local authority because they insisted on their right to tell young foster children that homosexuality is morally wrong. Eunice and Owen Johns, who are in their sixties and have fostered children in the past, claimed they were being discriminated against by Derby city council because of their Christian beliefs, after they told a social worker they could not tell a child a "homosexual lifestyle" was acceptable. The couple had hoped to foster five- to 10-year-olds. The case was the latest to be brought by conservative evangelicals, led by the Christian Legal Centre, over their supporters' right to discriminate specifically against gay people and not be bound by equality regulations. All the cases have so far been lost. Dr Janet Melville-Wiseman - Beyond Belief Conference 2011


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