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Study: Social Work, Professors, Other Jobs Politically Typecast

Many men do not aspire to be nurses because nursing has long been typecast as a woman’s career.

The same rule likely applies to college professors, social work, art, fashion and therapy, according to two sociologist who did a study on typecasting in careers. Political liberals tend to flock to these professions because there is already a wide public perception that people who share a left-leaning political slant work in these fields.

Conservatives tend to work in law enforcement, farming, dentistry, medicine and the military because they believe they will find like-minded peopel there, according to sociology researchers Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse. Gross is at the University of British Columbia and Fosse is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University.

“The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia’s liberalism,” Gross said, “the more likely it’s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.”

To read a New York Times article on the study click here. To read the full study click here.

Q: Do you think it is true people in social work tend to be more liberal? Are you a conservative or do you know conservatives who are social workers?

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  1. I am happy to be a moderate because being liberal takes away expectations and responsibilities from clients; being conservative lays blame of life’s uncontrolled factors at the feet of the client. There has to be a balance in order to make fair and just decisions, or to have more favorable opportunities for the client. Unfortunately the media casts social workers as bleeding heart liberals or stone-hearted vile people, and some of us play the role. — Chanda Roberts White BSW Member on NASW’s National Board

  2. I think if more people knew what social workers did the general opinion of them would be different. We are about empowerment and responsibility – not excuses and blame. I agree too that when I was a “new” Social Worker I was far more liberal than I am now – I now appreciate the need to view systems as a whole, which includes looking to the right and to the left!

  3. I am a conservative social worker, in college the instructors wanted to kick me out for correcting their mis-information and failure to teach the facts rather than liberal ideologies. I had the facts and could back up everything I said, thus I remained. Instructors in social work are suppose to be unbiased and promote the idea of not showing/pushing your personal values system on students and clients, yet, the liberal ones go overboard and are so closed minded they can’t see.

    There are many conservative social workers but most are too afraid to show their true self because of retaliation, they suffer knowing they are doing good work only to get burned out. Most conservative social workers I believe go into private practice to avoid the liberal falsehood environment. The interesting thing is that the liberal social workers and NASW contradict themselves on several issues. You promote self determination but then you must keep someone from harming themselves, and then abortion & assisted suicide is ok but the death penalty is not.

    As conservative social workers and more men enter the field, things will change for the better. I have seen a more conservative slant the past 10 years. The other factor is social workers are trying to gain more credibility and to do this they must have more evidenced based studies and literature. The evidence proves teaching clients how to fish is much more effective than just giving clients the fish. If more conservative groups and think tanks would get involved with social work, the liberal social work ideology can be contained and the actual facts can be used in social work practice.

    And yes, often I am denied jobs and opportunities because I am a conservative.

  4. I’m a very conservative social worker. I do think that as a whole the the social work profession teaches students to be liberal minded. Sometimes while in my undergrad and even now in my grad program I feel a little sick to my stomach as I read things that clearly assume that liberal ideologies are not only BETTER but are RIGHT. I find that I have to be careful to discern truth and error from what I hear and read. I have been blessed to attend two universities that have a strong base in teaching students not only facts but how to learn and take charge of their own educations. That is invaluable to me. Also, I have had two universities where even if I do not agree with the proposed ideas I’m free to express myself without fear of grade reduction or social humiliation.

    I agree with the idea that conservative social workers are more apt to work in a private organization. It is a good way to be true to yourself sometimes. Currently I am paid through medicaid, and I feel a bit hypocritical when I compare that to my political ideals. I’m working towards owning my own private company that will satify my desire to help the poor and such.

    I wish that conservative social workers would in general speak up a little more and let their position be heard. In a profession that generally advocates for clients (politically) in ways I find harmful to the clients themselves and society (as well as at times morally wrong), we need more sound conservative voices out there.

  5. I absolutely agree that there are far more liberals in the social work/therapy professionals than conservatives. As the only (frustratingly so) conservative/Republican in my workplace agency, I find that most, if not all, of my left-leaning co-workers are typically and expectedly not terribly grounded in reality, believe they will never get ahead in their careers, are “held back” by “the man,” want to save the world, and want social justice/equality (presumably for themselves). Ironically enough, in a field where we are dedicated to others gaining insight, balance and personable accountability, most of my coworkers are no where near this goal themselves, and rarely capable of seeing the other side of things politically and socially. One of my coworkers mentioned to me that there are indeed conservatives in this profession; funny, I have yet to meet one.

    In the 2008 election, I was deemed “racist,” a now defunct and meaningless word, by a co-worker for simply voicing my views via a bumper sticker and supporting Sarah Palin. This accusation was done in public at the workplace by a supposed “open minded, responsible and tolerable” social worker. Trust me, I will never do so again for fear of losing my job.

    And you will notice I did not use the word “peer.” This implies I believe my coworkers to be like-minded and equal to me. And yes, I am proudly elitist, although perfectly capable of seeing “the other side,” just not agreeing with it! :)

  6. Ok, for the record people-social work IS a “liberal profession”. Look at the founder of social work-Jane Addams: one of the initial founders of the NAACP, major supporter of worker’s rights/labor unions, worked with immigrants and the poor in a SECULAR setting called the Hull House, was extremely opposed to WWI. I could go on forever here, but when you look at the founders of the profession, there is a clear liberal/progressive position.

    From anecdotal evidence, most of the people who gripe about social work being liberal have no idea what social work actually is. Social work is founded on the person in environment perspective ie change a person’s environment and they will be better. Human rights are the lens through which we practice. We do not get to determine which rights we honor or do not honor. There are many many many helping professions and degrees out there that have no requirements for social justice. If you do not want the corresponding social justice requirements that come with the profession go into counseling/psychology/criminal justice/sociology/etc, etc. There are even religiously based programs in these fields such as Christian Counseling. You can then go on and practice your religious convictions at a job through a church or religious institution.

    As for the person who said that they constantly were being kicked out of class because they would get in arguments with professors and they could beat them-get a life. Trying to harass professors because they disagree with you=lame. I am gay and have many times bitten my tongue when I have heard things that made me uncomfortable because I respected the process and procedure of education. I would then send an email to the offending party and explain what they did that made me feel uncomfortable. This has always worked better for me than trying to hash it out with someone in public.

    Second, being conservative and being Republican are two very different things. Republicans are radical right-wingers now. There are no more compromisers left in their party. I can respect people who say they are conservative and can voice a reasoned, intelligent rationale for why they believe what they do-but saying you support Sara Palin immediately points to this not being the case. And racist is not a defunct word…

    Final note-if you don’t like Christianity don’t be a pastor-if you don’t like blood don’t work in the medical field-if your personal ideology does not allow you to agree with liberal/progressive ideas then DON’T become a social worker. I do not think there is anything wrong with people realizing that they don’t belong in a certain field or profession.

  7. WOW i completely disagree with David’s view that you must have a liberal ideology in order to affectively be a social worker. I think that what is meant by “person in enviroment” is that the social worker is responsible for helping their client to make positive changes in their immediate life. Making positive changes in the life of someone in poverty, would be seen by the client seeking a good paying job that supports the person and helps the client to move out of poverty. The focus should be on job creation, effective job training, etc. The liberal progressive view point is to provide aid and focus negatively on the rich, the evil corporations, etc. You can see this in todays crazy economy which is collapsing. View points from people like Piven and Cloward only help to put people on welfare and collapse a free market economy. Clearly I don’t believe in a socialist agenda. I believe in the fundemental idea of hard work and charity to help people get back on there feet. But I think that the left wing liberal idea is to keep people on welfare and I don’t think this makes the economy function to the point that we are able to provide jobs.

    The other complaint I have with David’s view point is that if i’m a conservative I don’t have the right to argue my point of view and go into the field to social work. In case you hadn’t noticed, the top profession coming out of the field of social work is a licensed clinical social worker who works with clients in many areas such as mentally ill, medical, parenting, child abuse, victim advocacy, substance abuse, schools, etc. Having a liberal view point is not the only type of person who can be supportive and affective for clients in these areas. I don’t expect my teachers to promote their biased opinions without giving me a broad perspective on theories and rationales so that I can affectively come to my own opinions and decide what approach is best for me.

    I think your liberal push in the field of social work limits its effectiveness and that has definately been seen in the lack of accomplishments in stoppping poverty, reducing drug dependancy, just to name a few.

  8. I think the notion that liberal social workers want to “keep people on welfare” is absurd and this is not a view that should be espoused by any social worker who has read the code of ethics. No social worker in their right mind, regardless of which way they lean politically, wants this. As social workers we strive always toward the independence of our clients. But let’s face it: conservatives, more than ever, are out to destroy our social programs. Being a social worker and also a Christian, I once was greatly conflicted about my politics. I do have some conservative views involving restrictions on abortions, and for a short time I felt I had no choice but to align myself with the conservative party. As a social worker AND as a Christian I NEVER felt comfortable with it. I don’t subscribe to extremist views either way but I saw being conservative as the lesser of evils. Eventually I came to realize how naive, duped and propagandized I was. There IS NO “Christian” party just as there is no social work party. I now would identify myself as a conservative member of the Christian left and I feel light years more at home with that. At least, as “at home” as I am going to get regarding politics. I now have a much clearer vision of where I stand even though it has actually cost me some friends. What I have learned is that overly simplistic views just don’t work and our whole political system is in dire need of change.

  9. David is embarrassingly wrong and quite a disgrace. Jane Addams was chosen by social workers as the founder, she never embraced the concept herself. Anyone educated in the history of social work knows that. David sounds like he may have had a semester in undergrad and thinks he now knows it all. Very sad and silly. “republicans are radical right wingers” wow, so much for nuanced critical thinking. No social worker worth anything would label people in such a way. Please do not listen to that angry, judgmental, incorrect goofball.

  10. I am in my first year of my MSW at what is considered an “exceptionally liberal” program, and have a hard time swallowing what they attempt to feed me every day. It’s not as much the extremity or one-sidedness of their leftist ideologies that I struggle with, as the blatant hypocrisy they are content to promote, day in and day out. Social Work as a profession says, “We tolerate you, we accept you, we acknowledge your civil liberties….as long as you agree with us!” How so many people in graduate level education could be so ignorant is beyond me, but the fact that many of them are straight out of undergrad might have something to do with it. I was a bleeding heart liberal when I was 22 too. ;)

    My path has been anything but conventional, and each one of my unique life experiences has contributed to where I am today, including my identity as a conservative, devout Catholic. Why is my identity less legitimate than others? My faith is a tremendous part of my desire to give my life in service to those in need. Has it ever dawned on any liberal social workers out there that not all of their clients will hold the same political convictions they do? There is a reason we are required to not impose our beliefs on the individuals we work with. It’s not about us! If you are hoping to get your progressive ego stroked in your daily work, then it is YOU who have entered the wrong profession!

    “Protection of Human Life”, “Advocacy on behalf of society’s most vulnerable”, yet liberals continue to stand behind a woman’s right to choose to murder her unborn child. Until the profession can reconcile these GLARING inconsistencies and hypocritical values, I maintain that I am fully able to be a kick-ass social worker and a conservative at the same time. :)

  11. My social worker was extremely politically biased. One of my first assignments was to read the Democrat and Republican platforms and “analyze” them. By “analyzing”, this meant discussing everything wrong about the Republican platform and glorifying the Democratic platform.

    I had a number of pro-life, Christian friends in the program who felt extremely isolated because of their beliefs. Even more moderate minded classmates of mine who were fiscally conservative were afraid to speak up in class because they would be berated for their views.

    My last year of school, a professor asked us what kind of government they wanted. Several of my liberal minded classmates raised their hands and stated they wanted a small government with the states having the most control. When my professor informed them that those were republican views, they immediate changed their opinions.

    This type of teaching takes away from the credibility of our field and is really a disservice to the students, practitioners, and clients.

  12. I’m a few months away from an MSW, and I wanted out from the first week. I started out as a bleeding heart liberal, and now am completely burned out before I’ve even started my first job. I’m not burned out from the clients, or the paperwork, but by my colleagues–my classmates, professors, and field placements. I went into social work thinking that I could use my bachelor’s in psychology and work with the mental health population. After seeing the “skills” social workers use to help clients recover from mental illness, I don’t think these people should be allowed within 500 yards of someone with psychiatric needs.

    All I’ve seen from these “professionals” is liberal indoctrination, demonization of even the most common -sense conservatism, anti-establishment views on the field of medicine that rival those of scientologists, and the lowest possible level of intellect. While they view doctors and psychiatrists as unfeeling pill-pushers, most social workers have no idea how much more education these physicians receive. Most social workers in the mental health sector also have no idea how the brain or nervous system works. I took a social work class on how to diagnose mental disorders, and the PROFESSOR TEACHING THIS COURSE didn’t even know how to say the name of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM). She called it the “DMS” every time.

    All day long, I hear about how cop killers are just “victims of the prison industrial complex,” or how I somehow owe people who are less fortunate than me, or how the Second Amendment doesn’t give citizens the right to own firearms. Over the past two years, I’ve learned something about the general dynamics between liberals and conservatives in this country: Conservatives usually judge what you’ve done. Liberals usually judge who you are.

    Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. There are more moderate liberals who don’t buy into the race wars or class warfare aspect. There are extreme conservatives who hate minorities because of the way they were born. However, I’ve seen far more liberals make unfair judgments on people for the most mundane reasons. Recently, the agency where I intern was hiring a new nurse and, as I sat in on the interview with the social work staff, I saw them commenting on the candidate’s race after she left. “It’s too bad she isn’t black.” I used to think Fox News was creating imaginary characters when describing these types of situations. Now I know these people actually exist.

    I could go on all day with examples of this crap. I thought liberals were supposed to be the learned readers who could think critically, and yet the vast majority of social workers I’ve met have the same political insight I had when I was 15 years old. Just one-sided, strawman arguments, full of hypocrisy and blind allegiance to a cause. Here’s another example…

    The day of the Sandy Hook shootings, there was a meeting held to “discuss our feelings” on the tragedy. One of the social workers said “The media’s probably going to hype this up and politicize it. Obviously, this is about gun control.”

    Literally, that’s how he said it. He contradicted himself within two seconds, and couldn’t even see the hypocrisy in all of it. When I hear this stuff, it’s like watching a sitcom, except I feel like I’m prohibited from laughing.

    Of course, you may be asking, what the heck does this have to do with helping clients? I tell you, absolutely NOTHING. Not only are so many of these social workers being unprofessional in mixing politics with service, and not only do they have no idea what they’re talking about, and not only are they voicing these uneducated opinions anyway, but they are also ensuring that they will always be “kept down by ‘the Man.'”

    Want to complain that social services are being cut? Want to complain that there aren’t enough people in social services? Want to complain that your caseloads are too large? Then maybe you should show a little more respect for roughly half of the country. You know, the same respect you wanted the country to show you when Bush was in office. Maybe, if you weren’t insistent on scaring away the “evil, fascist neocons,” then there would be more conservatives helping you out. Maybe if you learned to keep your mouth shut a little more at the office (which is what most normal people do), you would be better able to assist your clients. Contrary to your beliefs, clients are just like all other people. They each have unique personalities. You will undoubtedly have at least a few conservative clients here and there.

    How are you going to help them? Are you going to keep telling them how “wrong” they are? Are you going to give them a bunch of talking-points drivel? Are you going to insist that the client just “isn’t trying hard enough” when your methods don’t work? Are you going to tell the rich, or white, or Christian, or male clients that they don’t have it so bad, and shouldn’t be whining so much? Are you going to quiet them down when they tell you how a liberal policy ruined their life, while praising and comforting the clients complaining about the GOP?

    Or, are you going to stop kidding yourselves, and admit that mixing politics with social services usually does more harm than good? No, you’ll never do that. If you de-politicized social work, how would you then waste anymore taxpayer money, or maintain your victimhood? How would you then be the “good white people?” How would you get more labor union support, regardless of how many conservative clients and social workers you marginalize?

    While I continuously hear professors and classmates talking about the connection between public policy and funding (and therefore, work), it is amazing to me that this connection must be assumed. No one has ever stood up and said “Isn’t there another way?” While I constantly hear about the conflicts between the poor and the rich, blacks and whites, liberals and conservatives, government and private organizations, I cannot help but think, “Why must I always choose a side?”

  13. Social work does have more liberal professionals however it is narrow-minded to believe that one must be a liberal to be an effective and ethical social worker. That is ignorance. Social Work is NOT a monolithic profession because social work does not serve a monolithic client base.

  14. Strong conservative social worker here-Masters in Social work and Master in Education-17 years. Actually, I don’t know how a liberal can work in this field unless free is the best that can give to their clients. I mean, such a horrible and demeaning expectation of your client. Link them to FREE and continue the debilitating and hopeless theme of entitlement-YOU become the obstacle to their Maslow hierarchy-you become their need. Nope. Not me, I aim at behavioral change which includes conservative thinking, which is really CBT a la carte-help change your client’s thoughts, not reinforce them into dependance. Mindfulness is good, but with long term planning, mindfulness not just mindlessness.

    Liberals like this field because they are not logical thinkers. They think with the heart. This leads them to become problem solvers who see pragmatism as the end-all of service delivery. No money? Give money. No resources? Give them the resources. Who cares about what comes after it all runs out! Complain more of needing entitlements the liberal cries!!

    Well, all that does is maintain your client’s status, and many liberals like that because they feel, “needed”. It also helps them to play into the hands of the political machine that owns them.

  15. I completely agree with what you are saying. Having been a client in many social work institutions, I can tell you from personal experience that most social work operates in a closed circuit that keeps the client hooked on the system. There is a wonderful book that all therapists should read, Games People Play ( I pasted an excert below) that outlines this process from a psychological needs point of view. I am also in the process of applying for an MSW, as this is the shortest route to becoming a psychotherapist, and to be honest I am dreading it because I am against everything the social work system stands for.

    3 INDIGENCE Thesis. The thesis of this game is best stated by Henry Miller in The Colossus of Maroussi: “The event must have taken place during the year when I was looking for a job without the slightest intention of taking one. It reminded me that, desperate as I thought myself to be, I bad not even bothered to look through the columns of the want ads.” This game is one of the complements of “I’m Only Trying to Help You” (ITHY) as it is played by social workers who earn their living by it, “Indigence” is played just as professionally by the client who earns his living in this manner. The writer’s own experience with “Indigence” is limited, but the following account by one of his most accomplished students illustrates the nature of this game and its place in our society.
    Miss Black was a social worker in a welfare agency whose avowed purpose, for which it received a government subsidy, was the economic rehabilitation of indigents—which in effect meant getting them to find and retain gainful employment. The clients of this agency were continually making progress,” according to official reports, but very few of them were actually “rehabilitated.” This was understandable, it was claimed, because most of them had been welfare clients for several years, going from agency to agency and sometimes being involved with five or s& agencies at a time, so that it was evident that they were “difficult cases.” Miss Black, from her training in game analysis, soon realized that the staff of her agency was playing a consistent game of ITHY, and wondered how the clients were responding to this. In order to check, she asked her own clients from week to week how many job opportunities they had actually investigated. She was interested to discover that although they were theoretically supposed to be looking assiduously for work from day to day, actually they devoted very little effort to this, and sometimes the token efforts they did make had an ironic quality. For example, one man said that he answered at least one advertisement a day looking for work. “What kind of work?” she inquired. He said he wanted to go into sales work. “Is that the only kind of ad you answer?” she asked. He- said that it was, but it was too bad that- he was a stutterer, as that held him back from his chosen career. About this time it came to the attention of her supervisor that she was asking these questions, and she was reprimanded for putting “undue pressure” on her clients. Miss Black decided nevertheless to go ahead and rehabilitate some of them. She selected those who were able-bodied and did not seem to have a valid reason to continue to receive welfare funds. With this selected group, she talked over the games ITHY and “Indigence.” When they were willing to concede the point, she said that unless they found jobs she was going to cut them off from welfare funds and refer them to a different kind of agency. Several of them almost immediately found employment, some for the first time in years. But they were indignant at her attitude, and some of them wrote letters to her supervisor complaining about it. The supervisor called her in and reprimanded her even more severely, on the ground that although her former clients were working, they were not “really rehabilitated.” The supervisor indicated that there was some question whether they would retain Miss Black in the agency. Miss Black, as much as she dared without further jeopardizing her position, tactfully tried to elicit what would constitute “really rehabilitated” in the agency’s opinion. This was not clarified. She was only told that she was “putting undue pressure” on people, and the fact that they were supporting their families for the first time in years was in no way to her credit. Because she needed her job and was now in danger of losing it, some of her friends tried to help. The respected head of a psychiatric clinic wrote to the supervisor, stating that he had heard Miss Black had done some particularly effective work with welfare clients, and asking whether she might discuss her findings at a staff conference at his clinic. The supervisor refused permission. In this case the rules of “Indigence” were set up by the agency to complement the local rules of ITHY. There was a tacit agreement between the worker and the client which read as follows: W. “I’ll try to help you (providing you don’t get better).” B. “I’ll look for employment (providing I don’t have to find any).” If a client broke the agreement by getting better, the agency lost a client, and the client lost his welfare benefits, and both felt penalized. If a worker like Miss Black broke the agreement by making the client actually find work, the agency was penalized by the client’s complaints, which might come to the attention of higher authorities, while again the client lost his welfare benefits. As long as both obeyed the implicit rules, both got what they wanted. The client received his benefits and soon learned what the agency wanted in return: an opportunity to “reach out” (as part of ITHY) plus “clinical material” (to present at “client-centered” staff conferences). The client was glad to comply with these demands, which gave him as much pleasure as it did the agency. Thus they got along well together, and neither felt any desire to terminate such a satisfying relationship. Miss Black, in effect, “reached in” instead of “reaching out,” and proposed a “community-centered” staff conference instead of a “client-centered” one; and this disturbed all the
    others concerned in spite of the fact that she was thus only complying with the stated intent of the regulations. Two things should be noted here. First, “Indigence” as a game rather than a condition due to physical, mental, or economic disability, is played by only a limited percentage of welfare clients. Second, it will only be supported by social workers who are trained to play ITHY. It will not be well-tolerated by other workers. Allied games are “Veteran” and “Clinic.” “Veteran” displays the same symbiotic relationship, this time between the Veterans Administration, allied organizations, and a certain number of “professional veterans” who share die legitimate privileges of disabled ex-servicemen. “Clinic” is played by a certain percentage of those who attend the out-patient departments of large hospitals. Unlike those who play “Indigent” or “Veteran,” patients who -play “Clinic” do not receive financial remuneration, but get other advantages. They serve a useful social purpose, since they are willing to cooperate in the training of medical personnel and in studies of disease processes. From this they may get a legitimate Adult satisfaction not available to players of “Indigence” and “Veteran.” Antithesis. Antithesis, if indicated, consists in withholding the benefits. Here the risk is not primarily from the player himself, as in most other games, but from this game being culturally syntonic and fostered by the complementary ITHY players. The threat comes from professional colleagues and the aroused public, government agencies and protective unions. The complaints which follow an exhibition of anti-“Indigence” may lead to a loud outcry of “Yes, Yes, How About That?” which may be regarded as a healthy, constructive operation or pastime, even if it occasionally discourages candidness. In fact, the whole American political system of democratic freedoms is based on a license (not available under many other forms of government) to ask that question. Without such a license, humanitarian social progress becomes seriously impeded.

  16. I have always avoided rigid labels and ideologies and am a proud pragmatic moderate social worker. Most certainly, excessive government and non-government assistance only produces a sense of entitlement among our clients. James Dobson is right when he maintains that the most effective way for a teenage girl to avoid a life of poverty is to finish high school and become pregnant when married. On the other hand, who but the government can assure that our food and medications are safe, our air and water are clean and our money is secure when banked?

    I remember when Title 9 demanded that federally funded schools provide equal opportunity to participate in sports. Many of my conservative friends thought this was government over reach but few would take issue today with the positive effect Title 9 had on our society. Does this make me sound liberal ?

    Our local rescue mission is unapologetically Christian and makes it clear that one must work and follow a schedule to reside there. Drinking, fighting, cursing and being belligerent is cause for removal. Yes, chapel is mandatory but when clients balk at being placed there, I tell them I will place them in an atheist mission if there are any. The clients that complete the program come out as responsible, sober individuals. Does this make me sound conservative?

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