You oughta know by now..

The Background:

I’ve gone back to school. The entirety of this blog in its current form has been written since I got my BA (English, Medieval Studies). Now I’m back in school, studying Social Work. If you check here regularly, you can expect periodic notes on my experiences.

The story so far:

I’m two weeks into my program, but I really got started back in May, when I took a summer course to fulfill my school’s statistics requirement.

And let me say, I was psyched. How awesome and responsible that my program cared enough about the ability of its students and the professionals it produced to be able to understand the math and distinguish quality research!

I was, however, somewhat disappointed by my professor’s attitude. She began her class with a sarcastic comment about how unlikely it was that we wanted to be studying statistics for 3 hours in the evening. But, it was a summer class. Maybe she didn’t want to be there. I sure did.

I was surprised to hear the same sort of introduction come up in my Research class once the program began. And in my research text book. And now, most recently, in an article dealing with research for a different class. “Theories and methodology: sound exciting, don’t they?”

Well, as a matter of fact, to this girl, they do!

The Context:

Thus far in my studies, I have heard a lot about Social Work as a Profession, capital P, and how throughout its history Social Work has been struggling to carve out a respectable, well-statused niche for itself. And how that’s been rough, because it’s an extremely broad and varied field; degree holders work everywhere from schools to embassies, yet plenty of caseworkers doing jobs that look a lot like what we’d call “social work” do not have MSWs.

As we try and garner respect for our profession, we have begun to emphasize Evidence Based Practice. For the hundred or so years since people started talking about and formally training social workers, we’ve relied pretty heavily on what you might call the “art” of helping people – wisdom, caring, instinct and tradition – and less on the science of it.

Now there’s a revolution: we require MSW students (like me!) to take research methods and sometimes statistics courses. We encourage practitioners to look for intervention methods that have been shown to be effective, if possible with random control trials. We look for ethical ways to do quality research (which is difficult: we can’t always have a control group, since that would entail failing to provide care to those individuals).

To all of this I say: Magnificent! I’m so glad I’m doing my learning now and not thirty years ago! Hip-hip-Hurrah for the Evidence Based Practice!

The Rant:

Seriously, Social Work. YOU OF ALL PROFESSIONS should know that if you tell somebody something enough, they’ll start to believe it, even if they didn’t to start out. YOU KNOW about framing and reframing stories. That’s your whole deal.

So how, exactly, do you expect your new crop of learners to become excited about the importance and the fascination of research if you feel the need to point out how boring they must find it EVERY TIME IT COMES UP.

I went into this thinking research was pretty cool, but I’m starting to get the impression that I’d better not go around saying that too loudly. Clearly, no social worker in their right mind actually LIKES research. It’s just the medecine we have to swallow to have a healthy profession.

No, no, no. I will kick and scream and rant about this. I will bring it up every time – if you tell people that they think something is boring, they will think it is boring. Especially if you are so completely on message about it.

So, come on, Social Work. You oughta know, you oughta know, you oughta know by now…

Let us learn. Let us form our own opinions. Don’t jump to conclusions about where your students start out, on this or any other subject. And certainly don’t do that by subtly supporting any negative feelings they did have. I’m sure we do mostly want to be practitioners. And perhaps many students do feel that research methodology is a drag, but there’s no need for you to pander to that. Help us out, academic discipline! Show us not just how important, but how NIFTY research can be.

And for gods’ sakes, never, EVER assume that your students do not want to learn the subject matter you are trying to teach them.

It’s bad form. It’s bad practice. It’s a negative schema.

And it makes me feel ucky.

The end.


In May a year ago when the trees on my block
wore white flowers
and I walked through the flat I live in now
viewing its transitional mostly-emptiness
a few boxes and a plant not yet moved out

Up and down the street were men
with blowers on their backs
floating away the petals in a noisy mechanical windstorm
my landlord to be said that this
was as loud as the neighborhood got

and he was right but misleading
giving the impression of a quiet place
I don’t know
I haven’t checked – perhaps they keep their windows closed
they are on the first floor after all

but up here with my slant-ceilings I keep them open
and my neighborhood, my block with trees
and scraggly grass verges full of dogshit
(my last place: no trees, no grass, still plenty of shit)

is not quiet.

For some reason I don’t know the elementary school across the street
converted now into inexpensive
housing for older people
has small fires or at least fire alarms
almost every week

and for some other reason I don’t know
cars like to drive down the one way street
Marshall Street
honk-honk-honk-hoooooonking the whole way

which I imagine is some sort of a game
or threat
or signal to somebody
but not me

and sometimes the small dogs bark
back and forth and back and forth
through the open windows in a conversation
that sounds like
“I’m here!” “I’m here!” “But I’m here!” “But so am I!”

and absolutely best of all is the woman who wanders
down my street and sings
in Spanish, operatically, at the top of her lungs
sometimes beautifully and sometimes tunelessly
songs that sound old
but I don’t know, I wouldn’t know

Sometimes late at night couples fight and cry,
and shout, walking down the street
once I heard one-side whole shouted story
into a cellphone, sitting in a car
a woman trying to get her child’s father
to watch the child while she worked

And I don’t know any of these people
I have not asked about
the songs
the dogs
the fire alarms
the story behind the honking

I like to listen to it all
the whole vibrant sound-story
I feel a little guilty, sitting up here
in my own neat little world

eavesdropping on a sort of life
that is not mine at all