Whether we're threatened by the second or the third spike of this persistent and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, parents are again faced with school closings and re-openings that have them confused and in doubt. Is their child better off at home being schooled on-line or attending their local brick and mortar school with their classmates and teachers?
Only social workers who deal with childhood hunger every day realize how devastating the COVID-19 pandemic has been for millions of everyday school children who attend school with your children and mine. For many of your children’s classmates, not attending in-person school has meant missing 5 essential meals a week and, in many cases, the bulk of their nutrition.
Nation Earns a Grade of C Amid Mixed State Showing
The new Education Week Research Center report, Quality Counts 2019, synthesizes 39 indicators that capture a range of school finance, academic achievement, and socioeconomic factors that affect the quality of state school systems. Southern states with high poverty rates dominate the lower rankings, but overall, 32 states earn grades between C-plus and C-minus. Why does the U.S. educational system consistently get low marks for student academic achievement?
We recently conducted an informal poll of the social workers we deal with every day and asked them what they thought was the #1 social malady threatening the country today. Their answer might surprise you; more than the opioid epidemic; more than veterans affairs; more than homelessness; more than woman’s rights; more than economic imbalance; more than education issues; more than civil rights; more than the environment; the problem that was cited more than any other was – STUDENT DEBT!
A Cultural Collapse
A comprehensive study of newspapers in the United States found that 516 rural newspapers closed or merged from 2004 to 2018. In metropolitan areas, 1,294 newspapers were shuttered during the period, making a national total of 1,810 papers that ceased publication.
At a recent college career day, this troubling question was asked repeatedly; “What do social workers do?” The question was troubling because it came with the realization that most college age students have no clear idea what social workers do. They are, therefore, less inclined to pick social work as a career choice.
Our recent blog post on the repurposing of libraries in the United States inspired a robust response from social workers involved in education. Lisa Gevelber, Vice President of Grow with Google, wrote this:
Positive Tomorrows, an Oklahoma City non-profit, is opening a private school for homeless children that was designed by the kids themselves. That’s right. A private school for homeless (not privileged) children.
Remember taking film to the drugstore to get it developed? Or hustling over to Blockbuster on a Friday night to rent films for the weekend? How about “looking up” facts for your homework papers in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Or spending rainy Saturdays in the library writing your thesis?
Ahhh…the good old days. Whatever happened to books printed on paper and bound between covers with printer’s glue? The world has gone digital and library collections are gradually becoming obsolete. How long has it been since you visited a library?
It is a serious misperception to view social workers as low paid civil servants who push paper on behalf of the less fortunate and perhaps undeserving. Social workers occupy a unique position in our social fabric.
From the very outset, the history of social work is populated with empathetic leaders who, upon discovering profound human suffering, not only offered a helping hand but immediately set out to change the social conditions contributing to the suffering. Social work's earliest pioneers - Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, Julia Lathrop, Sophonisba Breckinridge, and Grace and Edith Abbott, among others—laid the foundation of the profession's social leadership role and, to this day, this inclination to activism sets social workers apart from other civil servants.