CSI: The Motley Crew”

Cathy J. Harner, ACSW, LCSW, PhD.     Michele Mallett, ACSW, LCSW
Professor/Chair Social Work Department   Instructor
Taylor University Taylor University
236 W. Reade Ave. 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd.
Upland, IN   46989-1001 Fort Wayne, IN  46807
(765) 998-5209 (260) 744-8829   
(765) 998-4980 (765) 998-4980 
ctharner@taylor.edu       mcmallett@taylor.edu

 Abstract :

The presenters of this workshop will share the framework of a course in which students learn about diversity, social justice and oppression using an experiential model.  Data regarding the changing attitudes of students as identified through pre and post tests will be discussed.   (CSI=Constructing Social Integration)



Teaching about diversity, prejudice, discrimination and oppression can be a depressing and often frightening group of topics especially at a predominantly white middle class university that has the dubious identifying distinction of also being an evangelical Christian university.  However, if combined with theory related to the application of the strengths perspective, social justice theory, social construction theory and cultural identity development theory, as well as the application of relationship development and service learning, the resulting phenomenon could be a culturally competent human being. 

Culture competence occurs as an individual learns more about a person who is culturally different, understands that values vary among individuals and variations may be influenced by a person’s identity, and becomes more knowledgeable about many different groups of people.  

All people have some degree of prejudices.  It seems as though those prejudices are challenged only when individuals meet and get to know people who do not fall into the stereotypes that have been assigned them.   Merely providing education regarding people groups does not appear to be enough to challenge inappropriate thinking.  Relationship development seems to be a key in breaking the cycle of prejudice discrimination and oppression.  Perhaps we need to be more proactive in developing relationships with people who appear to be different than we are.   

That is what the class ‘Unleashing the Oppressed’ seeks to do.  The class gives the students the opportunity to develop relationships with individuals who identify with people groups who fall into “at risk for discrimination” categories not related to race or ethnicity.  These groups include disabilities (mental, developmental, physical), aging, women, sexual orientation, and religion.  A service learning component enables students to build a relationship (either as acquaintance or volunteer activity with an organization that serves the population group) with at least one individual of an at-risk population group.  Service learning is intended to give students the opportunity to participate and process the activity in an intentional way.  The students then have the opportunity to teach others about what they had learned and experienced.   

Social work education should be designed so that it is useful when the students become practitioners.  Respecting the inherent worth and dignity of the individual is an important social work core value.  As students model this attribute to clients, friends, family, society, perhaps our society can move beyond the hatred and even move past the tolerance to a sphere of true acceptance of an individual without prejudging or presupposing.  Once students begin to breakdown the stereotypes of one population group, it is the hope that they will not prejudge another based on stereotypes alone. 

The presenters of this workshop will share the framework of this course that teaches about diversity, social justice and oppression using an experiential model.  Data regarding attitudes of students toward at risk population groups becoming more socially just will be discussed as it supports the idea that attitudes may change over time because those attitudes are socially constructed.