Political polarization prevails in the United States as well as in other areas of the world (Boxell et al., 2021). While political action is inherent in democratic cultures, over-politicizing issues strains the social ties that strengthen families, communities, and nations. It interferes with finding sustainable and durable solutions to our most challenging problems. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the perils of politicizing social issues; people are making choices about mask-wearing, vaccines, and social distancing based on their political stance (Kerr et al., 2021). Unnecessary politicizing exposes programs and solutions to risks of repeal and replacement when political opponents are subsequently elected. The attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act reflects such risk. Social workers and other professionals work across the ecosystem to promote programs and practices that are evidence-based.
Social work proceeds at the speed of trust. Open inquiry that invites viewpoint diversity is more likely to produce greater trust, less politicized outcomes, and more durable solutions. One critically important place that this can be practiced is in the social work classroom. However, ideological domination of social work faculty and students (Ringstad, 2014) can compromise trust among professionals and within the discipline. Professionals need not take an ideological orthodox position to be effective in their practice (Lerner, 2020) but this requires peaceful pluralism and prioritizing people over politics. In this presentation, participants will learn to 1) enhance viewpoint and political diversity in education and practice; 2) recognize the basis for political and viewpoint diversity in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics (2021) as well as within other respective disciplines; 3) understand specific strategies and frameworks to serve politically diverse constituencies, including moral foundations theory (Graham, Haidt, and Nosek, 2009). The desired outcome is trust focused dialogue essential to social work practice and education. Although we contextualize our discussion within the field of social work, the presentation may provoke dialogue across disciplines.
Matthew Watson, MSW, LCSW
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family Services – Manager of Administration
Zander Keig, MSW, LCSW
2020 NASW National Social Worker of the Year
Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism