Informing Civic Literacy to Spur Action (Salisbury University and L.E.A.D)
The pursuit of social justice has long distinguished the profession of social work from other helping professions. From its foundation in the Settlement House Movement, social work has sought the fair and equitable distribution of human rights for all members of society, especially those members belonging to oppressed groups. As evidence of the importance of this concept to social work, the National Association of Social Workers (2015) identifies it as one of the six core values of the profession. Furthermore, the International Federation of Social Work (2012) in its Statement of Ethical Principles identifies promotion of human rights and social justice as principle aims of the profession.
Confronting injustice often involves challenging existing social structures and the policies that establish and affirm these structures. Effective intervention with these policies requires strong civic literacy. Unfortunately, Americans evidence declining rates of civic knowledge. For example, one national study found that only 34% of adults could identify the majority party in the US House of Representatives (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2012). Half of all US states no longer require civics education for high school graduation and only a third of college and university students felt that their civic literacy was strengthened by postsecondary education (AACU, 2012). These trends result in a lack of participation in the processes which govern them and – in many cases – in laws and policies that do not align with the needs of social workers and their clients.
This presentation will provide practical instruction on the civic knowledge and skills social workers may use to effectively challenge social injustice. Participants will explore the processes and functions of each level of government in relation to social justice, with emphasis on state and local government. Advocacy strategies that effectively use this knowledge will be examined. Participants will be provided “civic tools” to help them build localized knowledge as well as to practice civic skills. The session will end with discussion of the mandates and limitations placed on social workers in relation to challenging injustice through policy or macro advocacy.
At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to…
Articulate the connection between civic literacy and social justice;
Identify key policy-making functions and processes pertinent to the context in which they practice;
Use specific civic skills to advocate for just policies and structures.