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Practice and Research: Chicago Stories

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Information about Practice and Research: Chicago Stories
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Published on January 6, 2014

Author: spswyork

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Professor Ian Shaw. Presented at Graduate School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, May 4, 2011.
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Practice and Research: Chicago Stories Ian Shaw Graduate School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, May 4, 2011

   The boundaries of what we now think of as social work (and sociology) were neither inevitable nor in perpetuity. Social work in your country took a certain position on the nature and merits of „science‟ in its formative years that again was not inevitable. I wonder if the conventional way of understanding the relationship between research and practice – between science and action – has served to impoverish the range of what is possible, and set up an interdisciplinary relationship between social work and sociology that serves neither one nor the other. Three thoughts

 I want to trouble the assumptions of what belongs to particular disciplinary boundaries.  I am primarily trying to show that there is a „problem‟ here that will repay work. Troubling the waters

  „The sociologist looks down upon the social worker with a goodly measure of contempt‟ for not „having the standing or dignity of a profession and without being based upon scientific principles‟ „The social workers…look up to sociologists as to people who live in the clouds, who clothe the simplest ideas in the most cumbersome language and who hide their ignorance of human nature behind polysyllabic, high sounding, more or less meaningless verbiage.‟ Maurice Karpf, 1925 Conventional problem

 Frederick Thrasher's 'The Gang'   Clifford Shaw's 'The Jack-Roller„  a series of papers by Ernest Burgess  Ada Sheffield Sources University of Chicago Special Collections

Practice, civic engagement, and progressive reformism on the one hand and science and research on the other can in no way stand for social work/social service versus sociology and social science  A teleological, modernizing explanation will not do to dissolve this mélange as if they were moments in the development of the fields/disciplines we have today  I will suggest….

 within social work there were contrasting responses to the rise of social science – those who ploughed a straight furrow and those who went for cultivating the field  There are two rewarding routes into this field. One an idea („case‟), the other a person (E W Burgess). ..and that

  Social work as science „Social workers must be so trained scientifically that they belong in the social science group‟  are suffused with the optimism  undifferentiated mixture of assertion and aspiration. Practice, civic engagement, and progressive reformism on the one hand and science and research on the other can in no way stand for social work/social service versus sociology/ social science.

 The problems arising in connection with the presence of gangs in a community are many. The undirected gang or gang club demoralizes its members. It aids in making chronic truants and juvenile delinquents and in developing them into finished criminals. It augments racial friction in some areas. It complicates the problems of capital and labor in certain fields. It organizes boot-legging and rum-running into profitable business. It contributes to perverted politics and governmental corruption. It promotes the corrupt alliance between crime and politics. In making more acute these various types of social maladjustment it lays a heavy burden upon the community. Sociology as practice

 „We need a new penology which shall be penetrating in its insights into the subjective aspect of the boy‟s life and which shall be broader in scope than institutional care and the present system of probation and parole‟ (p.500f)  He advocates a researchbased, researchsupported, communitylevel, systematic community organization approach to prevention (p.537), and argues that „such a program represents a radical departure from the methods of social work and community organization as formerly conceived‟ (p.538). Welfare intervention

 Stanley takes us through his time at the Detention Home and the Parental School. On his discharge at seventeen, „Upon the basis of the materials available at that time, certain interpretations of the case were made and a plan of treatment was devised‟ (164). „In the light of the foregoing interpretation of the case, it was decided to place Stanley in an entirely new social situation‟ (165), consisting of a „sympathetic and informal‟ (166) foster home in a non-delinquent community, with monitored vocational guidance, and the development of „conventional‟ peer relationships in the area of his new home. Stanley

 A naive reading of Shaw‟s book leaves the reader with a sense of having been inducted into a mélange of what we now know as „sociology‟ and „social work‟, but which to Shaw seems a coherent stance. I suggest that this is close to the heart of how things were, and not a temporary distortion in the distinct histories of sociology and social work. Clifford Shaw The Jack-Roller

 Shaw‟s language is often cast in the terms of welfare intervention.  „The attitudes and intimate situations revealed in the life-story not only throw light upon the fundamental nature of the behaviour difficulty, but, along with the other case material, afford a basis for devising a plan of treatment adapted to the attitudes, interests, and personality of the child‟ (17). Shaw

A teleological, modernizing explanation will not do to dissolve these differences as if they were moments in the development of the fields/disciplines we have today.

Straight furrows 1923-4 Report. Local Community Research. The Social Science Group  „Natural areas‟, „community organization‟, „family disorganization‟, „natural history‟, and funding for studies that would later be Chicago School classics  Within social work there were contrasting responses to the rise of social science

Population and Housing Conditions  Family Welfare Work in Chicago  Immigration: Select Documents and Case Records   lost opportunity Straight furrows

 Ada Sheffield „Social Case Interpretation for Research‟  „the subject-matter of much social study is unstable. Not only do two students perceive different facts, they actually in a measure make different facts to be perceived‟ Field cultivators

 Throughout the 1920s and early 30s Burgess pursued a creative preoccupation with the identity and historical development of sociology and social work in relation to one another. This led him to an early position that there is an essential interdependence between the two, and that their separate disciplinary developments had converged on a mutual while still distinguishable set of linked research interests. This essentially egalitarian view of their relationship prompted him to a view that there are reciprocal gains to be had, the one from the other. It also enabled him to voice positive criticisms of his own discipline and of social work. Ernest Burgess and the forgotten articles

 What should social case records contain to be useful for sociological interpretation? They should contain what will render them valuable for social case work, that and no more. This answer will, I know, perplex and astonish many social workers and sociologists. (Burgess, 1928: 524).  My proposal is actually quite simple and I think, entirely feasible and reasonable, in spite of the fact that I do not anticipate its immediate and general adoption. It is to enter into the case record statements made by all persons visited in nearly as humanly possible the language which they used. (1927: 192) What social work has to offer sociology

 Existing case records seldom, or never, picture people in the language of Octavia Hill, with their “passions, hopes, and history” or their “temptations”, or “the little scheme they have made of their lives, or would make if they had encouragement”. The characters in case records do not move, and act, and have their being as persons. They are depersonalized, they become Robots, or mere cases undifferentiated except by the recurring problems they present. (1928: 526-27) Case records

 „To enter the interview in the words of the person signifies a revolutionary change. It is a change from the interview conceived in legal terms to the interview as an opportunity to participate in the life history of the person, in his memories, in his hopes, in his attitudes, in his own plans, in his philosophy of life.‟ More on case records

  The boundaries of what we now think of as social work (and sociology) were neither inevitable nor in perpetuity. Social work in your country took a certain position on the nature and merits of „science‟ that again was not inevitable. It could perhaps be seen as the triumph of the straight furrow over the cultivated field  I wonder if the conventional way of understanding the relationship between research and practice – between science and action – has served to impoverish the range of what is possible, and set up an interdisciplinary relationship with sociology that serves neither one nor the other. Three closing thoughts

 …I would not wish to draw a line from 80 or 90 years ago and teleport Frederick Thrasher, Clifford Shaw, Ada Sheffield or Ernest Burgess to the present. What I would plead for, however, is a relationship between social work and sociology of intellectual reciprocity based on egalitarian respect. So….

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