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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / They came to learn, they came to teach, they came to stay
(1980)

Wood, Vivian
Chapter 11: Helen Clarke and social work,   pp. 67-71 ff.


Page 69


I have seen Helen Clarke's methods of teaching. She is an investigator with
her stu-
dents. They are not routine workers repeating what is told them  they begin
their
study by learning how to improve the conditions and the attitudes of men,
women and
children who are most in need of improvement in their homes and in their
work. Every
case of dependency or maladjustment is a new case  nothing just like it ever
hap-
pened before. Rightly understood, therefore, everybody should be a 'social
worker'
this means, every person should be able to place himself in the position
of another and
thereby understand why the other acts as he does.
Like everybody who starts with individual cases of need or distress, Miss
Clarke realizes
that the individual and family are conditioned in their choices and alternatives
by the
social environment of which they are a part. The science of environment is
sociology.
Because course materials in the budding profession of social work were
scarce, Clarke prepared a number of casebooks for use in her classes. Most
of
these never got beyond the mimeographed stage but were widely used by stu-
dents. Her second major book, Principles and Practice of Social Work, was
originally written for the University Extension Division. It was published
in
1947 as a beginning textbook for a field that was now seeing itself as a
pro-
fession that should not be left to amateurs. Clarke's Preface to that book
indi-
cates that she viewed the problem of social work in the Jane Addams' tradi-
tion of "securing a better environment for the people of the earth."
Clarke
wrote, "The primary function of social work is to help individuals and
groups
meet the demands of their immediate world or to help in changing that
world."
Clarke reports that this second book did not sell well. It is not surprising
inasmuch as American social work after the 1930s made a radical departure
from the social problems approach "and adopted a psychiatric stance
in re-
gard to the client - now his (or her) problems were viewed as personality
difficulties and the major treatment system was a modified form of psy-
chotherapy. " 1
The University of Wisconsin resisted the national pressure to separate
social work from social science departments and to adopt a psychiatric model
of social work education based on Freudian theory. The university finally
yielded on the first point in 1946 with the Regents approving a Master's
degree in Social Work and establishing the School of Social Work as an
autonomous unit within the College of Letters and Sciences. The school was
accredited by the Council on Social Work Education the following year. The
failure to adopt the psychiatric model resulted in some lean years for social
work at Wisconsin when other social work schools were getting federal funds.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the pendulum in American social work
finally swung toward the ideas long held at Wisconsin - that individual
social environment was the major factor in the client's inability to function
effectively. This view placed the focus of social work education on social
problems and the factors producing them and produced "a curriculum heavily
loaded with social science material."2 The emphasis today is on a synthesis
of
the formerly distinct methods of social work.
During the years when Clarke stayed steadfastly with the social problems
approach, the newly trained social workers trained in the psychiatric model
of
social work education at other universities must have thought her old-
fashioned. By the time her approach was vindicated, she was nearing re-
tirement.
69


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