Don’t Follow the Rules When You Can Change the Rules: Fierceness of Jane Addams

Jane Addams is known for being the mother of social work. However, she did not fit the image of the “traditional” lady of her time. She was seen as radical, bold, and unconventional in a time when women were not allowed to vote. People like Jane Addams and the women of Hull House did the unthinkable and advocated for themselves and others.

women-rightsJane Addams practiced what is known today as macro practice social work. Macro practice does not follow the rules, it changes the rules. Somehow social work has gotten soft along the way.

The profession has abandoned its mission of building the “infrastructure of society” and left the responsibility to people outside the profession. As a result, the rules were changed and so has the focus. We can see this in the language used in social work today.  Many times social work is mentioned as the “safety net” of society.

Jane Addams was against seeing her work as “charity” she saw it as “lateral progress” or “civic housekeeping.” Instead, she saw her work as an investment in society and stated, “I am always sorry to have Hull House regarded as philanthropy.” Jane Addams believed the progress of society was measured not by the elite, but by the “weakest link.” This view is still not popular, and we are still playing by the rules that people “need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

We could all be inspired by Jane Addams because she was a fierce pioneer who was not afraid to go against social norms. She did not wait for change to happen, and this is what our society needs to help facilitate change. Advocacy and community organizing inspire growth and progress however many times this means challenging the status quo.

It’s time for the social work profession to stop being led and start leading society again.

The War on Education

Social work pioneer and activist Jane Addams felt that America’s future would be determined by both family and education. She stated that we become what we learn, and whatever that turns out to be is up to us. In North Carolina, the future is looking pretty grim where priorities are given to private corporations over the future of our country.

tanita wallaceThese values in our current policies are not helping our children flourish. Currently, state lawmakers want larger class sizes in grades K-3 ,even though smaller class sizes are more beneficial to students. They also want to cut Pre-K and to cut teaching assistants in grades 2-3. North Carolina is already ranked 48th in per pupil funding among states and 46th in teacher pay, what will we be ranked after these polices are implemented?

There are differing opinions on this issue. Some of the beliefs behind this bill is that it will let districts lower class sizes for at-risk students while having larger ones for kids who don’t need as much help. However others feel that this will disproportionately affect low-wealth school districts, and that smaller class sizes and more funding are needed.  The misguided legislators behind this bill say that rising class sizes could “maximize student achievement”.  Senator Jerry Tillman stated in the article:

“…Local school officials who feel they can improve achievement by raising class sizes to use the money for some other educational purpose should be given the opportunity. If districts don’t raise achievement after raising class sizes, he said that they should be held accountable.”

In contrast, a glimpse of the Finland’s school system, where the gap between the strongest and weakest students are the smallest in the world. Finnish students take only one mandatory standardized test, at age 16 and this is with some interesting outcomes… “Fully 93% of Finns graduate from high school – 17.5 points higher than American students. And 66% of Finns are accepted to college, a higher rate than the US and every European nation”.   Because Finland is not obligated to prepare students for a nation wide standardized test, teachers can do what they do best and target lesson plans that best meet their students needs. This is a person centered approach where students are met where they are at.

Why are people who were not trained to be teachers making decisions on education? The teachers are the experts so why is our government not taking their advice? This shows us that a better system is possible if we want it, if it is important enough for us. We need to bring our state toward progress again. Education is a right for all people, this means a quality education as well. If we don’t nourish our educational system, how will we nourish our society? A country’s values is determined by how its most vulnerable people are treated.

What will our values be? Rallies  and press conferences  organized by Progress North Carolina are gathering all over the state in response to this issue. If you would like to take part in the peaceful civil disobedience, please write for what you can do to help. There will be more to come.

Photo credit: Progress North Carolina

Advocacy Series: Advocacy for Beginners

We live in a democracy, and it takes a certain amount of citizen participation to make any democracy work.  I have decided to write a series on advocacy because many people do not become aware of issues until after the decision is made. Laws become passed and then affect lives before many people ever notice.

10825063-dictionary-definition-of-the-word-advocacy1Staying active on policy issues may be a chore for many, however, we live in a society where decisions are made by those that speak up.

There are many ways to stay current on issues in your area. You can register to the newsletters of those that represent you, find bills on the NCGA website, or “call to action” sites like Progress NC.

While calls to action are crucial, direct contact to your legislators are more important. Be strategic and contact your legislators when they are not in session, they will have more time to talk to you.. There are three main reasons or strategies to contact your legislators.

  •  To build the relationship
  • Provide them with information
  • Ask for action.

Politicians are less likely to listen to your call for action if they have never heard from you before, or if people only respond for a call to action like on a lobby day. Lobby days are a great way to get the message out that a lot of people feel strongly about something. However, it can be overwhelming for legislators and if you want them to have a personal response to your issue, it might be more effective to communicate with them when they are not so busy.

Take time to set up a meeting when they are not in Raleigh and in their home district. Schedule a meeting and introduce yourself, let them know you are a constituent, provide them with information that you know about. Developing a personal relationship is the most effective way to influence the legislators’ positions on an issue. Phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters are all great but are not as effective as face-to-face meeting.  They are not experts and many times are so removed from the lives of “everyday people”, that they welcome any perspective or feedback.

Some things to remember…

  • Ask for your legislators’ view on an issue. Be kind and don’t react angrily if you don’t get the response you want. Stay calm and be polite always.
  • Use the specific bill or legislative action. Give several brief points why your member should support this legislation.
  • Research your issue and back to them if you cannot provide information about an issue on the spot.
  • Remember to say thank you; and send a thank you note after your visit. This letter helps build a relationship over time with the legislator.

Whatever your preferred method, communication is key for having the society that we want.  Next in the series Tactics and Strategy in Advocacy.

Jason Collins Become First Openly Gay Male Sports Athlete


Current NBA free agent, Jason Collins, took the world by storm earlier this week after becoming the first major sports athlete to announce that he was gay. Collins has been in the NBA for 12 years, and no one ever knew of his sexuality until Monday. When the story broke, Collin’s instantly became a household name. As everyone knows, the gay and lesbian rights issue has reached new heights in today’s society.

It’s truly amazing that no athlete has ever come out to admit that they were gay while being an active player. Most sports figures are seen as the toughest men in the entire world. You wouldn’t think that any of these rich and powerful men would have reason to hide anything from anyone. The truth is, there are more players like Jason Collins who are indeed afraid to speak out about their sexuality. That’s what makes it so special that this man stood up, before anyone else, and became a leader for gays across the world.

It’s comforting to see someone in Collins’ position be able to do what’s right despite possible retaliation. Jason received a ton of support including current and former, NBA and NFL, players. Kobe Bryant tweeted “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU”, and more sports figures are offering more support each day. Collins’ act of bravery is respected highly. All of the support he receives will make it easier for the next person who refuses to hide their sexual orientation. This was a very brave act by a man with nothing to gain and everything to lose.

We as people should continue to get behind others like Jason Collins. There are more people out there who are hiding and afraid to be criticized. As a nation, we need to stand behind individuals like Jason Collins, and let them know that we support their ability to live their lives without persecution.

Jason Collins surprised a lot of people especially when he didn’t know what type of responses he would receive. However, he still managed to muster up enough courage to come out and openly admit his sexual orientation. Hopefully, his courage will inspire more athletes in the LGBTQ community to be unafraid to let everyone know who they really are.


Photo Courtesy of  Sports illustration

Backward in Values: North Carolina Rolls Back Needed Programs

NC Rolling Back Needed Programs

What happened to the progressive state we once knew here in North Carolina?  This state of ours, which was once on its way to becoming progressive, has turned completely bizarre in its direction.  There is a plethora of policies in our current legislature that discriminates against many of our vulnerable populations. Here are just a few of them:

  • North Carolina GOP Files Arizona-Style ‘Show Me Your Papers’ Bill
  • NC lawmaker equates Islamic prayer with terrorism
  • Lawmakers Pass Bill To Resume Executions In North Carolina
  • North Carolina has power to establish official religion, resolution says
  • North Carolina Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Penalize Parents Of College Student Voters
  • Corporate tax breaks rolled out in Senate committee
  • ALEC-Sponsored Bill To Repeal North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standard Narrowly Passes Out Of Committee
  • North Carolina ‘Healthy Marriage Act’ Would Set Two-Year Waiting Period For Divorce, Require Counseling
  • N.C. House passes cursive handwriting bill
  • Top North Carolina Republican Introduces Florida-Style Voter Suppression Bill
  • Eleven North Carolina Republicans Sponsor Resolution Saying Their State Can Ignore The Constitution
  • North Carolina Is Going Out Of Its Mind

This has flourished many advocacy efforts throughout the state. With lobby days already scattered out at the Capital such as, Women’s Advocacy Day , Equality NC Lobby Day and Momsrising Chutes and Latters event, there are many more rallies and citizens advocating all of the madness that is going on at the legislature this session.

These policies are going backward in time for our state. Our laws should protect our freedoms and stop discrimination. If you don’t agree with these policies, please contact your representative.

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