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CULTURE SHOCK IN CONTEXT

At this time in the early 1990s, I had been in the United States 3 years and had decided to stay. I needed American credentials because few people understood or recognized my Danish degree and profession. I had a social pedagogical degree and had practiced as a social pedagogue for several years in Denmark before coming to the United States. Social pedagogy is the main human services profession throughout Europe, and social pedagogues (also called social educators) are employed in agencies that provide services across the life span (Cameron, 2004, 2013; Hatton, 2013; Store, 2013). Social pedagogues work in a variety of settings, including residential child welfare facilities, domestic violence shelters, criminal justice settings, centers supporting people with a variety of disabilities, shelters for homeless people, and day care and after school programs for children and youth. They work hands-on with people providing direct services, including support in activities of daily living, counseling, and advocacy. Throughout Europe, social pedagogy is a recognized profession with degree requirements, state authorized examinations, and a long history of union affiliations. In the United States, however, working hands-on as direct support staff is not recognized as a profession and therefore the respect and compensation are minimal. I came to the United States as part of a program whose mission it was to introduce social pedagogy to residential agency practitioners and administrators as a way to promote professionalization of direct support staff. When looking for credentials in the United States, an MSW seemed the closest to my educational background in Denmark. I therefore found myself at an American university in a graduate program studying social work. Having worked 3 years as a direct support worker in a residential treatment facility for children and youth, I honestly thought that I had had my fill of cultural differences and culture shock. But now I was in this professional, academic setting asking myself, “Why are these adult students behaving as if they cannot think for themselves?” The educational environment seemed so distinctly different from the one in which I was socialized in Denmark. No one faked it or asked questions about the length of a paper. If someone felt overwhelmed, it was discussed among peers and professors. We did not worry about our grades (or at least not to the point of not speaking up), and we were seldom graded. As a matter of fact, when asked by one of my students about grading during a study trip I conduced in Denmark, the dean of the college from which I graduated answered, “Oh, we don't grade students! That would get in the way of learning!” (P. Harrit, personal communication, 1999). Instead, we were provided with written and verbal feedback from both peers and professors.

My judgmental attitude lessened as I began to learn more about the lives of my American peers and about the circumstances under which they studied. There was a new mother and Child Protective Services worker, who worked 40+ hours a week while she also went to school full-time. There was a single mother driving 4 hours back and forth to classes every week because she could not afford the private university closer to home. They were people who had so much on their plates that I got overwhelmed just listening to them. I wondered, “How do my peers do it?” I heard some of them try to negotiate with professors and advisors as they navigated through the educational process. I also heard some of the responses from the faculty and program administrators: “You better get used to it. This is how the real world works!” I then began to wonder if there was a connection between the stressors of the educational process and the social welfare practices I had observed. For example, I heard a case worker at the Department of Social Services tell a mother that it was the mother's problem that the Department of Social Services closed at 5 p.m. and that she had to find a way to get there on time while also holding a job and attending required substance abuse treatment and parenting classes—all without a car in a rural upstate county. Another example involved a youth who I was working with as a direct support staff in a residential child welfare program. She was aging out and when I approached the social worker to plan for her discharge, he immediately wrote “reunification.” When I reminded him that this youth could not go home to her mother due to the abuse that she had encountered and that we needed to explore alternatives, he stated, “Well, I always just write reunification. That's what they [the administrators] want us to do.” These observations made me wonder about the impact and role of professional socialization in the educational process. Was there a parallel between what happened in the educational process and what I witnessed in the work I was part of? What would make an otherwise bright social worker disregard the needs of the youth so quickly or a case worker appear to lack empathy for a mother who was trying to do what was required of her? I began to ask myself about how the way we are educated influences the way we practice. What do we know about the professional socialization of social workers in MSW programs? And what is really going on in these programs? I shared my observations with a colleague, a sociologist and dean of a social pedagogical college in Denmark. She stated, “Mette, there is a term for what you are describing: It is called the ‘hidden curriculum.' ” (M. Lieberkind, personal communication, 1997). Really? It had a name? I began to explore the concept and examined the social work literature. There was nothing about the hidden curriculum. My sociologist colleague suggested looking at the fields of sociology and education. In these two fields, I found what I was looking for: literature and research on professional socialization and the hidden curriculum.

Since the exchange with my Danish colleague and my initial research, the social work community has expanded the discussion of professional socialization and conceptualized curriculum as something beyond the explicit (Bogo & Wayne, 2013; Council of Social Work Education (CSWE), 2008; Grady, Powers, Despard, & Naylor, 2011; Miller, 2013; Quinn & Barth, 2014). My aim in this chapter is to discuss professional socialization of social workers through the lens of the hidden curriculum. I then present the European social pedagogical profession and, specifically, the Danish model of education for social pedagogues.

The social pedagogical model has served as inspiration for the Concentration in Human Services (CHS) within the Department of Sociology, a bachelor's program at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz (Jacobs, 1995; Lamanna, 1992). The CHS provides a case study for deliberate pedagogy and also includes the concept and practice of the Common Third. It is my hope that the introduction of educational programs similar to social work will provide models that will inspire social work educators. Specifically, the pedagogy in the CHS is reflective of the parallel processes that can be cultivated in the student-faculty and service participant-social worker relations. The CHS also addresses the empathetic connections that are paramount to social work practice, and it does so via engaged activities that are integral to the educational process. The CHS attempts to provide opportunities for transformation of both student and faculty in the educational process, not merely transmission of knowledge from faculty to student.

 
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