January 31, 2005

Where is the Moral Outrage?...Again and Again

When I first wrote the "Where is the Moral Outrage?" posting, I did not plan for it to become a series. Soon, another posting followed. There is a growing counter-response, as Marc has noted (here, here, here).

Now we have our own Rhode Island story in today's ProJo.

Talking about the Rhode Island College School of Social Work (SSW), one quote in the editorial by Bill Felkner says it all:

As one faculty member put it, "The SSW is not committed to balanced presentations, nor should we be."

Don't you just love the sound of words dedicated to rigorous intellectual exploration and academic freedom?

The public side of this tale dates back to a ProJo story published last November 14.

If you want further background information, go to Bill's website. It is another sad and sorry tale about the state of the American academy.


Bill has now had an article entitled "Indoctrinated into Inadequacy" published in FrontPage.com magazine. He writes about how the behaviors at the SSW limit academic freedom:

My taxpayer-funded school proclaims it only teaches from a liberal/progressive “perspective.”

My taxpayer-funded school produces research to support this “perspective.”

My taxpayer-funded school demands political activism to advance this “perspective.”

Bill then describes how the system perpetuates itself:

The Rhode Island legislature – which is 85 percent Democrat in the House and 83 percent Democrat in the Senate – pass legislation that requires that administrative positions in the government’s welfare and social work departments be filled by SSW graduates - further perpetuating its leftwing “perspective.”

...Once “social work” meant government workers at the welfare office. Today it encompasses private clinical therapists, government administrators, policy analysts/researchers, and lobbyists...

In every state, social workers are involved with health services, labor services, foster care and welfare services. They design, influence and implement policies in your state. We are even taught how to create policy simply with our actions. Social workers, sent with their marching orders from Rhode Island School of Social Work, carry a single and persistent theme – the prescribed “perspective” is the only solution, regardless of the issues...

Bill then connects these practices to an unsettling conclusion about how costly the loss of academic freedom is - both within the academy and within our society:

How does this loss of academic freedom affect not only me but also Rhode Island? Besides the loss of intellectual diversity that spawns creativity and empirical knowledge, it has a more tangible and costly influence to our economy and more importantly to the poor.

One requirement of graduation is that we lobby the State House on social justice issues. I selected the Education and Training bill, because it is the core of welfare reform, a career interest of mine.

Welfare programs are “work-“ or “education-first,” further defined by “strict-“ or “lenient-requirements.” Rhode Island has a “lenient-education-first” model and the proposed legislation advocates more leniencies. At first glance, statistics provided by the school seemed convincing in supporting this approach. However when I read the entire study I found it inadequate.

The Rhode Island General Assembly receives testimony from the Department of Human Services (DHS) on the effectiveness of Rhode Island’s welfare program. This testimony is driven by research produced within the halls of Rhode Island College, the same research used to solicit support from students. But is it valid?...In layman’s terms - it’s survey material, not experimental data. So I looked for more.

The US Department of Education and US Department of Health and Human Services commissioned random assignment design studies for the explicit purpose of evaluating the impact of welfare programs. The Manpower Research Demonstration Corporation (MRDC) produced these reports.

Results show the model promoted (and imposed) by the Rhode Island School of Social Work is the least effective and most costly.

Virtually all variables studied (earning, poverty-reduction, job-security, self-sufficiency, effects to minorities, etc...) show “lenient-education-first” programs under-performed the other 3 models...

If random sampling studies are preferred - and are available - why doesn’t the school use them? Is this state school in pursuit of knowledge or a political agenda? The answer is obvious.

Correcting for ideological prejudice is relatively simple if the will is there. A simple comparison to other states can identify solutions that work. The US Census supplied demographic data used in a recently released Cato Institute report that ranked states on a variety of issues. With Rhode Island spending so much more proportionately on welfare compared to other states, it is both disconcerting and revealing to see rankings in the bottom 15-20 percent on most performance categories including ‘teen-pregnancy’ and ‘poverty-reduction.'

...The MRDC research makes very clear the comparative disadvantage of using Rhode Island’s education first program, “the (work-first) programs generally produced larger five-year gains in employment and earnings than did most of the (education-first) programs.” (Links for studies at www.collegebias.com)

With Rhode Island ranking 3rd in per-recipient spending, 6th in tax rates, 46th in business tax-climate, and among the lowest in welfare efficacy (36th poverty-rate - 49th caseload-reduction - 46th teen-pregnancy - 41st job-entry - 40th earnings-gain), wouldn’t all of Rhode Island’s citizens benefit from more effective programs? The poor become self-sufficient, funds become available for others, and taxpayers might even get a break.

Our policy class at the School of Social Work “teaches” that a comprehensive welfare state, one devoid of work-requirements, is the optimal form of government. Our professor flatly declared: "Students need to decide whether they agree with (my opinions) and whether they belong in social work."

As has been said elsewhere in past years, the last bastion of Marxist thought is the American university. Their ignorance would be laughable - except that these fools are indoctrinating many young minds with their Liberal Fundamentalism.

Thank goodness for the liberating presence of technology that allows alternative views to be expressed and heard in places like this blog site. There will be a public debate on these issues, regardless of whether certain people at the SSW want it or not. And the rest of us won't run from empirical data.


A letter to the editor in the February 8, 2005 ProJo responds to Bill Felkner's editorial in a curious way.

What the letter's author completely misses is that this debate has absolutely nothing to do with caring about/for the needy and working to help alleviate their needs. It has everything to do with the lack of intellectual honesty of certain so-called advocates who both willfully choose to ignore empirical data regarding what makes the most effective public policy and then punish those who don't hold firmly to an orthodoxy disconnected from reality. And these people proudly tout their ideologically-driven ignorance!


Brian Bishop has added his voice to this debate in an editorial published in the ProJo. Marc has covered it well in a separate posting, so this addendum is being added only for the purpose of completeness.

Justin has also offered up some additional thoughts.


David French, President of Freedom for Individual Rights in Education, (FIRE) wrote a letter on January 28 to John Nazarian, the President of Rhode Island College. A powerful letter, it can be found about halfway down the first page on this website. FIRE's blog site can be found here.

Separately, I found one statement on the "Expectations of Students" for the Policy Class to be quite interesting:

Maintenance of complete confidentiality regarding issues that may be raised in class. Discussions that occur here stay here and are not meant to be conveyed into public spaces.

This has led Bill to respond:

If two of our assignments are to lobby for social justice issues, and building public support is part of those campaigns, how can we do that without discussing them in "public spaces"?

This "expectation" wouldn't then be a gag order for only politically incorrect opinions, would it? Nah, why would anyone think that?


John Nazarian, the President of Rhode Island College, responded on February 15 to the FIRE letter mentioned above. His letter can also be found about halfway down the first page on this website.


There was a ProJo article about the new Dean of the RIC SSW. Some of her comments raised the issue of "social justice," which led to this separate posting of mine on the question of "What Does Social Justice Mean?"


One of the RIC SSW students has published a letter to the editor in the ProJo.

Justin has done a great job of challenging the comments in this letter. Since the letter clearly sums up the radical world view of these left-wing zealots, I would encourage you to read Justin's excellent posting.


From the April 24 edition of Rhode Island Policy Analysis' On the Radar comes this news:

Finally, we can't talk about the sorry state of Rhode Island's social safety net without this Bill Felkner update. Bill is a mid-career masters student at the taxpayer financed Rhode Island College School of Social Work. Bill has greatly offended the liberal ideologues who run the school (along with the affliated Hypocrisy, oops, I mean Poverty Institute) by pointing out that the data used by the school to lobby the General Assembly is far from evenhanded. He has even, heaven forbid, pointed out that Rhode Island's dismal performance record in getting people off welfare suggests that we might want to change our approach to that used by better performing states. This questioning of ideolgical idols has led to Bill's tires being slashed, and repeated references to various committees in an attempt to get him tossed out of the SSW. The latest chapter in this sad saga involves a masters program requirement that a student serve an internship with a policy advocacy organization. Bill has obtained one in Governor Carcieri's office, to advocate for the Governor's welfar reform proposals. Sounds great, right? Not if you are the faculty at the (taxpayer financed) RIC SSW. They have pointed out to Bill that one of the requirements is that the internship be with organizations that advocated "progressive" change. Bill naively thought this meant changes that achieved progress, as in better results. The faculty explained that it meant policies that passed a liberal ideological litums test. The net result is that as of last week, Bill's faculty adviser at RIC SSW had yet to contact the Governor's Office to discuss Bill's proposed internship. Let's be clear: at a taxpayer financed institution, this is outrageous! If you think so too, why not call RIC President John Nazarian on (401) 456-8101, or email him at jnazarian@ric.edu.
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Maybe, just maybe, this will the spark public outrage about social work's socialistic tendencies, that have been kept in the shadows for years. I'm a former social work student who felt that I had to "hush" for the two years of my program, yet believed that the things the program was suggesting as helpful to society were actually the most harmful (big government programs, etc.).

Let's hear it for truth and academic freedom.

Posted by: Marian Shah at June 17, 2005 8:21 AM