Session: Teaching for Abolition: Developing and Teaching Abolitionist Social Work (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

284 Teaching for Abolition: Developing and Teaching Abolitionist Social Work

Sunday, January 16, 2022: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marquis BR Salon 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Cameron Rasmussen, MSW, CUNY Graduate Center, Durrell Washington, MSW, University of Chicago, Sophia Sarantakos, PhD, University of Denver and Kirk "Jae" James, DSW, New York University
The concept of abolition has entered mainstream social work discourses, within the areas of research, practice, and teaching, more so in the past year than perhaps any other time. Particular attention has been paid to how the profession has been rooted in a carceral approach to social change. Abolition is an ideology, a stance against slavery and violence more generally, an organizing tool, a democratic practice, and a long-term goal with a deep-seated history. There is a growing movement where social workers are starting to interrogate the intersections between social work ethics and values, and abolitionist principles. In the last couple of years, social work has increasingly engaged in conversations on advancing and promoting anti-racist and liberatory pedagogy within social work education. Part of this engagement includes developing courses where social work students can not only learn the history of how oppressive systems developed, and ways we can disrupt those systems across different levels of engagement; but, also allows for the opportunity for instructors and students to identify and interrogate our own punitive mindsets that help sustain systems of oppression, and lay the foundation for entirely new ways of thinking.

This roundtable brings together social work scholars and long-time practitioners who have developed and taught courses on abolitionist praxis. The presenters will engage in conversation around the process of creating their curricula, facilitating classroom conversations, and examining elements that were both successful, and unsuccessful in their teaching endeavors. Panelists will (1) provide an overview of the increased interest in anti-carceral and abolitionist social work over the last several years, and discuss the need for liberatory abolitionist social work education; (2) share personal accounts of the process of developing social work curricula grounded in anti-racism and abolition, and the experience teaching these courses to social work students; and (3) create space to consider and discuss the possibilities and paradoxes of increased abolitionist coursework in schools of social work.

For professionalized social work to truly embody the values and ethics it so frequently touts, deep changes within the enactment of our day-to-day work must occur. One of the most pressing areas for this change work to take place is within our pedagogy. Social work students are increasingly frustrated with the non-profit industrial complex, and searching for avenues that lead to structural change as opposed to marginal reforms. This panel brings forth a timely dialogue integral to the transformation of the profession, and future of social change work.

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