Controversial Issues in Social Policy / Edition 3

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Controversial Issues in Social Policy is an edited collection of contemporary social policy debates argued between some of the foremost thinkers in the field of social work as well as prominent authors in other fields. Its 16 debate topics were selected to cover a wide range of professional interests in the field of social policy and are divided into three parts:

Part I: Social Policy and the American Welfare State

Part II: The Culture Wars: Discrimination, Stigma and Social Policy

Part III: Social Work and Social Service Delivery Issues

It is a great text for anyone interested in social welfare policy, public policy and contemporary issues at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. It stresses the importance of critical and independent thought in the educational process.

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Editorial Reviews

Essays in this collection have been selected to encourage critical thinking and keep students informed on recent social policy debates. Themes include social policy and the American welfare state, poverty, inequality, and social policy, issues in social service policy, and social work education and professional policy. Authors are thinkers and policy analysts both inside and outside of the field of social work. Karger is affiliated with the University of Houston. This work lacks a subject index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205528462
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 12/29/2006
  • Series: Pearson Custom Social Work Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 884,721
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.97 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Although politically liberal, the editors believe in the marketplace of ideas, a concept first articulated by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919. The marketplace of ideas concept holds that the best policy arises from the competition of divergent ideas in a free and transparent public discourse, an important element of liberal democracy. To that end, we have not stacked the deck in the debates and tried to give both sides a fair hearing. In this third edition, we have intentionally expanded the politically conservative voices from organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and Focus on the Family. It is our belief that eventually the most salient ideas will win out, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum. Positions must stand the test of analytical scrutiny before they can be accepted. Critical debate facilitates the twin tasks of validation and refutation. It also heightens an understanding of the issues, permits contradictions to be resolved, and ultimately promotes correct rather than false knowledge.

Social policy is a dynamic field and innovations and revisions in policy thinking regularly occur. However, remarkably little has changed in social policy since the first edition of this book was published. The country remains split between hard-line conservatives and the more suffocating elements of politically correct thinking. Social policy is still shaped by rigid ideological commitments even though these are often presented as thoughtful and original policy ideas that will improve social conditions. One example is the much touted compassionate conservatism of the Bush administration which seems to be reserved for the needy rich instead of the needy poor. Similarly, the government=s new emphasis on marriage as a solution to the problems of poverty and family deprivation resurrects cultural themes in American social thought that are hardly new or innovative. There is an urgent need to examine these and other policy developments critically and to subject them to intense debate. Books of this kind are needed now more than ever.

Exposing students to critical debate is also an effective teaching device. While rote learning has an obvious role in the educational process, the task of helping students to gain an understanding of the most important issues in the field requires more than just the memorization of facts. In subjects such as social work and social policy, where judgment is as important as knowing facts, students need to think critically, to be able to grasp complex nuances, and to analyze issues and defend their positions. The lecture format is not always the most effective means to inculcate these kinds of intellectual skills. We hope that the debates in this book will assist instructors to promote passionate discussions among students and to facilitate the critical thinking needed to enhance our field. Now more than ever, the profession needs innovative thinking that supports bold new ideas not hashed over Aconsensus@ opinions that masquerade as truth.

We have included debates in this book that will encourage social work students to think critically and to develop their analytical skills, in fact, many of these debates require careful and critical review. We also hope that instructors and general readers will also benefit from the debates. For this reason, many of the debates address very difficult issues. Indeed, some of the positions argued by our contributors are unpopular, but as was argued previously, it is important that social workers understand them. We believe strongly in the ability of our readers to determine for themselves which arguments are the most valid and relevant. For this reason, we do not avoid issues because of their contentiousness. It is hoped that instructors will use this book in the spirit in which it was written and to expose students to the varied opinions found in the rich terrain of social policy. As stated earlier, one of the strengths of social policy is its openness to various interpretations, which makes it intellectually challenging and exciting. Indeed, we hope this book will communicate the exhilaration of analyzing the complexities of social welfare policy.

The reader should not assume, despite the passionate tone or persuasive impact of these debates, that the authors personally endorse the issues they present. Controversy is the essence of intellectual discourse. Although it may produce sharp disagreements, the role of critical disputation in furthering knowledge is universally recognized. While scholars may strenuously promote particular positions, the capacity to do so requires mastery of both sides of an issue.

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Table of Contents


Part I: Social Policy and the American Welfare State

DEBATE 1: Is the American Welfare State Compatible with the Market Economy?

YES: James Midgley

NO: Howard Karger

DEBATE 2: Should We Open the Southern U.S. Border to Immigration?

YES: Tatcho Mindiola

NO: Howard Karger

DEBATE 3: Should Social Security Be Privatized?

YES: William W. Beach

NO: Steven Rose

DEBATE 4: Does America Need National Health Insurance?

YES: Manuel F. Zamora

NO: Robert E. Moffit

DEBATE 5: Is the War on Drugs Effective?

YES: Peter A. Kindle

NO: Diana M. DiNitto

DEBATE 6: Can Asset-Based Welfare Policy Really Help the Poor?

YES: Michael Sherraden

NO: James Midgley

Part II: The Culture Wars: Discrimination, Stigma, and Social Policy

DEBATE 7: Should Same-Sex Marriages Be Legalized?

YES: Lori Messinger

NO: Glenn T. Stanton

DEBATE 8: Has Affirmative Action Gone Too Far?

YES: José Enrique Idler

NO: Jolyn Mikow

DEBATE 9: Has the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Gone Too Far?

YES: Howard Karger

NO: John C. Bricout

DEBATE 10: Does Social Work Discriminate Against Evangelical Christians?

YES: David Hodge

NO: Gary R. Anderson

DEBATE 11: Should Abortion Rights Be an Accepted Social-Work Value?

YES: John T. Pardeck

NO: Roland Meinert

Part III: Social Work and Social-Service Delivery Issues

DEBATE 12: Is Federal Government Support of Faith-Based Social-Service Agencies Consistent with Social-Work Values?

YES: Gaynor Yancey

NO: John R. Belcher

DEBATE 13: Should Social Services Be Privatized?

YES: David Stoesz

NO: Ira C. Colby

DEBATE 14: Has Welfare Reform Worked?

YES: Kirk A. Johnson and Robert Rector

NO: Mimi Abramovitz

DEBATE 15: Can Child Protective Services Be Reformed?

YES: Kristine E. Nelson, Diane K. Yatchmenoff, and Katharine Cahn

NO: David Stoesz

DEBATE 16: Are Family Drug Courts Working in Child Welfare?

YES: Patricia Sardau-Beckler and Scott W. M. Burrus

NO: Michael J. Beckler

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