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Summer 1998
Social Evolution

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When I first came to UCLA, psychology had an important influence on social work. Freud was widely read. The “in” terms were ego, superego and id. The purpose of social work was to help individuals and families adjust to society, and there were constant, unresolved arguments concerning the role of social workers in psychotherapy, counseling and casework. The general consensus was working one-on-one was the most efficacious model, which meant that although many of our graduates went to work in social agencies (almost half the field agencies where students worked in mandatory internships were state and federal agencies), many others chose private practice. Less popular were community organization and administration.

All that began to change in the 1960s with the coming of the civil rights movement and the Johnson administration's War on Poverty. Suddenly, discrimination, racism, disadvantage and oppression were major issues. The Watts Riots in 1965 not only caught most of us at UCLA by surprise, but they wrought major changes within the School of Social Welfare. Minority enrollment became a priority for the first time, encouraged by the availability of federal funding and the belated recognition that the university had very little knowledge and almost no contact with large segments of Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

There was a proliferation of conferences, "T-groups," encounter groups and games such as "Star Power" to bring individuals and groups together to "dialogue" and gain new insights by airing out differences -- with varying degrees of success. One memorable gathering held in Ackerman Union assembled a group of usual suspects -- social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and students -- to address the theme of better understanding through the use of counseling, group encounters, education and research. The good feelings quickly evaporated when Berkeley sociologist Bob Blauner pointed his finger at the crowd and insisted the assembled experts, not the rioters, were the real problem. It was a dramatic use of his internal colonial model, which held that the establishment was the oppressor and that members of the audience benefited from racial stratification. His model -- or accusation, you could call it -- called for uncomfortable soul searching on the part of the audience, many of whom disagreed with him. But it made clear that blaming the victim was not the only answer.

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