Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella
Baccalaureate social work education has served as a gateway to the profession for diverse student populations: ethnic minority students, immigrant students, students with low incomes, returning adult students, and students from rural areas. As baccalaureate social work educators, we are responsible both for gatekeeping and for preserving this gateway. We fail the profession when we graduate unsuitable social workers. We also fail when, for lack of financial or academic support, gifted prospective social workers do not enter the profession.
In the professional literature, we educators have supported the BSW gateway by presenting research on recruiting and retaining ethnic minority students, on teaching culturally competent practice, and on infusing human diversity through the curriculum. At the same time, we have shown increasing interest in gatekeeping, in narrowing access to the profession. At conferences for social work educators, sessions on gatekeeping attract overflow crowds. I view this trend uneasily. In choosing sessions on gatekeeping, we may be avoiding discussions of other, more basic issues in social work education.
Does gatekeeping mask our difficulties in teaching students from various cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds; students with weak academic preparation (preparation often related to their economic status); students with English as a second language; or students with learning or other disabilities? In the name