Relationship between a Belief in a Just World and Social Justice Advocacy Attitudes of School Counselors

By Parikh, Sejal B.; Post, Phyllis et al. | Counseling and Values, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Relationship between a Belief in a Just World and Social Justice Advocacy Attitudes of School Counselors


Parikh, Sejal B., Post, Phyllis, Flowers, Claudia, Counseling and Values


The purpose of this study was to examine how belief in a just world (BJW), political ideology, religious ideology, socioeconomic status of origin, and race relate to social justice advocacy attitudes among school counseling professionals. A sequential multiple regression indicated that political ideology and BJW were statistically significant variables. The results have several implications regarding the training and development of school counselors. Additionally, recommendations for future research are explored.

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According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, there are approximately 61 million children in schools nationwide (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.). By 2020, children of color will be the majority who attend public schools (Holcomb-McCoy, 2001). In addition to racial diversity, students with disabilities, students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, students who speak English as a second language, and students who are foreign-born are other diverse groups of children in the schools. However, regardless of these differences in culture and experiences, all are expected to achieve academically and meet educational standards set by No Child Left Behind (2001) legislation (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.).

To meet these standards, school counselors work to help every student achieve academically, gain personal/social awareness, and understand career decision making (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2003). However, a growing challenge facing school counselors is the ability to address the needs of their diverse students (Lee, 2001). This notion is important given the academic achievement gap that continues to exist. Counselors' attitudes, cultural competence, knowledge, and ability to work with culturally diverse groups (Sue et al., 1998) are essential to best serve the growing diversity in student populations.

The counseling profession has embraced the importance of social advocacy. For example, the American Counseling Association (ACA; 2005) ethical guidelines state, "When appropriate, counselors advocate at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels to examine potential barriers and obstacles that inhibit access and / or the growth and development of clients" (Standard A.6.a.). Similarly, ASCA (2010) states in its preamble that "professional school counselors are advocates, leaders, collaborators and consultants who create opportunities for equity in access and success in educational opportunities" (p. 1). In fact, advocacy has become a prominent initiative for both ASCA and the Education Trust (ASCA, 2003; Education Trust, n.d.). They share the same mission to promote equity and access for all students to receive quality education. Finally, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2009) affirms this position in its standard that preparation programs create an understanding of "counselors' roles in ... promoting cultural social justice, advocacy ... and other culturally supported behaviors that promote optimal wellness and growth of the human spirit, mind, or body" (p. 10).

For true social advocacy to take place, school counselors must begin with themselves and understand their own ethnic, racial, and political identities (Erford, 2007). Because the school counseling profession is primarily composed of White women from a middle-class background (Erford, 2007), many of the children with whom school counselors work are different from themselves. Ideally, school counselors should understand their own biases and work to stay open to changing their personal worldviews to best advocate for their students.

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of research in the school counseling literature focusing on factors related to social justice advocacy (SJA). Other fields of study, including social work, religion, political science, and sociology, have empirically examined the relationships between beliefs about justice, political ideology, religious ideology, and other personal characteristics and attitudes of social action (Chalfant & Heller, 1985; Hunt, 2000; Perkins, 1992; Perry, 2003; Rosenwald, 2006; Van Soest, 1994; Van Voorhis & Hostetter, 2006).

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