Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Common Human Needs in the Context of Diversity: Integrating Schools of Thought

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Common Human Needs in the Context of Diversity: Integrating Schools of Thought

Article excerpt

Abstract: In this article we argue that effective social work practice which honors cultural diversity is best informed through an integration of the strengths associated with modern and postmodern schools of thought. This integration provides a lens for simultaneously seeing common human needs and individual differences, a vision that neither school of thought alone can provide. Aspects of Virginia Satir's growth model are presented as an example of a practice approach that incorporates this simultaneous attention to similarities and differences.

Keywords: Cultural Diversity, Social Work, Virginia Satir, Growth Model, Modernity, Postmodernity

"In our differences we grow, in our sameness we connect."

Virginia Satir

Shifts in theoretical paradigms are responsible, in part, for the ever-evolving shape and nature of social work practice (Dorfrnan, 1988; Germain, 1994; Pozatek, 1994; Reamer, 1994). The terms traditional and alternative paradigms (Schriver, 1995) have been used to separate schools of thought influencing the social work profession. Modern schools of thought have generally been considered the heart of traditional paradigms whereas alternative paradigms are often associated with postmodern orientations (Dickens & Fontana, 1994; Pozatek, 1994; Schriver, 1995). In this article we argue that effective social work practice which honors cultural diversity is best informed through an integration of the strengths derived from both modern and postmodern schools of thought. This integration provides a lens through which practitioners can simultaneously see common human needs and individual differences, a vision that neither school of thought alone can provide.

Modern and Postmodern Schools of Thought

Modern schools of thought is an expression used here to characterize a movement, also known as modernism. Although some authors have indicated that modernism has its roots in Western society during the period of Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution (Simon, 1994), others have emphasized that modernism has diverse origins and cannot be traced to a specific historical time (Dickens & Fontana, 1994). Many attempts to define modernism fail to capture the range or paradigms cultivated and emphasized through the modernist movement. Sohng (1998) argues that:

Modernism involved a rejection of tradition and medieval superstition, a positivisti'empiricist belief in the lawful nature of the universe, ana a desire to explain and control nature. As part of this project, social science has developed a world view of progress through scientific rationality, objective knowledge, ethical neutrality, and the planned creation of social structure. It emphasizes the search for "grand theories" aimed to establish the generality, predictability, and verification of social laws characterized as "scientific." Scientific knowledge has served as a means of emancipation and a potential basis for further human freedom on a global scale (p. 188).

Other authors have supported this description of modernism (Dickens & Fontana, 1994; Simon, 1994). The terms "modern thoughts" and "traditional paradigms" are used here interchangeably, in that modern thoughts have traditionally dominated societal norms and processes within the United States. In terms of theoretical orientations, schools of modern thought have generally emphasized a stage theory approach for exploring and analyzing human biopsychosocial development and process (Schriver, 995). Within social work, content on human development has often been taught by using stage theories such as Freud's psychoanalytic theory, Piaget's cognitive theory, Erikson's psychosocial theory, and Kohlberg's moral framework (Germain, 1994). This approach to understanding human behavior and development has been criticized in that stage theories generally ignore "...human, cultural, and environmental diversity, and historical context..." (Germain, 1994, p. …

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