The field of social work is complicated and requires a great deal of human empathy and understanding. It is also important to have the ability to analyze things from an intellectual perspective using critical thinking and reasonable understanding. When both of these forces are combined in harmony, problems become much more solvable and knowledge flows much freer and is much more effective.
The purpose of this essay is t combine these skills by analyzing two pieces of literature dealing with poverty and the effects of social work. David K. Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls are the two books that will be compared in this essay. To do this, this work will evaluate each book separately and indentify personal thoughts, feelings and values associated with each. A comparison will then be made between the two works to complete a fuller knowledge towards understanding how these writings can help and benefit a social worker or someone working in the very challenging field of social work.
The Working Poor
In this work, Shipler gives a vivid description of some low earning Americans and their families. Each story investigates a specific aspect of where the author is critical of society and its social network. The book makes poignant claims about how poor people are forgotten and not regarded as important members of a larger community.
Overall, the passages contained throughout this book struck me as being well written as I agreed with the tone of many of the arguments presented by Shipler. The common theme around many of the working poor depicted in these accounts is how society is failing these people despite their attempts at hard work.
My own critical thinking skills tend to lead me away from some of Shipler's rationale regarding hard work. The argument is rarely framed that hard work is a reward in and of itself. Working hard is not something to be avoided necessarily, however, it should be more accurately compensated.
Accepting victimhood is something to be avoided, while individual responsibility should be celebrated and encouraged amongst all people. Some of these stories avoid this individual responsibility angle, by blaming many of the problems on government and state agencies as opposed to these poor hard working people giving their consent to these agencies which in most cases rarely serve their best interests.
Shipler's book is very valuable for sustaining this idea of self-responsibility and hard work. Successful people commit to taking personal responsibility for their lives, careers and success. Hard work and self-confidence are an important part of committing to personal responsibility. So is realizing that none of us are entitled to anything. We have to earn what we get. If we can't accurately perceive who we are, how we behave (and how others behave towards us), and how our behavior affects others and our own lives, life will always feel like something that's happening to us, rather than something we are in control of.
I disagree with Shipler's assessment of the educational systems in his accounts of many of the poor children discussed in his book. He wrote " opportunity and poverty in this country cannot be explained by either the American Myth that hard work is a panacea or by the Anti-Myth that the system imprisons the poor. Relief will come, if at all, in an amalgam that recognizes both the society's obligation through government and business, and the individual's obligation through labor and family -- and the commitment of both society and individual hrough education. (p. 300).
Shipler ignored the failure of the educational systems principles and assumes that this brand of social engineering is somehow in anyone's best interests. I have much less confidence in public school system for helping the poor children that grow in number each year. While the public school systems do work for more middle class environments, a new approach must be taken in poor urban areas where only half of all children will likely make through high school. Shipler suggested that money and attention towards bringing new and better schools will help the situation, I believe this is only a short-term solution to a much larger problem that usually leads to corruption and misappropriated funds.
Shipler resonated much more with my own philosophy when he wrote " working poverty is a constellation of difficulties that magnify one another: not just low wages but also low education, not just dead-end jobs but also limited abilities, not just insufficient savings but also unwise spending, not just poor housing but also poor parenting, not just the lack of health insurance but also the lack of healthy households. " Here he identified the family unit as an important nucleus to healthy societies.
I believe that this is the most important and most reasonable argument that is made in this collection of arguments. Family is the basic unit of social interaction because life starts from family. The family, divided into separate jobs for each unit, in the end is what meets the basic needs of the human to ensure survival, while a society is a social network of peoples who support this goal. The family consist of father, mother and children. A couple that had no children is not considered as a family. The father is the head of the family, he is responsible to work to sustain the family but today, the mother and the father are both working for their children because maybe they want have a better future to their children and I think because it is not enough the salary of the father to sustain the big family. Mother is responsible for the household by the help of the elder daughter but as what I said a while ago, the mother is helping the father to sustain the family. The children has the responsible to study, obey the mother and the father, respect our parents.
The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle is a much more moving piece of literature due to its autobiographical nature and the personal accounts that resonated from such a piece. Walls gave a very honest description of her personal experiences with poverty as she grew up. Walls was exposed to a gypsy lifestyle at a young age and later grew up in brutal poverty in rural West Virginia. Some would consider the her life very abusive and rough as a young girl and this gives the book its character and convinces the reader of how poverty, crime and family break ups can devastate and motivate at the same time.
The author's odd interpretation of her life is highlighted by the many places that she lived in being burned down. After the hotel where they are staying burns down, a young Jeannette begins to think that fire is a recurring part of her life. She believes that her encounters with fire are all connected and impacted by each other. Most importantly, she realizes that her life is unpredictable and her status transient; " I wondered if the fire had been out to get me. I wondered if all fire was related, like dad said all humans were related, if the fire that had burned me that day while I cooked hot dogs was somehow connected to the fire I had flushed down the toilet and the fire burning at the hotel. I didn't have the answers to those questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes." (p.34).
The story really takes a hold of my attention as Walls demonstrated, even at a young age that independence was the way out of her impoverished state. Walls tells of her tales as a girl…