Reflection paper: Developing (or refining) a welfare philosophy

What’s your philosophy and where did it come from?

You’ll do a few things on the reflection paper. First, I want to you to discuss and analyze your closest personal brushes with the welfare system. This could be as a recipient of various kinds of services (and you need to think broadly, ask if in doubt, about what might constitute welfare), SSI, SNAP, reduced fare lunches, a trip to the food bank, WIC, TANF, Social Security payments, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment, etc. Services don’t necessarily have to be public—they could come from non-profits, from a church or other religious entity, etc. Put some effort and thought into this part, and describe the details of accessing services, your interactions with agencies, time frames, etc.

It’s also possible that you’ve had few if any brushes with the welfare system. But you still should have some familiarity with it, sources of information that have informed your views. Maybe you’ve had friends who’ve received assistance, maybe your parents or relatives, maybe it’s just what you’ve read about or seen on TV, what you’ve gleaned from books, heard on talk radio, or with brushes with homeless people in a big city, etc., but you have some familiarity, and I’m interested in just how close and intimate you have come to the welfare system. In this part of the paper, I’m looking for thoughtfulness, description, and your impressions, given what we discuss in this class. In other words, you should have some insight into your experiences based on whatever contact you’ve had with welfare services (or lack of), guided by course content. You should spend at least a page on this part. This part is worth 20 points.

Second , I want you to think about your own philosophy of welfare—the role of government, of the private sector, need-based versus insurance programs, your attitudes about people on welfare, poverty, the level of benefits available, perceptions of welfare fraud, accountability, race/ethnicity/class/gender, etc.

To do this you obviously need to define what you mean by welfare—this is a multidimensional concept, and I expect to see some thoughtfulness in your definition and description. Again, this should take at least a page of fluff-free writing. Worth 30 points.

Third, I want you to reflect on how your own experiences, whether frequent or very limited, have affected your attitudes on welfare. In other words, I want to know where your attitudes come from. If you haven’t given it much thought, you need to state that, and perhaps explore any disconnects between your experiences and your own philosophy. The broader idea of this assignment is to give you some space to explore how you formulate opinions on important issues—through reading, personal direct experience, interactions with other people, work experiences, religious or cultural background, the mass media, etc. So I want to know: 1) What are the bases of your opinions/attitudes about welfare? Are they anchored in any personal values you hold? 2) Have your attitudes changed over time? As you are confronted with new information, do you re-consider your opinions and values? 3) Do you think it’s important for those working in the welfare system to have a thoughtful philosophy about welfare? Or is it enough that they just perform according to their job descriptions? What would the three most important areas, according to you, that welfare professionals should have developed some thoughtful opinions? Put some thought into this one, at least a page of fluff-free thought. Worth 20 points.

Fourth, You need to perform some form of documented community service—2-4 hours. It needs to be done this term (that is, no writing about a past experience). You need the signature of the supervisor confirming you did so. How you accomplish this obviously depends on your community. Some possibilities:

  • First, if you’re already doing volunteer work related to social welfare, by all means use that experience–but it needs to occur during the term.
  • Participate at a local food bank or homeless shelter.
  • An event related to a faith-based organization would work fine, but tie it to social welfare in some observable way.
  • Participate in a fundraiser for a non-profit organization focused on some aspect of social welfare (lots of these, non-profits often depend on them).
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to receive some kind of related training (e.g., on a suicide or crisis hotline, domestic violence training, etc.).
  • You will need a signature that you actually participated from someone in a supervisory role (with contact information, preferably a business card). You can capture an image of it and include as an image attachment in your paper.
  • Write up the observations and analysis of your participation, and relate it to your welfare philosophy. How well does it fit? Did anything surprise you? Think about the ‘clients,’ the ‘providers,’ the setting, the organization, your interaction with other volunteers and clientele, etc. Again, at least a page here. Worth 30 points.

I’m expecting a 4-5 page paper. This paper is worth 100 points, and you’re being asked to justify and support your attitudes and opinions, using readings, philosophies from class or elsewhere, etc. This is not an opinion paper—it is a reflection paper, you need to reflect on your attitudes and beliefs, and where those attitudes and beliefs come from, and perhaps how they have been affected by your exposure to some of the material from this course (or not). Please do not submit a paper uninformed by your time and intellectual effort spent in this class. Re-read the previous sentence as needed. And 4-5 pages means no room for fluff.

100 points possible, due Sept 1 (before midnight) in Canvas