Reflection paper: Developing (or refining) a welfare philosophy

What’s your philosophy and where does 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, food stamps, 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 40 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, with sources (demonstrate this is informed by course material). 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? Worth 30 points.


I’m expecting a 5-7 page paper. And no fluff. You also need at least four sources (you shouldn’t be pulling your ideas out of thin air, after all). This is a term paper 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). I do not want to see a paper uninformed by your time and intellectual effort spent in this class. Re-read the previous sentence as needed. And 5-6 pages, again, means no room for fluff.

100 points possible, due Dec 6