Why We Need Social Pedagogues in the US

The Social Pedagogy Association strongly condemns the actions we all witnessed yesterday at the nation’s capital. The foundation of democracy is dialogue and the Social Pedagogy Association seeks to promote healthy dialogue in place of violence to solve the most complex problems that society faces.


The following is a personal statement written by a member of our executive board which we have chosen to share with you here:


For the past 7 years I have devoted a large bulk of my time and effort to introducing the concepts of social pedagogy to the United States. For the past month I’ve been “thinking about writing something” in regards to why I feel we are so desperately in need of this practice. I realize now that this is overdue. So, distraught over the events at the US capitol, exhausted from a night of ‘doom-scrolling’ and ‘binge-watching’ of the news, I hope to explain why I believe so strongly in the principles of social pedagogy, and why we urgently need to enact not only this philosophy, but to begin recruiting, training, and employing those with competency in this particular skill set.


Despite the fact that ‘social pedagogy’ is being studied and practiced all over the world, it’s definition is one we haven’t managed to quite properly agree on, just yet. Nevertheless, we do have a general consensus that social pedagogy, as a praxis, a philosophy, or a discipline, is primarily concerned with the well-being of other humans. In the most simplified terms, social pedagogy is a complementary care-work profession, severely lacking in our country. The engagement of social pedagogical principle is missing from our caregiving due not to lack of empathy or desire, but to lack of time and education.


While watching events unfold in our nation’s capital, rioters continued to repeat phrases such as “they did this to us” and “this is what they brought us to”. While there is an element in this cry of simply passing blame, there is also, arguably, a sense here of being wronged that I believe may go beyond the delusion of an unfair election.

Riots and upheaval are the result of a society which is not well. The people are in need. While the behavior from last night is utterly inexcusable, the necessity to determine the roots of this unrest is undeniable. We cannot heal our nation if we cannot bring our people together. The very heart of social pedagogy is the act of finding our common humanity. We make a practice of looking within every individual to find what they really need with the belief that unfulfilled need creates desperation and generates these behaviors. One of the key concepts of social pedagogy is that we work with our “head, heart, and hands”—meaning that our work involves collaboration with the whole human, not just with one aspect of human need. We need this practice in our country now, possibly more than ever before.


Social pedagogy teaches us not only to care for others, but how to care with others. Social pedagogy can be an incredibly important tool for improving how we relate to one-another, how we analyze our own power dynamics, both personally and professionally, and how our relationships with one another can create a better, calmer, kinder society for us all. These are not skills which should be glossed over or arbitrarily dismissed, as they often are.


Our social workers, nurses, teachers, psychologists, CNA’s and other care-workers are the best of humanity. These are the people who have devoted their careers and lives to the betterment of society, for little recognition and even less reward. We have treated them abysmally with too-little pay and too much work. Social workers, particularly those ‘in the field’ have often reported that they are given upwards of 20 to 30 cases over which they are to preside, and expected to work with each case, each week, personally. Add paperwork necessary for each case to this burden and you find caregivers inundated with 60 to 80 hours of work each week, and with very little time for relationship-building or the opportunity to offer any real care or help to those in their charge. We cripple their ability to do the job they trained to do, and then we act surprised when the work is ineffectual.


But what if there was a potential solution to this problem?


A social pedagogue, skilled in relationship-building, assigned in conjunction with each field-worker, could lessen this burden greatly.


Social pedagogues are well-trained in dialogic engagement, so what would happen if a trained social pedagogue were able to help make “home visits” and offer their skilled, professional opinion to the social worker?


What if the social pedagogue could take the time social workers simply don’t have, to engage with the families in their care; to learn more about what has “gone wrong” and what interventions can really help families in need?

What if, instead of police, we sent a social pedagogue to engage with the stories of children in schools who just need their voices heard? What if, instead of police, we sent a psychologist with a social pedagogue to the home of a distressed adult to ascertain how best we can help or intervene?


This is not a pipe dream, but a reality in countries around the globe. I believe it can be a reality in the United States, too. Our system of care, while driven by the best intentions of the individuals involved, is failing. We’ve forgotten how to dialogue with one another. We have forgotten how to see one another. We certainly are not supporting our care-workers enough. Social Pedagogy is the discipline devoted to the amplification of these skills.


The skills and methods within social pedagogy are so vast, they truly require a separate discipline of education and skill-building. What if we spent the time and effort to teach them, rather than allow them to continue to fall to the wayside, as we have for so many centuries?


Our country is desperate for change.


It is time for a change.


Social pedagogy might be that change.




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