On Thursday I joined social work colleagues at Mississippi Valley State University for the first day of their 32nd annual social work conference, offering a presentation on “aging and the new austerity.” A long and favorable reputation makes the conference an impressive event with a very good draw for the tiny Delta town of Itta Bena.
Mississippi District 13 state senator Willie Simmons was on hand to provide a well-received keynote address, featuring the disparity between the vital work done by social workers and the generally poor pay they earn. Perhaps the problem, the senator mused, half (but only half) in jest, lies with the title of “worker.” Workers in America, and maybe especially in Mississippi, he offered, just don’t come in for much respect – or remuneration – these days. Perhaps a name change would help – how about social “engineers”? Social “technicians”? Social “therapists”? Engineers, technicians, and therapists all seem to command more professional respect, and with respect, more money, than lowly “workers.”
Ah, if only it were as easy as a title change, Senator, if only it were that simple.