When referring to social problems, society generally looks at them from a larger objective or standpoint. The problem is going to include some typified examples, general terms that are associated with the problem, and statistics created in the claimsmaking process. This macrosociological approach relies on what the media has portrayed the problem to be. It is the job of social problems work to narrowly tailor aspects of a social problem in order to attempt to solve or address it in a practical and immediate manner (Best 227).
Best explains that social problems workers, such as doctors and teachers, have encountered stereotypes of their roles that require them to perform grand feats but they work in highly regulated systems and industries. Bureaucratic procedures make it difficult for the workers to effect change directly. This also leads to varied amounts personal discretion that social problem workers possess. Since social problems work is narrowly tailored, specific individuals receive personal attention.
These cases can be a doctor and patient’s interaction, a teacher’s conversation with their student, or a police officer’s interaction with a citizen who has made a call. When they are trying to make accurate assessments of each case, the social problems workers have to ask themselves questions like “What seems to be the problem… Which aspects of the case are relevant… Does this seem to be a serious matter… What is the nature of the subject… Are other people watching… Are there work-related considerations…? (Best 236-239).
Because the nature of their work can be so sensitive, social problems workers find that they are caught in the middle or blamed for the outcome or consequences from their work. As expected, social problems workers expect for the subjects to cooperate with their plan of action in order to help eliminate their issues, but when they do not, the workers are left to deal with the consequences. “Social problems worker try to control the flow of information about their activities.
They generally prefer that others learn about the work they do directly from them…” in order to prevent the possibility of information being distorted by media outlets looking to portray their work in a certain way (Best 248). Some social problems workers go the extreme and tamper with the information they submit to reporting agencies to ensure that they are seen in the best possible light. They are able to get away with this because there are many situations in which workers are required to use their own personal discretion with out having to defer power to their supervisors or bosses until afterwards.
Social problems workers are required to bring larger, abstract problems to a personal, more detailed level. Doing this can benefit certain claims by bringing an actual face and story to a social problem. It does not only create the perfect victim, but it gives a face and a personal account of how the social problem has directly affected their life or wellbeing. Activist as claims makers would benefit from using social problems workers, their subjects, and cases as a method to personify their claim.
Experts as claims makers would only be able to capitalize off of social problems work by using the possibly skewed data and statistics they provide in order to give an overall picture. By looking at individual workers and cases, there is a chance they can encounter a unique situation that is not consistent with the data or point they are trying to make. In lecture, we discussed the need for claims makers to not only have statistical and concrete information to prove and advance their claim, but the need for the public to be able to relate to it and see how is also affects them or their loved ones.
If it does not, there will be no reason for them to want to support the cause. Social problems work is an ideal way for this to be done because it finds a medium between expert testimony and activists. Many people have interactions with social problems workers, so it is easy for them to bring up their concerns with a particular problem and see how and if they can help or are at risk. For example, child abuse is a social issue that draws attention because of the underage status of its victims.
People see children as helpless and in need of a nurturing guardian. Any adult can as a police officer, doctor, or teacher what resources are available to serve as a safe haven for abused children. I feel as though the media and social problems workers have made efforts to use each other for their own gain and benefit. Various media outlets can call upon social problems workers to boost their ratings by bring sensationalized stories and cases.
This is used to play on the emotions of the public and “guilt” them into advancing their cause. This can be seen with infomercials regarding poor children in “third world countries”, children with cancer, and animal abuse advocates. Organizations like Feed The Children use images of celebrities or former government officials next to images of poverty stricken, starving children. Viewers are made to feel guilty because they are told that the amount of money they use on their daily coffee can provide essentials for that child.
Once the viewer has made the connection between how much their Starbucks cost and the idea that their child does not have to live that life, they are then compelled to donate to the organization. The social problems worker in the commercial has been used a pawn for donations and ratings. Similarly, hospitals that specifically cater to children with terminal illness show individual cases of these children and their doctors. Sometimes their parents explain that their child would have not survived without the donations from viewers because the hospital does not charge for their services.
The doctors also add their perspective as to how much their procedures would have cost. After they have explained the financial aspect of the individual child’s care, they then proceed to use the medical terminology for their condition with images of young children attached to massive hospital equipment. After watching the commercial and listening to the doctors, the public generally assumes that they are correct and donates to the organization. The media does this as well with animal abuse advocates. They show footage of domestic pets with lesions and injuries.
Viewers are led to assume that they came from their owners. While the intentions of social problems workers are usually genuine, they are put on display on these commercials for the benefit of the organization and the network airing it, not necessarily the actual social problem or those affected by it. Social problems workers have the hard task of doing their jobs and helping their subjects in their particular cases. This is a difficult task because of the bureaucratic red tape and policies that they work through.
For them to try to solve an entire social problem by themselves would be an endless task, especially due to the added consequences and stresses from the general nature of their work. This can lead to embellishments in their actual efficiency and a lackadaisical attitude towards the issue entirely. Different types of claims makers have attempted to use social problems workers to benefit them and not the entire problem, but despite this, their social problems worker and those they come in contact with are an invaluable aspect to ridding society of the issue in its entirety.
Courtney from Study Moose
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