Aids And The Moral Education Of Social

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Aids And The Moral Education Of Social Workers Essay, Research Paper AIDS AND THE MORAL EDUCATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS: SOME REFLECTIONS ON ALBERT CAMUS’ THE PLAGUEBACKGROUND: EXPRESSIVE ARTS AND THE EDUCATION OF HELPING PROFESSIONALSRecently, educators and practitioners of the helping professions have become interested in what the expressive arts have to offer their work. Meetings of the Society for Health and Human Values, representing a range of academics and practising nurses, medical social workers, pastoral care workers and physicians, regularly feature poets, dramatists and writers of fiction. Interdisciplinary symposia on death, dying and bereavement have included such artists; and, recently, prominent meetings concerned with AIDS have presented similar work. (1)When

added to the knowledge and skills offered by traditional social science and clinical disciplines, such approaches, I believe, can be extremely useful in preparing social workers to meet the daunting challenges presented by the AIDS epidemic. It is becoming increasingly clear that helping professionals need not only appropriate knowledge and specific skills, they also need qualities of moral excellence, or what we used to call virtues – the strength of character to face up to highly charged work situations. Evoking the concrete and experiential, the arts often focus in a concentrated way on the moral dimensions and qualities of real situations and people. By stimulating the emotions and promoting serious reflection, they can help us to acquire the strength of character that is

needed. Albert Camus’ novel THE PLAGUE, is a particularly apt vehicle for illustrating this. It vividly portrays human dilemmas which characterize not only the AIDS epidemic but also more general professional situations. As it triggers reflection on these, the novel also presents models of that strength of character which is needed to face them in a continuing way. CAMUS’ NOVEL: AN OVERVIEWA plague strikes the North African town of Oran. First the rats come above ground to die and then the people fall ill and cannot be cured. The authorities are helpless and the population despairs. A group of men band together to combat the plague: Rieux, the doctor who can limit the plague’s ravages but can no longer heal, the mysterious Tarrou, who has crusaded against the death penalty,

… Panelous, the Jesuit for whom the plague is a trial of his faith,… The group sets up special hospitals and vaccinates people until the plague disappears as suddenly as it has come. Paneloux and Tarrou have died while Rieux is left to tell the story. (2) (McCarthy, 1982, p224). THE PLAGUE can be read for at least three related themes. First, it is an engrossing narrative. Rieux, who tells the tale, is presented as a scrupulous observer of “the facts” who takes pains to establish the credibility of his account in a way which is almost “scientific”. (3) (Camus, 1960, p8). The book can also be read as an analogy to life in France under the German occupation in World War II. Camus was a member of the French resistance. He was painfully aware of the excruciating choices

forced upon people when they face severe limits to their usual freedoms. He saw the possibilities for moral degeneracy inherent in such situations but also their potential to stimulate growth in personal and human dignity. THE PLAGUE is also a discourse on the problem of evil. Much as the social sciences have tried to transform the concepts of right and wrong, good and bad into morally neutral notions in a world and in humanity viewed with dispassionate abstraction; and much as we have learned from the attempt, it has not been impossible to rid many of the sense there is a purpose to be found in human life, and that events which are in harmony with that purpose are “good”, those in disharmony bad; that actions freely chosen and intended to be in conjunction with this are