Social workers are expected
to embody certain values in their personal and professional lives.
Setting values such as service, social justice, and integrity at such a
high standard are usually expected of most professions but they are the core of
a good social worker. The emperor in The Seed not only embodies these
values, but also devises a test that will instill these values in Ling, his
successor. This makes the emperor from the short story “The Seed” the
model for how social workers must perpetuate and live by the Ethical Principles
described in the NASW Code of Ethics.
Though all six of the core values are important for a social
worker to demonstrate, social justice and competence could be argued as the
foundation for a good social worker. To have a mind that gravitates
towards social justice and the benefit of a person’s wellbeing is necessary to
even study to work in the field of social work. Competence is required
not only to become licensed, but also to help clients as effectively as possible.
The belief that people are in need of assistance, even when outward
appearances or preconceived biases make it seem as though they do not deserve
it, is required. To give them that assistance to the best of one’s
ability, a social worker must have continuous competence in their field.
They must have the want to evolve and learn in their specific area of
interest in order to best help their client. The emperor demonstrates an
interest in the concept of social justice by choosing to pick his successor out
of the local village boys. The story implies that he is breaking
tradition by doing this. Instead of reaching into the pool of royal
people, he decided to give those in a lesser position of power a chance.
This kind of belief in those who others may see as undeserving of an
opportunity is exactly the kind of behavior one would expect from a social
worker. Social workers are expected to believe that, given the necessary
tools and resources, anyone can change their life. The emperor also believed
this. Also, the way the emperor chooses to test his candidates shows that
he is competent about what his position would require of a person. He
knows that a person who takes on the position of “emperor” must be an honest
person and therefore sets up a plan in order to weed out who among the group of
boys is the most fitting to take his place.
As a social worker, one is expected to keep their client’s dignity
and self-worth intact throughout the time that they work together. A way
to accomplish that can often be giving a client the tools to strengthen or
change the relationships in their life. As shown in “The
Seed”, some relationships, such as the one between Ling and his mother, can be
beneficial towards keeping a person on track towards positive change in their
life. Alternatively, the relationship between Ling and the other boys was
damaging to his dignity and self-worth. If Ling’s mother had not
convinced him to be honest about his seed, he would have lied like all the
other boys in the village. Dignity, self-worth, and relationships all
work together and affect each other whether that effect is positive or
negative. If someone’s relationships are damaging, their dignity and
self-worth will suffer. As Ling progressed through the year, he found
himself comparing his empty flower pot to the others in the village. He
felt inadequate and embarrassed. The emperor, as the story’s metaphorical
social worker, was the one to reassure Ling at the end of the story that he was
doing the right thing by bringing his empty pot back to the palace.
Social workers must also reassure their clients that they are deserving
of help and capable of enacting change in their own life.
In “The Seed” the final point is essentially that whatever is
contributed to an environment, will determine what that environment produces.
This axiom is essentially the principle of service summarized. A
social worker cannot expect change on a more universal basis to happen if there
is no service happening within the communities that need it, and change is one
of the tenants of the social justice principle. As a professional,
service goes beyond simply doing what is in a job description. It may
mean performing community service in a neighborhood in need or providing free
services to a population that needs them. The emperor tries to instill
this lesson by asking the boys in the village to care for this seed for an
entire year. The boys must commit time, dedication, and resources to this seed.
They are expected and most likely encouraged to go above and beyond to
care for this seed, much like a social worker would be expected to go above and
beyond for a person in need.
Finally, integrity is what seemed to be one of the biggest lessons
to be learned from “The Seed”. Not only is the value of integrity
included in the story, but it is also directly rewarded. This positive imagery
creates a model for what integrity in a social worker should look like.
Although it may not always be the easiest route to be honest, it should always
be the top priority for a social worker in and out of their professional life.
By encouraging Ling to be honest and open about his seed’s lack of growth,
Ling’s mother teaches him a lesson in integrity. By rewarding Ling for his
honesty and bravery to do what was right, the emperor is showing his entire
kingdom that integrity is what makes a fitting leader. A social worker can do
the same for their clients. Furthermore,
social workers should positively reinforce their clients’ displays of integrity
and, be an example of a person with integrity. Aside from the typical tests such as confidentiality
and honesty through paperwork, it is important for a social worker to show that
they are, in their day to day lives, a person with integrity. Social workers should show that it is possible
for anyone to be a person with integrity despite whatever obstacles or fears may
It is clear that the emperor is an example of what social workers
should aspire to be. He was such a proponent for social justice that he
gave regular village boys a chance at leading an entire kingdom. He also
had faith in their own abilities to prove that they were capable of leading. He
made them understand the acts of service and the importance of integrity by
giving them a time and attention consuming task as well as expecting them to be
honest with him about the results. The emperor also inadvertently taught
Ling the importance of relationships in initiating change within one’s life. The overall message of “The Seed” served to reinforce
the Code of Ethics’ core principles and demonstrate what an exceptional social worker