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most influential individual in the United States in the area of professional education, in particular, medical education
"Professions involve essentially intellectual operations with large individual responsibility, derive their raw material from science and learning, this material they work up to a practical and definite end, possess an educationally communicable technique, tend to self-organization, and are becoming increasingly altruistic in motivation.¨
Social work was a useful social activity, particularly as it helped link individuals with problems to resources. It could be said to have some of the characteristics of a profession, but it did not fulfill all the criteria. Flexner argued that while social work was an intellectual activity, it was "of a mediating [rather] than an original agency.""Rather than being "limited and definite in scope, the field of employment [in social work] is indeed so vast that delimitation is impossible."He added, "a certain super- ficiality of attainment, a certain lack of practical ability, necessarily characterize such breadth of endeavor."
Mary Richmond argued in a speech to the conference in 1917 that social work did indeed have "educationally communicable" skills and techniques of its own rather than being primarily a "mediating" agency. Having accepted Flexner's authoritative diagnosis, they used his model as a prescription and set out to prove that social work could fulfill each of the Flexner criteria. The logic seemed simple and straightforward: (1) social work was not a profession; (2) to be a profession social work must demonstrate that it had all of the characteristics of an established profession as described by Flexner; and (3) at the time when social work has established all of the characteristics of an established profession there will be an immediate and universal acknowledgment by all elements of society of the status of social workers as professionals