Benefits of Service Learning?

I went to a fascinating talk by Doug McAdam last night. I didn’t know how relevant it would be to our class . If I did, I would have recommended it to everyone. He compared the Freedom Summer project (an effort to register black voters in the South in 1964) to the modern day Teach for America program. Unlike the Freedom Summer project, the Teach for America program seems to have had little impact on the level of civic engagement or service activity for those who participate. To be clear: graduates of the program are very civically active, but those who chose to accept a position in the program were no more active than those who turned it down. In other words, these folks were inclined to be active before they ever served.

So this raised questions about service learning more generally. One of the growing assumptions in service learning has been that we should concentrate as much, if not more, on how service transforms those doing the service, rather than how it helps those being served. Last night, I was convinced otherwise: we need to double-down and worry more about how well we complete our projects!    -Rodney

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