Should high schools require community service?

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Christine Satory (not verified)

requiring service learning

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Bravo! Danny Mydlack! "should YOU be required to do community service? Project learning? How about some social and emotional learning? What should you be REQUIRED to do?"

As a college professor since 1985, I have directly dealt with the end result of all the various "improvements" in elementary and secondary education. From this experience I can tell you that these new requirements and pressure on assessment—testing, testing, testing— are a dismal failure. Students come to us already burnt out and emotionally stressed to the point that they believe that a B or C in a class means that they are an utter failure as a human being. I am not exaggerating this. Suicides in college have risen significantly over the past five years—and let's not mention the rise in emotional instability. Why? The majority were never allowed to be a child. Instead they were pushed too hard and too soon: too much homework, too much regulated and adult-controlled sports, and way too much expectation on being perfect at everything. Our adult obsessive-compulsiveness on developing the perfect formula for success for our children has had the opposite affect.

Hence, the huge dropout rate. Hence, the increased anxiety of young adults. etc.

I teach freshmen in an art department. My biggest challenge? Getting them to relax enough to use their imagination—---which was tested and punished out of them by fifth grade. I spend an entire semester teaching them by admitting my imperfections, by grading on growth rather than perfect products, that its HUMAN to make mistakes and to "fail." I tell them constantly, "Failure is good!" It means they were taking risks, experimenting and playing. I could go on and on....

I will end with two broad consequences to think about:

A. All of us are in the act of becoming. So why do we support educational programs that leave them with the damaging and long-lasting beliefs listed below.

I am paraphrasing student comments that have been consistently repeated over the past seven years:
1.I have been more than prepared for higher education because I got all A's and/or A's & B's. Multiple choice tests and memorizing facts = knowledge. 2. If I get a "C" then I'm a "loser" and I will never amount to anything.( — Think about the conclusions these students have about themselves if they receive an "F".) 2.I'm a complete failure if I don't have a successful career by age 25.

B. Here is an unusual twist to our step-by-step program for becoming a successful adult:
A growing number of Fortune 500 companies are recruiting potential employees that have an MFA (Master's in Fine Arts). Recruitment from MBA programs is declining. Why? The lack of imagination and creativity in business programs. Innovation and new ideas are vital to the marketplace. The only area where risk-taking, creativity and imaginative thinking is coupled with developing critical thinking skills in in the creative arts.
If every bit of individual personality and creativity has been squelched through an education system that is standardized then there is no growth and obviously nothing new.

So here's my two-cents: Encourage kids to watch clouds, to dream and most certainly how to play! Encourage them by telling them the truth: Not everyone is good at math and science. All of us have talents and shortcomings. They have the rest of their adult lives to edge toward "perfection."

Life is a continuing series of change and growth. None of us will ever "master" it.

David A. Smith, Ph.D. (not verified)

Community service requirements

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The question is presented in an awkward manner. Schools should offer service-based learning and growth experiences. On the one hand, community service can be a very effective learning opportunity, but on the other hand mindless chores with no reflection and no reinforcement of standards do little more than give service a bad name. Students may merely clean up a highway, but with a good follow-through students may learn the value of not littering, or they may be more likely to object when their friends and family litter, or …. It's the learning, not the chore that matters. There are many fine organizations that promote such service. Kiwanis, for one, sponsors student service clubs at the elementary, middle, high school and university levels. Those who design community service projects would be wise to concentrate on results instead of less-effective requirements, such as sixty student service hours per year. I have found that one reflective project can change student attitudes more than a year of service where there is little more than an accidental connection to learning.

Chuck Fellows (not verified)

Community Service

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Prior to the bureaucratization of education "community service" was an integral part of the educational experience. Therefore, it should not be viewed as a "required" component; rather it should be viewed as an opportunity for a course correction in education.

The current system of education isolates the student from society and removes knowledge from its naturally integrated/interdependent state by slicing knowledge into individual territories that make no sense to the inquiring mind.

Becoming part of the larger community will help students build life relationships and return learning to the process of education. The community will return to its role as a participant in the learning process as a partner in creating the future.

Then the three "Rs" - relevance, rigor and relationships - will inhabit schools again.

Charlie (not verified)

Why it Does Works

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Having a service "choice" is actually the key so students can potentially choose where they can provide service or help. I know of many students who brought to their schools new places where they actually went out and investigated like library help for seniors etc. Bryan touches upon many excellent community places still in great need of assistance. Our digitally "born" children and "all" who are not might need experiences beyond the computer & social networking world which is fine but has a place in life as do living in real communities that need real assistance or real helping hands.


R. Petheram (not verified)


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Enough said.

Charlie (not verified)

Community Experience

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Community Service Experiences should be a requirement and not a choice.
If the program is sponsored and set up by professionals then in theory it should work.
Many Jesuit schools have exemplary service models and I am sure others do too.

Therefore models of service are already exist. Why not modify or investigate the service models that do WORK well.
It is an administrative, faculty, staff and parental committment to make sure their childrens, students are placed in appropriate service projects that facilitate the needs of the sponoring agency as well as the goals of the service project itself.
The models above are supervised and accountability for each individual involved for bettering the community at large is an overarching goal of community service.

Bryan Wilson (not verified)

Why it works.

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I am a teacher in small school that requires 40hrs of community service every school year. Much of this time is spent participating in local events, adopt-a-highway, Animal Shelter cleanups, Habitat for Humanity, and various others. By organizing group participation, students are given the opportunity of participating without the burden of finding interest on their own. They are also able to build connections in the community and add much needed resume experience. In addition to students required hours, faculty members are asked to also log 20+hrs each year.

Danny Mydlack (not verified)


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This is a false choice: require service v. 'hit the books'. Every clever teacher-educator wannabe needs to ask themselves: should YOU be required to do community service? Project learning? How about some social and emotional learning? What should you be REQUIRED to do? Folks love to dream away on engineering kids lives and learning. There is no end to this pleasure for folks. Educators relish in coveting other people's lives. George needs to focus his wonderful imagination on movies and their delightfully detailed fantasy worlds. Education has become institutionalized codependency. Education's current totalitarian bent has opened the floodgates to tinkerers joyously disrupting, invading, and commandeering the sacred lives of human individuals.

Trevor (not verified)

Its a great plan

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It is all about building good habits.

My experiences in gym class helped get me fit enough to know how good it feels to be fit.

Being pushed to volunteer ensures that all students get a chance to know how gratifying that experience is. I am sure many students will blow it off, but I am also sure that some students who would not have taken time to volunteer will be more likely to in the future.

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