They also serve who only sit in class

Mandatory volunteerism is now optional in Baltimore public schools, writes Dave Greene at BaltoNorth. He calls it “oxymoron squared.”

If a student at Ridgely Middle School reads his report card carefully, he might well ask, “why do the Service Learning hours on my report card go up every semester even though I haven’t done any community service work yet?”

The answer: Over the past decade or so, Service Learning has slowly become “infused” in the curriculum. Students get community service credits just for going to class! They don’t have to leave the school or do any extra work!

Maryland mandated student service in 1992. It’s taught cynicism, Greene concludes.

Update: Greene responds to comments on this blog.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Maryland mandated student service in 1992. It’s taught cynicism, Greene concludes.

    I guess that makes sense.

    We’ve got reading programs that teach illiteracy and a dislike of reading, math programs that teach ignorance of fractions let alone more “advanced” concepts and a national-wide institution in which, to paraphrase the proverb from the Soviet Union, “they pretend to teach us and we pretend to learn”.

  2. Catherine says:

    Actually, service experiences are often more meaningful when tied to curriculum and thoughtful systematic analysis. It’s true that service integrated into a course probably doesn’t fit the definition of “volunteering.” That’s probably why it’s called “service learning” instead. I think you’ve taken something out of context here in a particularly contrary way.

  3. Dick Eagleson says:

    All hail the Young Pioneers!

  4. Catherine–

    If you look at the original post, http://baltonorth.blogspot.com/2009/06/oxymoron-squared-mandatory-volunteerism.html

    you might not conclude that “you’ve taken something out of context here in a particularly contrary way.”

    Or, maybe you mean the original writer has taken something out of context.

    That would best be addressed at the original blog, of course.

  5. Ragnarok says:

    “Actually, service experiences are often more meaningful when tied to curriculum and thoughtful systematic analysis.”

    But there ain’t no actual “service experience” in Maryland.

    So how has Joanne taken this outta context?

  6. Catherine says:

    “But there ain’t no actual “service experience” in Maryland.

    So how has Joanne taken this outta context?”

    If you click the link, the description of service learning states that students complete community projects as part of their coursework. Typically, there’s a tie-in to the course. For example, a Spanish class might volunteer as translators or a health class might visit a nursing home. So if they’re not doing any service, it’s because the school is not implementing the program. It’s not because service learning is inherently bad or a waste of time, as the post suggests.

  7. Ragnarok says:

    Not according to the Baltimore County Public Schools and the Maryland State Department of Education:

    “Service-Learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning. Students improve their academic skills by applying what they learn in school to the real world; they then reflect on their experience to reinforce the link between their service and their learning. — Learning in Deed”

    http://www.bcps.org/offices/service_learning/serv_learn_isnot.html

  8. Ragnarok says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear.

    The problem is that students are getting credit for work they haven’t done, and that does breed cynicism.

  9. Inasmuch as cynicism is the appropriate response to this particular incarnation of service learning, Baltimore public schools are instructing high schoolers in the understanding that claims mustn’t be taken at face value. The danger is that they’ll learn the lesson too well.

    It’s nice though that they’ve come up with a snappy catch phrase – “Learning in Deed”. Shows that at Baltimore public schools they understand that if you aren’t going to teach kids anything of value you still have to try to create the illusion that you are.

  10. At the National Association of Scholars we have noted this kind of mandatory “volunteering” several times. Students have an apt name for it: voluntyranny. We wrote about it here: http://www.nas.org/polBrieflyNoted.cfm?doc_id=441.

  11. Catherine wrote:

    >Actually, service experiences are often
    >more meaningful when tied to curriculum
    >and thoughtful systematic analysis.

    Catherine’s assertion sounds good at first blush, but is it really true? If a student shovels a sidewalk for an elderly neighbor or delivers meals to a shut-in, does “thoughtful systemic analysis” really make the experience more meaningful? I don’t think so.

    Even if you accept the assertion, reality gets in the way. At BCPS, the thoughtful systemic analysis is NOT happening for the kids that I know:

    [continued here: http://tinyurl.com/lca2en ]