Who is serving who?

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“Communities are not places to make mistakes.”

Randy Stoeker challenges higher education leaders to rethink service learning and stewardship in his new book, Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement (Temple University Press).  Community engagement is a responsibility we have as good stewards, but Stoeker believes that we may be misguided in our efforts to serve our communities with traditional service learning programs. This article summarizes his main points.

As Dee Anne wrote on Monday, higher education has a unique opportunity to address critical issues that our communities face. Economic inequity, disparities in educational and occupational opportunities, racial injustice, violence, homelessness, mental illness, an aging population – the list goes on and our students can make a difference if we focus on outcomes.

Stoeker proposes a radical idea: that when we ask students to participate in service learning we focus less on our students and more on the community! What does the community want? What will make a difference for the people in the community? These questions can be more important than asking what our students will learn. This definition of stewardship highlights our overall opportunity and accountability for making a real difference in the world – not just in the classroom.

Take a moment to read the summary of Stoeker’s book and share your thoughts on stewardship and service learning.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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