There are some critics of service learning. For various reasons, they believe that service learning does not work.
Criticisms of Service Learning
- Neo-imperialism - Service learning can begin with a presupposition that the community is bad and that they need the students to "fix" it. This can have a shaming effect on the community and breed resentment over the long run.
- Not academic - The activities themselves can sometimes lack the academic rigor that other curricular activities require. It is hard to justify making phone calls and planning an activity rather than reading a book.
- Too isolated - Many of the projects are singular, isolated experiences that do not lead to long-term, sustainable change.
- Not enough reflection - Many programs fail to engage students in deep thinking during the reflection. Thus, students end up summarizing what they did rather than delving deeply into the reflective process.
- Reinforces stereotypes - If they are not careful, it can reinforce stereotypes (all Africans are poor, for example) In the activities themselves, there can be a tendency toward gender stereotypes or unintended reinforcement of hierarchichal structures.