Thursday, April 24, 2008

Service Learning: Criticisms

There are some critics of service learning. For various reasons, they believe that service learning does not work.

Criticisms of Service Learning

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Too isolated - Many of the projects are singular, isolated experiences that do not lead to long-term, sustainable change.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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