Last week, I was asked to begin crafting a guest post in response to the question I’ve posed in my title. I’m curious: how would YOU answer that question? Service learning is something I have a keen interest in and limited experience with, but the experiences I’ve had have been profound.

I’ve watched students define a place for themselves in the world outside their classrooms, and I’ve watched them work hard to effect change by serving others. Had I been taking notes, I’m thinking I would have been able to align their very real efforts to a few hundred standards or more. Some of the teachers that I work with have done this work.  They’ve also been inspired by the effect of service learning on the lives of their students and the communities that they donate their time, their talent, and their knowledge to. There are many ways to address the standards. Often, kids are doing this when we aren’t paying attention. I think we don’t pay attention because we have some tremendous misperceptions about what it means to address standards and teach effectively in our test-happy climate.

So….what do you think? Can service learning offer solutions to our current economic crisis? Can it offer solutions to our current education crisis? Are these conversations really separate? Are they really just about our kids? Our country?

I’ve been thinking about this video and how it fills me with hope. Everything might be a mess right now, but in cleaning it up (I mean REALLY cleaning it up), we’ll be forced to do more than simply care for our own. We’ll be forced to think bigger than that…or smaller than that……depending on your perspective. Maybe we need to think less about our country, our crisis, and our world. Maybe we just need to think about….a girl.



  1. I like your blog and this post about service learning, a continuing academic and practical interest of mine for over 40 years!

    Yes, I think so called service learning offers a response to people’s situations, however they define them for themselves. It does not offer a final “solution.”

    And yes, hopefully someone will develop a practical way to link indices of that learning with standards. Some of us developed self report learning formats for undergraduates involved in community activities four decades ago. While those formats worked for students and faculty, they took more time to evaluate than what teachers call portfolios today.

    Thanks for these quick moments of memories.

    (A vocabulary side note: The word solution prompts for many of us the image of Nazi gas chambers associated with the Nazi Final Solution. The word “response” to a situation has a neutral image consistent with scientific reporting. Perhaps teachers can draw out these differences in an age of “solutions.”)

    • Thank you for stopping by, Bob. You raise some thoughtful points about the complex nature of the question I was asked to address as well as the power of words. I know that my friends at NSLC will see your comment, and I’m sure it will give them pause about their choice of words. You’ve given me much to think about.

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