Response to Why Service Learning is Bad by John W Eby, March 1998

This article was an intense criticism of the concept of Service Learning.  Through out the article, Eby is pessimistic, and generalizes about student behavior.  One of the first points that Eby brings up is how Service Learning often doesn’t get at the root of the problem.  It’s like giving a sick person a continuous treatment, rather than a cure.  I feel this is a very unfair criticism to make.  If we take the example of Computer Science oriented Service Learning, we usually end up working on the digital divide.  It is the biggest and most readily apparent issue that we can address in the form of Service Learning.  Seen from Eby’s perspective, he’s absolutely right; Tutoring poverty-stricken people in the Tenderloin is not getting at the cause of the problem.  But the important part of this equation that is missing from Eby’s perspective is that this isn’t something we are capable of doing.  The digital divide is something that will take trillions of dollars and many years to fix, but who is Eby to tell us that our service is “bad” because it is not getting at the underlying problem.  We are doing something for the good of our community on a small scale, perhaps even trivial, but it is still a good form of service in my opinion.

My rebuttle to Eby’s single argument on Service Learning not getting at the root of the problem demonstrates my overall opinion of Eby’s article very well.  It attacks Service Learning in ways which may have some level of truth, but fail to persuade me that Service Learning is inherently bad. Sure, not every single student who sets out to do Service Learning is going to make a substantial difference on a global, local, and sometimes not even a personal level.  Some will fail to accomplish any good in their efforts.  But some will accomplish some good, and it seems likely to me that the good will outweigh the bad in the long run.  College students integrating into the community outside the university, one which doesn’t have a chance to do the things we often take for granted can have a great effect on our own perspective even when we fail to accomplish anything for our community.

Response to Service Learning: A Balanced Approach to Experiential Education by Andrew Furco

I think Furco does a great job laying out the structure of what a Service Learning program is make from. Although one thing I feel that was sort of missing from the way he structured Service Learning is on reflection on the part of the student.  I think it is important that we spend time in class and on our own learning about the real technical dilemmas which cause the problem, and what our field experience, internships, and community service really means to us.  What did we learn about the community?  About the problems they face?  These kinds of questions are beneficial to ourselves for our own knowledge, but also to that of building a stronger, more effective Service Learning program.