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In an earlier article ("What is 'Service Learning,' and why should you be concerned about it?" (http://www.edwatch.org/updates/050704.htm), we reported on the recent heavy emphasis on "Service Learning" programs in schools nationwide. We noted that such programs accept all of the radical notions that have "dumbed down" American education over the past couple of generations, and supplement this with the concept of getting students out of the classroom as much as possible and into the community, participating in "service" projects.
As we pointed out in that piece, a sizable proportion of these projects are of a political activist nature. Proponents of Service Learning want participation to become mandatory nationwide. We have since learned that approximately one third of all U.S. students in grades K-12 are already involved.
Under Service Learning as it is often implemented, the concept of social and political activism is infused into every part of the curriculum. This dovetails with the soon-to-be-introduced "New SAT," or, as we refer to it, the "Essay-T." The "Essay-T" will require every testee to write an expansive essay on a controversial issue (See http://www.edwatch.org/updates/011404.htm and http://www.edwatch.org/updates/0222a04.html) The combination of Service Learning and New SAT paints a picture of an academic world where participation in, and approval of, a particular political ideology trumps genuine academic achievement.
Since our first Service Learning article, more information on Service Learning has come to light. Much of it raises even more alarms than the previous information. Service Learning appears to be of the highest priority among many educational activists. It is usually at least a component of any new pedagogical proposal or initiative.
The Education Commission of the States (ECS), for example, to which the more conservative of the nation's governors subscribe, recently sent out a promotion of its upcoming Education Leadership Colloquium. In this flyer, a co-sponsor of the event, Campus Compact, "will present the Howard R. Swearer Student Humanitarian Awards for outstanding citizenship/service-learning efforts."
Executive Director of the National Center for Learning and Citizenship,
another co-sponsor states:
(It is particularly ironic that a "conservative" group should be helping to promulgate programs that, as we have documented, are heavily slanted toward the left.)
One reader suggests that we refer to Service Learning as"Compulsory Service," as many locales have already made participation mandatory, and there is a major push to make this the case nationwide. The reader likened the programs to involuntary servitude. The reader also emphasized the diversion of funds from academic areas and the hazards of students working under unsupervised conditions. He recounted the experience of his own son, a 4.3 GPA student who spends an evening a week, a weekend a month, and two weeks a year donating his time to a voluntary service program. He also does service work through his church. None of this, however, qualifies for his school's service learning program.
To get a sense of the kinds of activities that are now part of the curriculum through service learning, link onto "Youth-led Social Activism."(http://www.edwatch.org/updates/052704.htm)
All of the programs on this page promote political activity. "Social Justice," a buzz phrase of the radical left that is essentially a euphemism for "Marxism," appears prominently in some of the various blurbs. Other provocative words and phrases, such as "unified global youth movement," raise the world government specter.
Still other phrases that raise concerns are "civil disobedience" (are students engaging in civil disobedience to meet Service Learning requirements?),"protest," a reference to "[convicted cop killer] Mumia Abu-Jamal's incarceration," "immigrant rights," "reproductive freedom [abortion 'rights']," "police brutality," "social change," and "social action." Even incendiary programs with names like "Seeds of Fire," "Refuse and Resist," and "Ruckus Society" are the norm.
Particularly alarming is the fact that while many, if not all, of these organizations focus on troubled youth, they do not appear to do so in a corrective sense. Instead of addressing these youngsters' problems with counseling, mentorship, positive role models, "tough love" activities, religion or ethics, and the like, the programs listed seek to channel these youths' hostility toward radical political ends. This is reminiscent of the current widespread proselytizing of incarcerated men by militant Islamic groups.
Most remarkably, these activist sites are linked from some official state education websites, making them part of the "official" literature. There is thus nothing "fringe" about this material. It represents the present state of a great range of Service Learning (Radical Activism) programs, as well as the proposed universally-mandated future of American "education."
Copyright © 2004 Charles R Lewis
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