Reconciling Service Learning and the Moral Obligations of the Professor
Kip Téllez University of Houston
We cannot afford to be ungenerous to the city in which we live. . . -- Jane Addams ( 1909/ 1972, p. 14)
I began my interest in service learning as a professor in education several years ago by incorporating a service learning component into an introduction to teaching course at the University of Houston. I have a firm belief in the importance of what is often called "prior knowledge," that teachers cannot teach well unless they know what their students already know. By knowing more about the lived experiences of their students, teachers can develop lessons that connect the children's everyday knowledge of the world to the academic knowledge of the classroom. By including a service learning component in my course, I had the general goal of helping teacher education students to understand the lives of students outside of schools. A corollary goal was to enlarge my students' vision of what transformative teaching could be. In the tradition of Jane Addams and the progressives, I hoped that they would see themselves as defenders of the poor.
My colleagues and I have had some success with service learning among our teacher education students, and our experience has been documented elsewhere (e.g., Téllez & Cohen, 1996; Téllez, Hlebowitsh, Cohen, & Norwood, 1995). In spite of claiming some service learning success with preservice teachers, lingering doubts have cau