Community Service: Encounter with Strangers

Community Service: Encounter with Strangers

Community Service: Encounter with Strangers

Community Service: Encounter with Strangers

Synopsis

Radest reviews the history and present practice of community service in the United States. While appreciative of the genuine contributions of community service programs to the development of schools and society, the author believes that hidden behind good intentions and willing energies there is a strain of ambivalence that cannot be ignored (such as when a citizen is sentenced by the court to perform a number of hours of "community service"). He analyzes philosophically and psychologically this ambivalence, employing his experience in the field, his observations of school and community-based programs around the country, as well as his point of view as an educator and social critic.

Excerpt

This book is the work of many and the responsibility of one. Family, colleagues, students and friends have taught me the realities of altruism and the puzzles of service. Above all, they have taught me to listen to the unspoken dialogue, the questions people are afraid to ask, the doubts they are hesitant to voice, the answers they are embarrassed to give. Listening to it is even more necessary when everyone agrees that it's a good thing to be doing good things. Reflection, criticism and skepticism then have a certain urgency. That is my sense of things not because I am a cynic but because human experience is never unalloyed, never without its ambiguities.

The organization of this book is an effort to uncover the unspoken dialogue. I open in Chapters 1 and 2 with the politics of the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and with my experience as a teacher and school administrator. The puzzles of community service begin to appear. Focusing them is what I call "Rachel's dilemma." She knows she is doing a good thing but she cannot say what it is she is really doing--and she is not alone. Then, in Chapters 3 and 4, I review the present scene and its roots in the settlement house, the New Deal, and the Peace Corps. As this project advances, two terms emerge that expose the ambiguities of the subject, need and service. Both seem self-evident; both stir up a number of questions. Need and service are the themes of Chapters 5 and 6. Putting things together in Chapters 7, 8 and 9, I connect community service with developmental psychology, with schooling, and with democracy. Finally, in Chapter 10, I suggest the . . .

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