Integrating Service Learning and Multicultural Education in Colleges and Universities

By Carolyn R. O'Grady | Go to book overview

aration therefore includes naming the systemic inequity that underlies a given community service setting, and identifying the interrelated systems of oppression that perpetuate social injustice. In addition to the logistical preparation, students carry these newly acquired conceptual lenses with them as they work in the community, searching consciously for the root causes of the social issues that people they are working with in the community are experiencing.

Our second observation concerns the importance of developing students' capacity for self-reflection. Reflection is also a commonly used term in the service learning literature. It is seen to be the crucial process that transforms experience into learning, a key element of all experiential learning processes ( Kolb, 1984). Yet, in critical service learning pedagogy, self-reflection is emphasized. It is not sufficient for students to reflect on "those people," the "others" with whom they might be involved in the community. Students must also reflect on their own identities, actions, feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. As we interact in society, our actions contribute to the existing social structure, and can either reinforce or alleviate the system of oppression that exists. Therefore, to insure that we do not perpetuate the system of oppression, we must develop the capacities to look inward and we must be conscious of the relationship between our identities and our actions in an unjust and inequitable society. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and so forth is not only about groups who are the targets of these specific oppressions; it is equally about groups that receive privileges based on certain characteristics of identity. In this preparation, all of us are called to examine how we have responded to being both a target at some point in our lives, and to receiving unearned privilege. Self-reflection on the cumulative effect of receiving multiple forms of privilege or being targeted in multiple ways is critical to culturally aware community participation. Developing this capacity for self-reflection -- a trait not encouraged in our fast-paced "been there done that" society -- is therefore an important aspect of critical service learning pedagogy.

Introducing students to the concepts of power, privilege, and oppression, and stressing the development of their capacities for self-reflection can and should be central elements of all service learning efforts.


REFERENCES

Adams M., Bell L. A., & Griffin P. (Eds.). ( 1997). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook. New York: Routledge.

-133-

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