Oxymoron

I agree with Adam Probolsky.

Probolsky penned an editorial in the Orange County Register this morning titled “There oughta be a law against this” where he says that Senate Bill 227 which links a high school diploma and public service, is ill-conceived.

Here’s what Probolsky had to say:

The first thing that struck me about this legislation was its complete ignorance or misunderstanding of the high school student mind. Harman wants teenagers to learn to appreciate community service. So what does he do? He makes it an obligation. I don’t know about you, but my high school classes were monotonous, the homework was annoying, and I worked part time. Community service? Well, I left that up to the kids who felt they needed to supplement their otherwise unremarkable college applications. If I were required to complete community service, like one of my wayward colleagues avoiding Juvenile Hall, I probably would have resented every second of it.

Volunteering should remain voluntary.

People that support high school slavery programs like SB227 believe that service learning gives students a chance to realize the need of their community and helps the students appreciate the reward of charitable work. In truth, the forced servitude erodes the spirit of charitable work, and generates a disdain for community service in the hearts of young people.

I work as the Staff Development Manager for a non-profit in Garden Grove, and we team up with local universities and high schools to bring in “service learning” or “field study” students. Free labor for us, and college or high school credits for them.

When we get unmotivated students that are simply trying to fill a requirement, it usually turns out to be more taxing for our organization than it is worth.

We don’t have time to spend hours training and motivating someone who doesn’t believe in our mission. It would be cheaper for us to hire one (motivated) employee and pay them an hourly wage than sit around and convince an apathetic volunteer to care about our cause.

And I also worry about who is deciding what a “community service” is. If one student wants to spend their forced volunteer hours at a church or synagogue, will her credits count? Will the student who volunteers at an animal shelter receive the same credit as the student who volunteers at an abortion clinic?

Teaching high school students the rewards of volunteering and helping out the community is a good idea. Creating a systematic requirement to force teenagers to perform service isn’t the way to do that. “Mandatory volunteerism” is an oxymoron.

[Adam Probolsky’s full article]

  4 comments for “Oxymoron

  1. Adam D. Probolsky
    April 3, 2007 at 7:40 am

    Glad we are on the same page on this one…also thanks for finally immortalizing me with that reverse negative orange tinge photo deal.

  2. April 3, 2007 at 10:21 am

    You’re both right. It’s not worth forcing students to do what they should want to do. Volunteering should be voluntary, and community service should be encouraged. However, it should never be mandated. After all, it kinda goes against the whole purpose of VOLUNTEERING to go out and help the community.

  3. Dan Chmielewski
    April 3, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Just remember, this is a Republican idea.

    My kid is a freshman at Northwood High; Community Service is strongly recommended for college and its encouraged regardless of whether the kid is struggling or is in honors. People are motivated to volunteer for different reasons. Right now, I can use about 10 volunteer head coaches for my girl’s U8 soccer division next year in Irvine. Contact me if you’re interested Adam.

  4. demmother
    April 3, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Having dealt with those who ‘volunteer’ because it is a requirement, I too have found that it is often too time consuming to invest much in the way of training or time; then again, others become motivated once ‘bitten by the bug’ and can become incredible advocates for whatever cause they have chosen to be a part of.

    There are a number of nations who require some kind of ‘service’ to country. Often it is a year or two in the armed forces. There are too many times I would like to see young people exposed to everything that is out there, I think it makes a more rounded human being, but that being said, what about something like AmerCorps and waive part of your college tuition/fees in exchange for community service.

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