Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Shouldn't Volunteering Be Voluntary?

OK, get ready for this... I AGREE WITH A REPUBLICAN AGAIN! This time, it's about SB 227. Senator Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) wants to mandate community service for high school graduation, and GOP consultant Adam Probolsky speaks out against this bill in "The Orange Grove" column in today's OC Register. And you know what? I agree with him here:

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.

Sure, it seems high-minded to require high schoolers to get out and learn some valuable lessons about community service... But does this really accomplish that goal? I doubt it, and I'll let a good friend of mine tell you why down below...

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

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.

That's Mike Lawson writing at The Liberal OC. Since he sees this all the time at his job in Garden Grove, I think he knows what he's talking about. So if this doesn't help the non-profits doing the community service, then why should we burden them with uncaring high schoolers who are doing doing this to check a box that needs to be checked in order to get a high school diploma?

And once again, why should we be forcing students to do something that they should want to do? This is simply preposterous. When I was in high school, I volunteered for my library because I wanted to. Sure, the "credits" I earned from my school for community service were a nice incentive... But ultimately, I volunteered at the library because I love books and I love learning. Now would it make sense for the state to force kids to "volunteer" (read BE SLAVES) at the library when they really hate being inside a huge building with a bunch of old books? Would they really put their hearts into their work? Would they really do the best job possible? And would they really learn the valuable lessons of community service?

I noticed that SB 227 was amended. Now, it offers elective credits for community service instead of a state mandate for it. That sounds better. I just hope that we remember that volunteering ultimately has to be voluntary.

No comments: