Suzanne Goldsmith

Recent Articles

The Community Is Their Textbook: Maryland's Experiment with Mandatory Service for Students

At its best, service learning enriches both students and their communities. But creating good programs isn't easy.

N ot long ago I asked Rudy, a 17-year-old high school junior I tutored in a neighborhood teen center, how he planned to perform the hundred hours of community service now required for high school graduation in Washington, D.C. Rudy said he would probably sign up for a summer jobs program cleaning up his neighborhood. If he waives the pay, he told me, the work will count as community service. Rudy could do worse. His block needs sprucing up and he may take pride in doing something that benefits his own neighbors. Yet he will work alongside kids his own age who are getting paid for the same job. When the streets are dirty again in a few weeks, will Rudy feel like the responsible citizen the service requirement aims to make of him? More likely, he will feel like a chump. During the many years that Congress debated national service before creating AmeriCorps in 1993, the specter of a civil draft overshadowed discussion of what service programs and their participants might accomplish. As a...