Strong Community Service Learning: Philosophical Perspectives (2011)

Eric C. Sheffield

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Community Service Learning (CSL) is, potentially, the most powerful and far-reaching educational reform movement in recent memory. Yet, that potential has yet to be realized. One major reason for CSL’s limited success is found in its runaway conceptual confusion: in becoming everything to everyone, CSL has lost its philosophical bearings and, not surprisingly, its practical value. This study attempts to restore CSL’s philosophical bearings, arguing that there are particular understandings of its components that imply particular kinds of educational practices. In this philosophical clarification lies the hope that CSL can meet its immense potential as a transformative school and community practice. This book is a must-have for teachers, school administrators, educational scholars, and students who have an interest in making schools a vital community resource.

2012 AESA (American Educational Studies Association) Critic’s Choice Award

This is a wonderful resource for practitioners that anchors Community Service Learning in its philosophical and historical roots. Reflection is the heart of service learning. Eric C. Sheffield explores the ways it links emotion and intellect to create powerful transformative experiences for students.

-Janet Eyler, Co-Author, A Practitioner’s Guide to Reflection in Service-Learning: Student Voices and Reflections and Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning?

This important book is a call for community in a time of accelerating barbarism. It is a cry for education as a human right and a pillar of democracy against all the powerful voices now aligned with an arid view of education as nothing more than preparation for a brutal war – all against all – in which we can only survive if we beat the Chinese or the Indians or some future designated Other into submission. In that war I’ll choose to be a conscientious objector. Eric C. Sheffield shows me how.

-William Ayers, Author, To Teach: The Journey, in Comics and Teaching Toward Freedom

Through this thoughtful and rich analysis of the historical, philosophical, and epistemological underpinnngs of Community Service Learning, Eric C. Sheffield helps us understand the vital importance of high quality practice and the potential of ‘strong’ Community Service Learning tofulfill the  promise of social change.

-Andrew Furco, Associate Vice President for Public Engagement, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Through critical analysis of current service-learning, Eric C. Sheffield presents a vision of strong service-learning that goes beyond service or charity that sustains current social inequities. This passionately argued book is deeply grounded in important philosophical traditions that challenge educators and students to make a difference in the social order. A must read for anyone concerned about quality in service-learning and the role of schools in the creation of a more just social order.

-Dwight E. Giles Jr., Co-Author, Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning?

Eric C. Sheffield’s brief for Community Service Learning is a model for philosophic thinking: embedded in a story of a real problem, clarifying meanings, analyzing relationships, and proposing solutions to be tried – all within the context of democratic values and practices and historical awareness. It is a clear and consistent argument that should be the last word on this good idea. All that remains is to put it into practice.

-Robert R. Sherman, Emeritus, University of Florida