Challenging—and changing—our thinking about higher education community engagement
Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement
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Randy Stoecker has been "practicing" forms of community-engaged scholarship, including service learning, for thirty years now, and he readily admits, "Practice does not make perfect." In his highly personal critique, Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement, the author worries about the contradictions, unrealized potential, and unrecognized urgency of the causes as well as the risks and rewards of this work.
"What is most enlightening about Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement, is Stoecker's framing of the teaching strategy's history. Drawing from his own experiences as a theoretician and practitioner, he boldly puts forward some of the contradictions that exist in the practice of service learning and the weaknesses of the type of institutionalization that has taken place. He presents an outlook of liberating service learning based on new forms of knowledge and engagement production with a raised consciousness where anger is transformed into grassroots power and policy change."
"Stoecker makes a strong argument that service learning and the rest of higher education civic engagement ('service learning' functions as a catch-all term) is in need of liberating so that it can be liberating.... Although Stoecker offers something to annoy everyone, I still recommend Liberating Service Learning for its challenging examination of the spirit of service learning, in its present state and as it might be in future."
"Stoecker does not shy away from asking the hard questions, including challenging widely celebrated dominant theories, practices, and even histories in institutionalized service learning. He challenges those in the field to reflect on the language we use, terms like reciprocity, partnership, and social justice, and to critically examine if our practice actually aligns with proclaimed theories and values.... Stoecker understands the deep complexity of service learning work, tapping into the conflicting feelings practitioners navigate as we offer soundbites or quotes for news articles, write letters of recommendation, apply for grants, and receive awards and accolades for our work with the community. He challenges the field to ask the hard questions of not only ourselves but also of our institutional leaders, and encourages us to reconsider our practice and take risks."
Prelude: Confessions and Acknowledgments
Randy Stoecker is a Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wis consin, with a joint appointment in the University of Wisconsin-Extension Center for Community and Economic Development. He is the co-editor (with Elizabeth A. Tryon and Amy Hilgendorf) of The Unheard Voices: Community Organization and Service Learning.