Service and young people

30Mar09

In the past few days I have been bombarded with this idea of service. Professor Juan Battle came to Swarthmore for our Sager Symposium and talked about Race, Gender, and Sexuality. During his concluding remarks he continued to push service as the way to work for social justice. This paired with Obama’s “service” rhetoric as well has made me think about this concept of “service.”  I feel like as young people we are being pushed into service and told that, that is the way to effect social change.  While I completely value the work that many of my friends do and I do that are direct-service I have to believe that this isn’t the only way that we can interact with social change.  As young people, especially those in college, we are in a generally insulated environment with too much time on our hands and an eagerness to change the world.  We are an untapped resource of activists that can not only engage in service activities but really think creatively about how to work to solve the bigger problems facing our communities.

 

I also take issue with pushing service on young people because it doesn’t allow us to engage meaningfully with the problems of capitalism.  Service, in weird ways, promoted capitalism because it promotes the idea that private citizens should be eradicating the problems that the government a) created and b) should be responsible for.  Al that being said my best friends work as tutors in a local elementary school and while I think it is the job of the government to solve the disaster better known as our educational system, they are doing great work and making a difference in these children’s lives and I think that likewise the children really impact them.

 

So I think that while service is important, especially because I recognize that we are living in the real world and not the ideal world that I dream about, it is also important for young people not to be pigeonholed into service without utilizing the skills, ideas, energy that we do have!

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