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.
Here, Stoecker questions the prioritization and theoretical/philosophical underpinnings of the core concepts of service learning: 1. learning, 2. service, 3. community, and 4. change. By “liberating” service learning, he suggests reversing the prioritization of the concepts, starting with change, then community, then service, and then learning. In doing so, he clarifies the benefits and purpose of this work, arguing that it will create greater pedagogical and community impact.
Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement challenges—and hopefully will change—our thinking about higher education community engagement.