"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
A recent report last month titled Turning The Tide from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and the Making Caring Common (MCC) project highlighted the notion that students and college admissions offices should be less concerned with a long list of accomplishments and more with students demonstrating passion, particularly around civic engagement, including community service and service-learning.This is good for education and particularly good for the independent school world, where students may be trying to figure out the "magic formula" for gaining admission into their dream school. The effects of such a call could be that if schools eventually come to read applications differently, students and schools will, in turn, also focus on different aspects of the educational experience.
The challenge will be realizing that testing is not going away anytime soon, and some might mistakenly think that this is a call for moving away from academics to focus on extracurriculars, like community service.
IIn fact, I believe what the report is stating is for schools to do the same thing we are asking of students: to go for depth rather than breadth.
What I specifically mean is that instead of a school offering countless opportunities for service with the assumption that “all service is good” and “more is always better,” there should be deep thought and purpose to designing civic engagement within schools, especially independent schools, where there is increased freedom in curriculum, program and choice.
Part of this conversation can be a conscious move from community service to service-learning, where the academic learning is deepened by combining the curriculum with a community need.
Through service-learning, many students can come to discover and follow their passions within an academic context, and therefore fulfill what the Harvard report calls for: a more deeper, more fulfilling and more passionate definition of service that unites both the mind and the heart.
Schools with a well defined service-learning program are helping develop students in a way that allows them to be both scholars and citizens, while applying their learning to help those in need, therefore increasing what they know and its usefulness.
This is not only good for their own education, but for responding to a rapidly changing higher educational landscape and a global society with urgent needs for well-balanced students and professionals.