Preparation for Socially Responsible Adulthood
There is a growing trend in education that has considerable potential for fostering constructive, unselfish behavior during adolescence: community service. Supervised community service, when started in early adolescence, can play a critical role in the shaping of responsible, caring, altruistic behavior. Service programs can be organized effectively by schools, by community organizations, and by religious institutions. How we help others is crucial. We must not convey superiority over others. We must impart a sense of the mutuality of being full members of the community and sharing a common fate as human beings in a world that sometimes is insensitive and at times even cruel. In 1989, a Carnegie report on the middle grades, Turning Points, stated an important insight. Early adolescence offers a superb developmental opportunity to learn values, skills, and a sense of social responsibility important for citizenship in democracies. Every middle grade school should include youth service–supervised activity helping others in the community, ideally, in collaboration with schools–in their core instructional programs for the middle grades. Turning Points 2000, a follow-up book to the 1989 landmark report, Turning Points, provides an in-depth examination of how to improve education for the middle grades and gives practical guidance to practitioners wishing to implement the Turning Points model. The research base has grown over the past 10 years, and this chapter reflects the findings of the research. It also bridges the gap between research and practice by presenting theory in practical and understandable terms. Specific to our theme of service learning, Turning Points 2000 provides a sound argument for integrating the community into the curriculum. Mutual respect and understanding, a sense of belonging, and pride in making valued contributions to others are the essence of school and community collaboration. The Early Adolescent Helper Program (EAHP), a pioneering project initiated by the City University of New York in 1982 and led by Joan Schine, brings school personnel, community-agency staff, and the middle grade school Helpers together. An effort was clearly made to integrate the school curricula with youth in community service programs. Between 1982 and 1989, almost 700 students in 17 New York City middle and junior high schools were involved in the Early Adolescent Helper Program.
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