Oxymoron squared! Mandatory volunteerism now optional in Baltimore County Public Schools

If a student at Ridgely Middle School reads his report card carefully, he might well ask, "why do the Service Learning hours on my report card go up every semester even though I haven't done any community service work yet?"

The answer: Over the past decade or so, Service Learning has slowly become "infused" in the curriculum. Students get community service credits just for going to class! They don't have to leave the school or do any extra work!

This means, of course, that community service in Baltimore County Public Schools has come full circle. Before 1992, it was voluntary. Then, thanks to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and the Maryland General Assembly, volunteering became mandatory across the state. Now, thanks to infusion, mandatory volunteerism is optional.


On the bright side, the only kids who need to volunteer now are the ones who actually want to do community service. But there's a dark side too. Failed programs like Service Learning look ridiculous to students, breeding disrespect for schools and cynicism about government.

UPDATE: Joanne Jacobs linked, with a great headline. There is some interesting discussion in her comments. In response to Catherine's comments I wrote this.

UPDATE: Peter Wood at the National Association of Scholars says students have another name for mandatory volunteerism: voluntyranny.

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