Before I graduated from high school I attended one of the top 100 ranked schools in America according to the annual Newsweek survey. As students we were required to complete a rigorous curriculum; many times including higher level physics and calculus courses (depending on which ‘path’ students chose). However, I was not required to complete a certain amount of community service and I believe that decision by the administrators, to not require service, was better than the alternative of ‘service slavery.’
I firmly believe that in order to fully serve one’s community one has to make a sacrifice. Whether this sacrifice is money or time something has to be given up. By forcing high school students into ‘service slavery’ they no longer give anything up; it is, rather, simply part of their average school assignments. Granted, many teenagers already feel that school and assigned schoolwork is a sacrifice (from friends, video games, or other activities) serving one’s fellow man should never be considered a mandated section of a school’s homework; which happens all too often in these situations.
Undoubtedly students will complete the required service; primarily because they have too. Unfortunately, with the focus on ‘service as homework’ students will lose the emotional befits and bonding experiences which they worked so hard for. One should also consider that the bonding’ that occurs between the ‘volunteers’ and the community is no more than between the school administrators and the community. Why should it be any different? It was not the students’ choice to serve their fellow man, but rather it’s a requirement. In this situation one must also ask who are the students serving: their community or themselves? The answer is themselves; as the students only partake in service when it is required of them to do so.
However, we should not reduce the importance of students serving in their communities; as serving one’s community, and not oneself, is an enriching experience. In my school service was encouraged and many opportunities, such as The National Honor Society, existed to help students serve. As even more ‘encouragement’ those students who served were also rewarded to an extent. As students completed their hours of community service they were eligible to gain high school credits. (Needless to say, they couldn’t gain many. Students could only earn one-half credit for every 100 hours of service; with a maximum of 2 credits.)
With proper encouragement, perhaps even rewards, students can learn to delight in taking some time out of their busy schedules practicing sports, studying for tests, and working to serve their community; but we should not forget that, even in high school, students are kids and should be treated as such.