In the United States, community service is a mandatory requirement for high school graduation in some states. As a result, school districts expect students to complete a certain amount of hours in service. For instance, in the District of Columbia, students are required to complete 100 hours of community service in order to receive their high school diploma. Volunteer programs that students take part in are determined by the local education agency.
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This issue has been discussed widely throughout the United States as to whether its enforcement is ethical or not. The major goal of education is to prepare students for the challenges of the real world by supplying them with the necessary knowledge and skills.
Opponents argue that it wastes time for students while proponents argue that it enhances their academic achievements. Today, individuals with work experience have a competitive advantage over those that lack it. In that regard, community service should be mandatory because it supplies students with important knowledge and skills, exposure to the real world, and a sense of contribution.
Important Knowledge and Skills
Engaging in community service programs teaches students how to work with their peers and members of the public, equips them with civic engagement skills, and supplies knowledge on how to collaborate and cooperate with others (Jacoby 231).
The students broaden their cultural awareness by working with people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. As mentioned earlier, the most important role of the education system is to prepare students effectively to handle the challenges present in society. When doing community service, schoolchildren work under a leader who guides and monitors them to ensure that they work as required. As a result, they learn to be accountable and responsible (Jacoby 231). These skills are necessary for the attainment of success in today’s world that is characterized by unprecedented innovation, globalization, and stiff competition.
Students should participate in community service projects because they help them to build character and develop compassion. It is likely that students who offer free service to the communities will develop a sense of social responsibility (Oosterhoff). Therefore, they learn to give back to society at a young age. After graduation, they may feel compelled to continue because of the experiences they had while in high school. This requirement creates a foundation for students who are socially-responsible citizens (Jacoby 232). On the other hand, by seeing the suffering of people in underprivileged communities, they develop empathy. These are values that could be invaluable both in their personal and professional lives.
Exposure to the Real World
The diversity present in communities exposes students to the challenges of the real world and how to deal with them effectively. For example, they experience firsthand the challenges that face minority groups, people with disabilities, and immigrants among others. Interactions with individuals from varied backgrounds, cultures, and ages are important sources of lessons that could help students make better decisions when dealing with people (Oosterhoff). One of the major characteristics of contemporary society and workplaces is diversity, which is based on various factors like sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
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Organizations are keen on making their workplaces as diverse as possible. In that regard, it is important for students to gain experience and skills on how to deal with diversity issues that exist in society (Oosterhoff). For instance, they work with people from minority groups, and as such, learn to collaborate regardless of the stereotypes that exist about those groups. Working together with the elderly could be a source of life lessons that could serve them throughout their lives while working with economically-challenged people could open their eyes to the challenges of living in poverty.
A Sense of Contribution
Engagement in the aforementioned program supplies students with a sense of contribution, which consequently improves their self-esteem and self-worth. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), service-learning is an effective method for learning and teaching that bridges classroom knowledge and experience in serving the community. It helps students to enhance their academic skills and improve communities through service (Jacoby 234).
Moreover, adding depth to their learning through volunteering is beneficial to them as both teenagers and adults. One of the main activities that is incorporated in many community service programs is cleaning the environment. Pollution is one of the major contributing factors to the challenge of climate change. Collecting trash and planting trees are helpful to the environment. Engaging in these activities makes students work toward preserving the environment for future generations.
Moreover, they contribute toward something meaningful that has both immediate and long-term benefits. The states should consider the numerous benefits that mandatory community service has on students. The role it plays in enhancing their academic achievements, building character, and giving students an opportunity to contribute is priceless (Oosterhoff). The advantages of service-learning overshadow its disadvantages. Therefore, it should be mandatory as a requirement for high school graduation.
Counterargument and Rebuttal
Opponents of mandatory community service argue that it should not be a requirement for graduation because it wastes students’ valuable time that could be used in other ways. They further state that volunteering is a personal choice that students should be allowed to make on their own volition (Sparks). Forcing them to do some activities for graduation sake will weaken their desire for helping communities in the future (Kim and Morgul 166).
The schedules of students are filled with different responsibilities, including homework, household chores, sports, and jobs. In that regard, community service overburdens the students and as a result, lowers their academic performance. It interferes with school work, reduces their efficiency, and exposes them to risks (Sparks). It is possible for students to work with people who make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe, thus exposing them to dangers. The drive to volunteer in future wanes as students are compelled to engage in a certain number of service hours so that they can graduate (Kim and Morgul 169). Their experiences with regard to volunteering are unsupportive of the inner desire to volunteer.
The argument that community service is disadvantageous to learners is unsubstantiated. First, adults are always present to supervise and closely monitor the activities of students. In that regard, they are safe and unlikely to engage in destructive habits such as alcohol consumption and drug use. Moreover, service to communities should not be used as a scapegoat for the proliferation of bad habits among students. Second, all activities that students engage in are vetted for safety in order to ensure that they are appropriate for teenagers. This reduces the risk of any harm. Third, community service is incorporated into the schedules of students in such a way that it does not interfere with their daily activities.
In many school districts, it is done during the weekends when students are free and when it does not interfere with their school work. Proper time management is needed in order to ensure that the students fulfill their academic obligations. Opponents of community service ignore the numerous lessons that students learn from participating in community projects. Moreover, the career preparation that they get plays a key role in getting them ready for future jobs. Fourth, it strengthens their desire for volunteering in the future. Participation in such projects is an effective way of introducing young people to social responsibility. Their experiences develop empathy and compassion in them, which motivate them to help more in the future.
The issue of making community service a mandatory requirement for high school graduation has attracted much attention in all states. Many school districts have mandated that students should spend a certain number of hours in service in order to graduate. Many groups have opposed this move by claiming that volunteering should be a personal choice that should not be forced on students. They further argue that it wastes time that could be used for more important activities.
These arguments are wrong because community service has many benefits. It helps students to gain important knowledge and skills, exposes them to the world, and gives them a sense of contribution. Skills gained include teamwork, collaboration, accountability, and responsibility. Moreover, they develop character, and compassion. The experiences of working with diverse groups increase their cultural awareness and introduces them to the challenges that different people face in communities.
Jacoby, Barbara. Service-Learning Essentials: Questions, Answers, and Lessons Learned, John Wiley & Sons, 2015.
Kim, Jinho, and Kerem Morgul. “Long-Term Consequences of Youth Volunteering: Voluntary versus Involuntary Service.” Social Science Research, vol. 1, no. 67, 2017, pp. 160-175.
Oosterhoff, Benjamin. “Volunteer or Voluntold: Does Required Service Benefit Youth?” Psychology Today. 2019. Web.
Sparks, Sarah. “Volunteerism Decline among Young People.” Education Week, 2018. Web.