My school district is on a mission. The school board, central administration, et al, have determined that our cherubs need to become more productive human beings. So, in addition to the lessons in character education, which I've discussed ad nauseum in this space before, the Powers That Be have decided to deliver the spirit of volunteerism to the masses.
We're not going down to DC to help out at a worthy enterprise such as Miriam's Kitchen, which Ella Numera Una has served so well since she was 12.
We're not going to raise funds to help the likes of the poor unfortunate above, snapped by Ella Numera Dos on a photo tour of San Francisco's Mission District a couple of years ago.
Instead, we're going to try to force-feed teenagers, a proven technique that works so well with quadratic equations and Spanish conjugation that we plan to ram the idea of volunteerism right down their throats, too. Pleasant thought.
I have no problem with the idea underlying our new "Service Learning" lessons, though I take umbrage with the silly euphemism coined for the program. And I'm not bothered by the rationale for "Character Education," introduced in a similarly synthetic manner a couple of years ago. After all, we all need to learn how to do our part. But this new initiative feels like forcing our students to volunteer their time to help others. Irony abounds.
Xeroxing a freeze-dried lesson, with instructions on completing a Venn Diagram, onto thousands of sheets of pumpkin- and hot-pink-colored paper, stapling and distributing these bright packets to 16-year-olds will not contribute one red cent toward getting them off the dime to help a single soul.
Perhaps instead, in the four Service Learning Lessons that are built into our school's schedule this year, I can get my students to talk about what they may feel they owe to others; I'm afraid, however, that if I read from the stilted script I've been given, I'll merely earn their disdain, for both the program and those who need help the most.