Service learning is the name for forcing college students to do volunteer work as part of their college careers. The hope is that this volunteer work will give students a better sense of civic duty, and thus, be a worthy addition to college curriculums. However, this idea relies on the faulty premise that if one is forced to volunteer that one will derive the same benefits as someone who does it out of their own desire to help. Mandatory service learning will not have the desired effect, and should not be forced upon students.
It is perhaps intuitive to think that by making students help others there will be a net positive; there could be no downside to volunteering time and effort to help the community. However, a more detailed inspection reveals there are many negatives, and any positive effects are just wishful thinking.
To begin with, service learning wouldn’t benefit the students’ education. Indeed, many students would be unable to volunteer in their field. This negates any argument that service learning would help the students’ education. While there may be specific cases where a student with a practical major could benefit from volunteering their efforts, this would simply be a positive indirect effect. Not only that, but in many cases such students are already effectively volunteering their time in the form of unpaid internships. If schools wish students to volunteer in such a manner they should be working with charities to establish more voluntary internships. However, as soon as students are forced to volunteer for the sake of volunteering, it no is longer about helping the student.
One has to ask: why it is exclusively schools that would take up this forced volunteer work? If it was really a needed benefit to society, then companies could also be forced to volunteer for the community. Indeed, in many cases a company would be better equipped to help in whatever way was needed. However, to a company their time is money. If a company is forced to give its time and resources to volunteer, it might as well give money instead. That money, in the form of taxes, is already paid by both companies and individuals to the government. That money, in turn, should be used to help communities when needed. If communities need extra help, the answer is increasing taxes to provide that extra help. Forcing college students to provide that help directly ignores the efficiencies gained from specialization. A college student, who isn’t even studying whatever field is needed, would be able to help more by working in their actual field for money, and then giving that money to a specialist, via the government, to provide the direct help. The only problem with that arrangement is that it doesn’t provide the positive feelings that directly helping would. However, gaining a positive sense of accomplishment at the expense of providing less efficient help is a purely selfish motivation.
In the case of labor being needed that almost anyone could do, there...