Education

Indentured Gratitude

December 01, 2008 1 min read
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Some private New York City schools are scaling back their student community service requirements as a result of questions about how students view them, reports The New York Times.

The volunteering requirement, to complete as many as 100 hours by graduation, has become commonplace for college-bound students, particularly over the last fifteen years. But community service coordinators at some New York City private schools say that instead of instilling a sense of compassion or volunteerism, students have become obsessed with stocking hours. According to critics, such a hefty requirement can also motivate students to lie about their service and, if they have the money, to buy their hours.

Service requirements have even resulted in a cottage industry of community service vacations, like a $4,000 three-week trip to pick up trash on Costa Rican beaches with ample time for kayaking and scuba lessons. Sandra R. Bass, editor of The Private School Insider, a Manhattan newsletter, explained that schools may be strict about the requirement, “but not so strict about how you fulfill them.”

This school year, Patti Schackett, a community service coordinator at Manhattan’s Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School slashed 40 hours from the 100 hour service requirement. She hopes this will help students “choose quality projects that do the most good.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.

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