Service Learning For Elites

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

If you thought service learning involved helping the unfortunate, you have no idea how expansively universities define the concept of “needy:”union organizing and faculty associations make the grade.

“If school students collect trash out of an urban streambed, they are providing a valued service to the community as volunteers,” the National Service Learning Clearinghouse claims. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) offers a more expansive definition of what it means to serve: “…for Kirsten M. Christensen, it was with the Modern Language Association, where she contributed many long hours and many long miles of travel because their goals of shaping the humanities are so important,” Ezra Deutsch Feldman writes on the academe blog maintained by the AAUP. “Anna Nardo has also worked with the MLA, and in her article, she talks about how its resources helped her and her colleagues at different stages of their careers.”

“She also helped start and lead a faculty union on her campus.”

“My reading of the connection of this history to the demands, quandaries, and satisfactions of service in the modern university is that scholars in the humanities are perhaps etymologically appointed, if you will, to service that focuses on ‘awareness of a common human condition,’ “ Christensen writes in Acadseme, the AAUP’s magazine. “Interpretations of what that might mean are as varied as the scholars who call themselves humanists.”

“But this recollection of the origins of our name explains, perhaps, why a humanities body like the MLA has been at the forefront of a growing movement among disciplinary organizations to call attention to and address the conditions in which scholars labor.” She teaches German at Pacific Lutheran University.

“During my thirty-seven-year career as a professor of English literature, I have learned as much from professional service outside my home institution as I have from my work as a teacher and scholar,” Nardo writes on academe online. “Engagement with the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the Association of Departments of English (ADE) has both enabled my service at my home institution and awakened me to threats that neither the MLA nor the ADE can counter.”

She teaches English at Louisiana State University (LSU). “I will, of course, encourage my junior colleagues to read the MLA and ADE reports that have awakened me from my complacent slumber, but when I knock on their office door as an LSUnited recruiter, I will also advise them not to say ‘no’ to union service,” Nardo avers. Apparently she views working for a white-collar union as a higher calling.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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