Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cons of Community Service

How you are raised can change your perception on life. I'm sure this statement doesn't surprise you, but I was surprised to see how pervasive it was the other day when the boys were discussing working with their Boy Scout troop to clean up garbage along the road. My biological son, who has been raised with a strong sense of community involvement, was excited to work on this project. He finds most things with the Boy Scouts fun and is fairly environmentally aware. My foster son, who has been bounced from house to house primarily in the city, thought the idea of getting together to pick up garbage to be the stupidest idea he had ever heard. He immediately associated it with being in trouble. You are only forced to clean up an area when a court mandates it. Fortunately, he relented, went, and had a grand time; but, his comments stuck. If he relates helping with court and consequences, who else does.

My family and I have always enjoyed helping others. We find that we receive far more than we give and I must admit, that we feel powerful when we do help. It is amazing how much one person can accomplish. So to think of community service as a negative was shocking to me, but certainly an interesting commentary on our society. I would be interested to see if others from his background feel the same. Certainly, the courts purpose is assigning community service is to repay what the guilty party took from society and also for them to see that their actions can have a positive impact. Perhaps though, what we are teaching is that community service is boring, troublesome, and something that it is to be left to people who misbehave. Hmmm! I don't think this is setting up a very positive association and may set the stage for complacency and future community inaction. I'm not sure what we should use as punishment for those who break the law and are being charged with community service, but maybe we better take a minute to discuss the message that we are sending when we do so.


Andy's Bethy said...

I think the whole idea of community service as "punishment" was for someone who was in trouble to be able to do something good, and feel like they were accomplishing, rather then just being punished. That is supposed to be the point behind it. If they are not feeling empowered, but rather just forced to do something negative, then it isn't being explained properly.
That's my opinion at least.

Dawn said...

Unfortunately, I don't think it is something that you can just explain, they have to feel it. Community service needs to come from the inside, not from the outside.

I appreciate your thoughts on this. I think more of us should think about this issue.