This study will show how encouraging students to write toward democracy could help them to become better writers and citizens. Service-learning can help students learn to write through active inquiry, collaboration with different discourse communities, and consideration of their roles as citizens. However, service-learning must meet three challenges in order to be successful.
First, I will argue that freshman composition's subordinate status as a service course to the university can inhibit a pedagogy of service-learning. Even though service-learning may be a useful term to name this pedagogy, I propose that we find a different name in order to emphasize student writers as participants in democracy. We need to start thinking of our work in ways different from just "service." We need to encourage students to write toward democracy.
Next, service-learning and composition scholarship often emphasize a separation between academia and community, and this perception affects our discussion of discourse. We speak of "academic" discourse and "public" discourse as if they were two different languages. I will argue that separating academia from community, and separating academic from public discourse, create unnecessary problems. Drawing upon the work of Dewey, Barris, and others, I call for a “discourse for democracy" ill which students choose to write about and act upon problems that matter to them. These kinds of writing assignments will help students to become better writers and also might help them to become better citizens.
Finally, are we citizens of the world or citizens of countries or both? Responding to Martha Nussbaum's essay about cosmopolitanism and her belief that our focus as educators should be “world citizenship, rather than democratic or national citizenship" (11), I investigate possible definitions of citizenship. I will propose that our service-learning classes need to encourage students to write about their roles within a global community.
This study, then, proposes three changes in the use of service-learning with an examination of the scholarship and examples from my teaching.
Hutchinson, Glenn C. Jr., "Writing Toward Democracy: Service-Learning and Composition" (2002). Dissertation and Thesis. 37.
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