A Commitment To Service

A common value in humanity is service to others. This service can be betterment of self, to the family, the town, the city, the country, or to humanity as a whole. All are important. Global citizenship education focuses on helping citizens better themselves through climbing this ladder of service.

Last week, Harvard University hosted Joe Goodwin, a U.S. Army Veteran, to discuss the concept of service. While many people have opinions about the merit of what the U.S. Army has done in Afghanistan or Iraq, for example, the individual service members who join the Army often do so from feelings of service to their country or to the world as a whole.

Mr. Goodwin proposed a one-year requirement of service in the U.S. for youth between the ages of 18-25. This service could be fulfilled through activity in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, or through military service. Mr. Goodwin believes that such service would decrease political divisiveness, improve understanding of diversity, and give skills to youth that would later help in their careers.

Akash Wasil has applied the theories of philosophers like Michael Sandel of Harvard University to this issue. He notes that mandatory good works, for example the strategy of paying children to read, may not be as good for the children as simply learning to love to read. Such a mandatory approach removes the intrinsically satisfying and morally uplifting aspect of volunteering for a good cause.

Whatever one thinks about the idea of mandatory service, however, service itself is a common value and most agree it is good for the individual and the community. Global Citizenship Education seeks to encourage service at all levels — to the self, family, community, and globe.