Service Learning: Reframing Perspective on Social Injustice

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Alex Dinsmoor


Service learning forces you to confront a simple fact: much of our blessings or burdens are not earned, but instead are the result of structural factors in society. Consequently, the privileged – whether it is financially, socially, or academically – must accept something that might make them uncomfortable: their success is, to some extent, the product of chance. Many of the privileged are born into circumstances (for instance, a socioeconomic status or race) that are systematically favored in our society. Should we try to uphold a sense of fairness or justice in a world that, by nature, is riddled with this chance? Should the privileged work with the disenfranchised to lift their burdens, burdens that belong to our society as a whole? To me, this is what it means to live for the insights you’ve gained through service learning. Or, after having an experience with service learning and understanding the truth about how privilege is allocated, the systematically advantaged can choose to ignore the disadvantaged and live with their own burden: the belief that they unfairly reap unearned advantages. Hence, service learning reframes the way we view social problems and our role in alleviating them in a way that compels us to uphold a sense of justice, to leverage our privileges in hopes of benefiting the less fortunate. I will share with you how my experiences abroad precipitated crucial questions about how we attribute success or failure in the United States, how my service learning experiences played a role in forming my own beliefs on the matter, and why my new convictions urge me to act to mitigate social injustice.

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Dinsmoor, A. (2014). Service Learning: Reframing Perspective on Social Injustice. Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning & Community-Based Research, 3, 1–4.
Reflective Essays