Thursday, December 6, 2012

Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 19.1: Connections to Languages

by Ann Abbott

Looking through the website for the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning I noticed two changes:
  1. The editor, Jeffery Howard, is now at DePaul University. He used to be at Michigan.
  1. You can now see pdfs of past articles on-line. So, here is the pdf for my article with Darcy Lear titled "Foreign Language Professional Standards and CSL: Achieving the 5 C's."
Although the latest issue (19.1 Fall 2012) contains no articles specifically addressing language issues, several articles are relevant to the work we do in foreign language CSL.
Emily W. Kane. "Student Perceptions of Community-based Research Partners and the Politics of Knowledge." This article concludes that it is possible for students to recognize community members as experts and co-creators of knowledge, as long as the course or project is well-designed. (That is true of almost anything that CSL can accomplish. Curriculum design is vital!) The author adds this very important piece of advice: "But encouraging that recognition requires considerable attention, as the hegemony of academically-generated knowledge seeps into even an explicitly reciprocal framing of the knowledge-making process" (5). I'm happy to say that I covered this point in Comunidades: Más allá del aula. Lección 20 (132-37) asks students this over-arching question: ¿Qué aprendemos con el aprendizaje en la comunidad que no se puede aprender en un libro? Two of the related questions, then, are 

  • ¿Qué aprendemos de la gente en la comunidad que no aprendemos de los profesores? Among other things, here I present a list of honorifics in Spanish that many students are unaware of but that are important markers of authority and expertise. The point for students is that ¨Professor¨ is not the only title that marks a person as having special knowledge and experience.
  • ¿Hay gente experta en la comunidad? In this section students explore the ways in which they all recur to people with expertise that is not necessarily an official title. 
Lina D. Dostilio, et al. "Reciprocity: Saying What We Mean and Meaning What We Say." This article takes a critical look at the term "reciprocity." After reading this article, I have to ask myself if my community partnerships are truly reciprocal. I don't have an answer for that, and if the answer is no, I'm not sure if I have a solution, given the resources with which I work. Still, I am grateful that this article made me think more deeply about the differences between "mutually beneficial" and "reciprocal"--because they are not the same thing.
Mills, Steven D. "The Four Furies: Primary Tensions between Service-Learners and Host Agencies." This article is going to go straight into the bibliography of the article manuscript I am working on right now. In addition to naming the four "furies" (below), the article "considers the implications of a cultural shift in service-learning where the costs of this pedagogical approach are more openly and thoroughly considered" (33). I couldn't agree more with this statement! In fact, Darcy and I attempted to do that a few years ago when we published this article: “Aligning Expectations for Mutually Beneficial Relationships: The Case of Spanish Language Proficiency, Cultural Knowledge and Professional Skills.”Hispania 92.2 (2009): 301-12. I can definitely attest to the existence of these tensions:

  • Student Emphasis on Hours vs. Agency Emphasis on Commitment
  • Student Emphasis on Learning vs. Agency Emphasis on Efficiency
  • Student Emphasis on Flexibility vs. Agency Emphasis on Dependability
  • Student Emphasis on Idealism vs. Agency Emphasis on Realism
Finally, there is a very thoughtful review of the book, Exploring Cultural Dynamics and Tensions in Service-Learning. I just ordered the book from our library, so I haven't read it myself, yet. Still, it seems from the table of contents and the review that once again, language is left unexplored as a vital component of cultural differences at play in academic CSL. As I have stated elsewhere, in the CSL literature, English is assumed to be the language of globalization and the language of service learning.

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