I was pleased to read on the front pageÂ of this morning's Boston Globe that my alma mater is looking to revise its curriculum to, among other things, connect studies more to the "real world".Â The report indicates that core curriculum courses ought to prepare students to participate in civic life and understand the world around them.
As my Harvard undergrad career progressed, I spent increasing amounts of time volunteering through the Phillips Brooks House Association.Â There I found a sense of purpose that was often lacking in academic work.Â It wasn't until my senior year, aided by Robert Coles' course on the Literature of Social Reflection, that I realized there was great potential to combine academic study and hands-on community service work.
After graduating and getting involved in the nonprofit sector professionally, I learned more about community service-learning--strategically combining academic study with volunteer service.Â The real world experience gives new relevance to academic work, and the coursework provides valuable perspective and analysis to the social issues one sees when volunteering.
My first year out of college, working with teenegers in Eastern Kentucky, I essentially created my own community service-learning course.Â I read voraciously in psychology to shed light on adolescent development, the history of the Appalachian region to help give context to my work, and literary works by Kentucky authors like Wendell Berry and Robert Penn Warren to appreciate the culture.Â I think I read more that first year out of college than I did in my four years at Harvard.
I'm glad to see Harvard taking an importantÂ step toward preparing its students forÂ the real world.Â The world certainly needs college graduates who are notÂ only prepared for professions but a lifetime of active citizenship.Â
More articles on civic life at Social Capital Inc.'s blog.