Community Service in American Culture

January 29, 2001

Public and Community Service Studies at Providence College
Furthering the mission of Providence College, Public and Community Service Studies involves a systematic and rigorous study of the major conceptual themes of community, service, compassion, public ethics, social justice and social change, and leadership. The goals of the major include providing students with the civic skills of critical thinking, public deliberation and communication, public problem solving, collective action and community building.

The Course

Within the context of the public and community service studies curriculum, this course provides the historical context for understanding community service in American culture. Contemporary understandings of community and service along with current experience in community and with service provision have been socially constructed in the United States over the past two hundred years. Meanings assigned to community and service have also been highly contested, in large part because they are concepts that embody values, beliefs, attitudes, and ideas that are central to definitions of democracy, social justice, civic resiliency and public life.

This is an interdisciplinary, experientially based course designed to provide community and classroom-based opportunities to examine this historical context. The method of study relies upon your service experience, allowing you to apply and examine concepts addressed in class to your own practical experience in service others.

Community Site:
Amos House
415 Friendship Street
Adrienne Marchetti (Assistant Director) 272-0220 and Maggie Meany (Volunteer Coordinator) 831-9866
Community Assistant: Sarah Long:

Amos House is a comprehensive social service organization that provides support to homeless and transitional men and woman in South Providence. Amos House operates a men's and women's shelter as well as a meal site which provides free breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday. Founded and developed in the Catholic Worker tradition, Amos House has since undergone major changes as it has become one of the largest social service organizations/shelters in the state. Last year, an on-site medical clinic was established.

Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of this course are:

Goal : Draw upon your introduction to community service and service learning from PSP 101.

Objective: Demonstrate an understanding of the history of participatory democracy in the United States.

Goal: Deepen your thinking and practice of community partnerships and relationships in community.
Objective: Demonstrate an understanding of the history of community organizing and its relevance to service provision.
Objective: Describe a historical framework with which to analyze structures of service provision.
Objective: Describe a context for examining the organization of knowledge and institutions of higher education in relation to community-based public problem solving.

Goal: Provide a framework and grounding for community service that makes connections between service and political engagement.
Objective: Demonstrate an ability to analyze and critique the dominant charity model of service and its institutional context.

This third goal reflects a particular critique of the dominant "charity" model of community service and service learning that encourages students to think that individual actions are a substitute for focusing on larger structural issues. The approach to social problems as individual concerns positions service as distinct from political activity, which involves working with others to influence (or alter) societal institutions. Part of our readings and community-based activity will be focused on exploring alternatives to the charity model.

Assorted handouts, including:

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