What We Don’t Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Service


Davis, Adam




Adam Davis is the Director of Project on Civic Reflection. He also directs Justice Talking, a social justice seminar series for AmeriCorps members, as well as the Camp of Dreams, a non-profit organization that provides programs for Chicago young people. With Elizabeth M. Lynn, he co-edited The Civically Engaged Reader (Great Books Foundation, 2006), from which this essay is taken. Davis begins the essay by commenting on the recent "vogue for service" that is sweeping the nation, but notes that we seem reluctant to reflect on that service. "It seems to be so clear that Service is Good (SIG) that we do not need to question service or to talk about it; we only need to do it." Davis goes on to question the assumption that service is good, as well as the assumption that we need not reflect on it, asking why we serve, whether service is always good, and why we are so reluctant to talk about it. Davis's piece also brings up questions about motives and values in relation to service and how these impact why we serve.

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Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Faith and BeliefIdentity and CommunityJustice and EqualityKnowledge and UncertaintyLove and CompassionMotives and ValuesServing and Volunteering

Big Questions

How do we define who we are?What would you be willing to give up for equality? What would you not be willing to give up?Why do we reflect? What makes reflection difficult?Should we love the people we serve?Do one’s motives for serving or giving matter? How?Why do we serve?


Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What distinguishes community service from other forms of service?
  2. Why, according to Davis, do people serve? Do you agree with these explanations? What else might motivate service?
  3. For whom is service good, and in what ways?
  4. Why might service be a difficult subject to discuss?
  5. Where do you see inequality in the world around you? Which instances of inequality are troubling? Which instances seem acceptable or just? Any?
  6. Does service address inequality?
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