Community Service and Social Responsibility in Youth

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University of Chicago Press, Aug 18, 1997 - Education - 185 pages
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The chief purpose of this book is to present a theoretical rationale for youth's involvement in community service. The thesis is that youth's participation in solving social problems has the potential to promote the development of personal and collective identiy. In the autors view, identity development requires stepping into history by adopting a respected ideology that connects youth to other genrations, gives meaning to present experience, and provides hope for the future. This defintion implies agency - a sense that one can make a difference in society - and social responsibility, or concern for society's wellbeeing. The theoretical approach was stimulated by having read occasional essays about service experiences from several groups of high school students. One group, a class of juniiors in a school in Washington, CD, had produced an especially impressive set of reflections. The autors discovered that the students were attending a Catholic high school and were primarily Black. To the autors, the essays seemed important for revealing the developmental possibilities of service and for showing a positive side of Black urban youth that was different from their usual depiction in the media. The autors wanted to study a group of adolescents closely in order to understand more about the process that mediates effects of service. So they approached this school, which seemed to have considerable potential for the autors purposes. The autors came quickly to a mutual agreement about doing an intensive study of the next year's (1993-94) junior class. They agreed to observe these students (N=160) as they progressed through a required course on social justice in which service at a soup kitchen was a mandatory and essential part. The present book reports the results of this study and describes the autors theory on how service stimulates political-moral agency and responsibility.

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About the author (1997)

James Youniss is James R. and Wylma R. Curtin Professor of Psychology at the Catholic University of America. He has published four previous books on youth civic identity.

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