Service-less? I Care to Disagree

Two weeks ago, the Forum published Anna Pan's article on Jumpstart and Pitzer’s service-learning requirement, and let’s just say I disagreed. When I was asked to supply answers for the article last May, I knew it was about Pitzer’s service requirement and Jumpstart, both things I support (Note: I favor Pitzer’s requirement, but I definitely don’t think CMC needs one. More on that later). I was not aware that the article would paint CMC as morally inferior to Pitzer, an idea I strongly disagree with. The article might have been left artificially open-ended with, “The stark contrast between the competing ideologies of Pitzer and CMC could be praised,” but the tone clearly indicated that the author felt otherwise. For those who need an example, how about: “graduation requirements show a school’s values—or lack thereof.”

I heart CMC; I love it just the way it is. It's a perfect school, a perfect place, and I can't possibly agree with the notion that “community service is something that is often put on the back-burner."

First off, let’s note that the principle quote source for that article was me, a CMC student involved in the featured service program. Yet, Pan writes that CMCers put community service on the back-burner? In the words of Bo Burnham, “Isn’t that ironic?” Also, Jumpstart, the example used to illustrate Pitzer's service program, is a 5C program, over half of whose members are not from Pitzer. Pitzer obviously cares, but Jumpstart is a perfect example of the other schools caring too. This idea that CMCers don't concern themselves with service is preposterous.

CMCers spend their summers en masse at various non-profits; Challah for Hunger sets up outside Collins; and SOURCE, which serves local non-profits, is based on our campus. So, that whole “service put on the back-burner” comment seems unwarranted.

As for this whole “CMC needs a service requirement idea,” I say no. If you require someone to do something they don’t want to do, they’ll produce inferior work. There is nothing worse than working with someone who doesn’t care about what they’re doing, especially in an area like service. What’s great about the community-based work done by CMCers is that we really care about said work. If we didn’t, we’d be doing something else with our time. We choose to do that service, as opposed to spending that time elsewhere. It would be unfair to non-profits to send them students who aren’t truly invested in their work.

Now, don’t misunderstand me and act as if I’m saying Pitzer kids don’t care about their service, that they’re just doing it because of the requirement. Service is an integral piece of Pitzer’s culture, and their service requirement helps to develop their identity and distinguish PZ from other schools. Pitzer advertises service the way Mudd does its engineering programs, the way Scripps promotes feminism, the way that CMC embraces our motto: “Crescit cum commercio civitas.” Their service requirement helps create their intended culture; it makes sense.

Back to the article, there’s that misleading language of “devising how to take over the U.S. government.” Isn’t the whole goal of government to serve the people? To put laws in place that keep peace and order? To benefit the people? CMCers might not all work in soup kitchens or knit hats for the homeless, but that doesn't make them service-less. Finding a way to enter government, where your entire profession revolves around serving the people--well, that seems inherently service-based, no? Getting in at a macro-level where you can help determine where resources are allocated so as to best serve the people--that's based in caring about people. Obviously, government is far from perfect, but there is no denying that, at its core, it is primarily concerned with helping the people. So, "devising how to take over" seems like a poor choice of words. This isn’t the game of Risk. We’re not graduating students that are trying to “take over” North America with their plastic cannons and cavalry. Students want to reform and improve government for the betterment of the people. For the betterment of the country. That sounds pretty respectable to me.

Pitzer is all about working for a cause, promoting social justice, and putting a common good before one’s self. CMC’s focus is on working hard, ascending to the top, and being a strong leader. All good things, but not the exact same. Pitzer’s service requirement makes it very clear what they’re about. They are about service. CMC is not, but it’s certainly something we do and support. We just don’t require it. It’s not the cornerstone of our school. Nor should it be. If you want a school whose primary concern is service, go to Pitzer. If you want a school whose primary concern is leadership, go to CMC. You can be a leader at Pitzer, and you can be service-minded at CMC. They’re not mutually exclusive attributes. And, neither is morally superior to the other. They’re just different. Seems pretty simple to me.