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January 23, 2003

paid public service (etc.)

My first stop today was a meeting with people who counsel Maryland's applicants for national scholarships, such as the Rhodes and Marshall. I advise our Rhodes applicants, partly because I want to level the playing field between this state university and the private institutions that win most of the awards. I served on the Rhodes Trust's selection committee in the early 1990s and can give our applicants good advice. It's also an opportunity to push for more paid public service at Maryland. Our applicants are often at a disadvantage because they must work 40 hours a week for money, which is not the case at well-endowed private universities. However, this liability actually looks like an advantage when one realizes that public service shouldn't be a discretionary, volunteer activity that is sandwiched between work, family, and leisure time; it should rather be an aspect of our paid, professional lives. (See www.publicwork.org.) Many of our students are idealistic but not rich, so they have found ways to be paid for working in government or the nonprofit sector. Others have turned ordinary jobs into public-service opportunities. For instance, one recent candidate worked at a bank where she organized an important outreach program. This was an impressive achievement that predicts a lifetime of public service. I have been arguing that we should encourage, recognize, and reward such work—both because it is the right thing to do and because it is a good long-term strategy for Maryland to win prestigious scholarships.

Incidentally, there is pending legislation that would force colleges to use more of their federal work-study funds to pay for off-campus jobs with a service element. This was originally a major purpose of the work-study program, but today colleges spend just seven percent of their funds for off-campus employment. (They prefer their subsidized student workers to distribute their department mail and clean cafeteria dishes.)

Later in the day, amid much practical work involving The Civic Mission of Schools, I made a showing the population of Prince George's County, by race, since 1940. There was a huge egress of White people starting at just the same time as busing (1971). Of course, the mere departure of White people is not necessarily a bad thing, nor was busing necessarily the cause. But it's food for thought, and we will bring the graph to class next week.

January 23, 2003 5:08 PM | category: none


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