As a tutoring company, we at Partners With Parents notice trends in educational circles, and these days one is at the forefront of our minds: the rise of the community service component in graduation requirements for New York City schools. Living in today's world requires all of us to be forward-thinking in our relationship to materials, energy, and our fellow man, before we have done our surroundings, and ourselves, irreparable harm. As parents and educators, we now have a clear recognition that we must teach our children to be conscientious global citizens who are committed to social responsibility and serving the public good. For this generation of children, and hopefully all future generations, community service has moved from the background to the limelight. We see it every day, from Dora the Explorer incessantly saving endangered baby animals to the recycling and energy-saving campaigns at our schools to the endless parade of ribbons, lapel pins, and wristbands our children see and wear that remind them (and us) of the importance of staying conscious about the state of the world. The attention that every serious college applicant gives to the topic of community service is as clear an indication as any that it has become an integral part of the education of our children. Helping others can no longer be exceptional, it must be the standard, and our educational institutions are making that increasingly explicit.
The devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, coupled with the preexisting lack of infrastructure, have created the kind of unfathomable humanitarian perfect storm that prompts us to remember just exactly why so many schools have adopted a community service component to their curricula. Just as we owe it to our children to ensure they have enough number sense to understand their taxes and balance their checkbooks, we owe it to them to ensure they have enough social sense to rise to the occasion and make good choices in both the preservation of our world and in the event of a crisis or human suffering. Each of us may not be "our brother's keeper," but in a shrinking world where everyone knows someone who knows someone in six degrees of separation from Port-au-Prince, it's clear that all our destinies are inextricably linked and that serving the community matters all the more.