Service Learning and the Core Curriculum: Two Models for Doing Theology as Service Learning in the Core

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In principle, theology ought to play a decisive role in the mission and identity of Catholic colleges and universities, but theology’s role often comes under fire from students and other constituencies who consider theology an uncritical intrusion into the curriculum or a holdover from a bygone era. This essay reflects on the role of theology in the core curriculum by refl ecting on the merits of implementing two well-researched but distinct models of service learning (long-term local and short-term international). When executed properly, both proposed models help further the mission of Catholic colleges and universities by fostering student agency and critical engagement. Through service learning, students become agents of change and recovery in the broader community while the service-learning environment serves as a laboratory in which the truth claims of the tradition are tested. In a service-learning approach to theology, fear about the uncritical nature of theology are mollifi ed as students become empowered to carefully and creatively engage the tradition from both an historical perspective and from the perspective of a lived commitment.

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