Care ethics, service-learning, and social change

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2003


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Service Learning | Sociology | Women's Studies


Feminist skeptics have criticized both service-learning and care ethics as socially conservative. Yet feminist advocates of service-learning find overlap between the goals of Women’s Studies classes and service-learning courses, which both emphasize the relation between theory and practice. Care ethicists argue that institutionalizing an ethic of care would promote feminist aims. Our experience teaching “Feminism and Families,” a course integrating service-learning and care ethics, demonstrates that neither care ethics nor service-learning are inherently socially conservative; both can be used in Women’s Studies classrooms to promote such key feminist pedagogical aims as connecting theory and practice, confronting and addressing privilege, and helping students understand political change needed to create a society that genuinely cares for all its members.