Theconclusion: The devil at the crossroads: Service learning and community engagement from here on out

Corey Dolgon, Timothy K. Eatman, Tania D. Mitchell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

3 Scopus citations


I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees Asked the lord above “Have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please.” Legend has it that Bluesman Robert Johnson met the devil at the crossroads, apparently somewhere between Robinsonville and Martinsville, Mississippi. Here Johnson sold his soul to acquire some of the best blues guitar chops ever known to humankind. According to his contemporary, blues icon Son House, Johnson went from being an embarrassingly bad guitar player to a musician of world renown. When Johnson died a few years later, after half a decade of hard traveling between juke joints and honky-tonks, the mythic story of his rise to greatness as a “devil's pact” was sealed. Like most satanic legends, he sacrificed his soul for a rapid yet brief earthly success; except in Johnson's case, he also achieved musical immortality. The devil's own attraction to the crossroads should be obvious. Men and women, journeying long from one place to another, desperate for greatness, suddenly meet significant geographical and moral challenges. They must ask and answer the question: which path do we take? At this juncture, people become susceptible to temptations of many kinds. Our dilemma and alienation at the crossroads appreciates, even welcomes, the certainty and the reprieve of the devil's promise. The crossroads itself becomes a metaphor representing the most powerful, yet possibly paralyzing, moments of soul-wrenching choice. What is to be done? To say that service learning and community engagement as pedagogical and institutional movements have reached a crossroads may be simple hyperbole. But from Saltmarsh, Hartley, and Clayton's (2009) concern over a “movement stalled” to the Department of Education's (2012) contention that civic engagement is still “tinkering at the margins” of postsecondary education, many echo Jean Johnson (2012) from the National Issues Forum: “we see a moment of crisis, but also a moment of opportunity.” Those of us practicing forms of engaged teaching and learning, research and scholarship realize that a period of reflection, evaluation, planning, and strategy is upon us.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781316650011
ISBN (Print)9781107153783
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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