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Community Service for all Middle and High School Children.--

The most worrisome of Barack Obama's proposals is his goal of bringing most charities under the federal umbrella in part by inducing all middle and high school children to do 50 hours of community service every year.

The details are on his campaign website and in his speeches calling Americans to service.

By requiring almost all public middle schoolers, starting at the age of 10 or 11, to join his new cadres of community service workers and become part of his "civilian national security force," Barack Obama shows himself to be out of touch with American traditions of individual volunteerism.

There is nothing wrong with a family allowing a child to volunteer at a young age: in the summer when I was 11, I spent several nights a week working for free at a concession stand in a little league baseball park. My parents were comfortable with this community service because at all times I was under the supervision of my mother's best friend. Parents then and parents today would like to choose whether their 11-year old child takes on even a part time job, and they would like to choose the job and judge for themselves whether the working conditions are suitable.

With his myriad proposals for new "Corps" and his proposal for universal service for all school children, Obama is trying to bring the charitable activities of 50 to 100 million people --- about half of them children --- under state control. That our government is even capable of running a service program on a scale never before attempted is a matter of faith, not evidence.

Steven Malanga of City Journal has an article that deals more with Barack Obama's past than his proposals for the future.

Community organizing's roots stretch back to the 1930s and Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation and author of Rules for Radicals. But it wasn't until President Lyndon Johnson's ambitious plan to end poverty through massive federal spending that the Alinsky model—grassroots organizing, neighborhood by neighborhood—really took off. Starting in the mid-1960s, the federal government directed billions of dollars to neighborhood groups, convinced that they knew better than Washington what their communities needed. The federal funds, eventually supplemented by state and local tax dollars, helped create a universe of government-funded community groups running everything from job-training programs to voter-registration drives—far beyond anything Alinsky could have imagined. Some 3,000 local social-services groups were soon receiving government funding in New York City alone. Many were new, but the money also helped turn traditional charities that had operated on private donations into government contractors.

Those who led these social-services groups became advocates, unsurprisingly, for government-funded solutions to social problems. To defend and expand their turf, organizers began heading into the political arena, wielding the power they had accumulated in neighborhoods to build a base of supporters. In New York, operators of huge social-services groups like Pedro Espada in the Bronx and Albert Vann in Brooklyn won election to state and federal posts after heading up large, powerful nonprofits. By the late 1980s, nearly 20 percent of New York City Council members were products of the government-funded nonprofit sector, and they were among the most strident advocates for higher taxes and more government spending. In other cities, too, from Chicago to Cleveland to Los Angeles, the road to electoral success increasingly ran through the government-funded social-services sector. Spending directed to these groups boomed through both Republican and Democratic administrations. "The non-profit service sector has never been richer, more powerful,"former welfare recipient Theresa Funiciello wrote in her 1993 book Tyranny of Kindness. "Except to the poor, poverty is a mega-business."

Obama began his organizing life in the mid-1980s in a community group whose progress mirrored that of the rest of the industry: the Developing Communities Project, formed on Chicago's South Side as a "faith-based grassroots organization organizing and advocating for social change." Though founded with resources from a coalition of churches, over time the DCP evolved, like many left-leaning religious organizations, into a government contractor essentially subsisting on tax money—with nearly 80 percent of its revenues deriving from public contracts and grants.

As a young college graduate immersed in the world of tax-bankrolled activism, Obama adopted the big-government ethos that prevailed among neighborhood organizers who viewed attempts to reform poverty programs as attacks on the poor. Speaking to an alternative weekly on the eve of his 1995 run for state senate, Obama said . . . that "these are mean, cruel times . . . ." He derided the "old individualistic bootstrap myth" of American achievement that conservatives were touting. Self-help strategies "have become thinly veiled excuses for cutting back on social programs, which are anathema to a conservative agenda," he wrote in a chapter that he contributed to a 1990 book, After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois. (He also depicted leftist community organizing as a harder task than similar efforts by the Christian Right, telling a reporter in 1995 that "it's always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness and false nostalgia.")

hawkins:
Do you oppose public high schools that require community service hours for graduation?
8.28.2008 2:53am
James Lindgren (mail):
Yes, though if the program is not run by the state and any charitable work counts (including for churches), then it would do much less harm than the sort of thing that Obama is proposing.

Also, it is unclear yet how much better John McCain is on service; he will be speaking at Service Nation in a couple weeks. I expect his position to be clearer then. He certainly has a strong statist streak as well, though I doubt that he will propose anything quite as sweeping as Obama's plan.
8.28.2008 3:12am
Suzy (mail):

By requiring almost all public middle schoolers, starting at the age of 10 or 11, to join his new cadres of community service workers and become part of his "civilian national security force,"


This is not a fair representation of the proposal, and I'd imagine you know that.

I'm interested to know if you are opposed to service learning in general, and whether you dispute the studies which have shown that students who participate in such programs are more likely to graduate, earn better grades, and engage in community service after graduation?

The last time this issue was discussed on this site, some of the comments revealed concern that service learning is just a mask for ideologically driven forced labor. What's the evidence for this? I've never found anything like that to be true.

It would be a wonderful thing for the country if we could do a better job of employing the talents of people who want to give back and aren't sure where to begin. It would also be a wonderful thing if more students learned the value of community service and made it a habit. Where is the downside?
8.28.2008 3:13am
E. Guerra (mail):
1. A program like the one Obama promotes does not prohibit parents from choosing the service thier children would participate in.
2. The author of this essay is out of touch with the reality of the state of the nation if he believes that young parents today are at all concerned with teaching their children about the value of volunteering.
3. There are plenty of countries that require this type of service and they still enjoy civil liberties.
Please don't make the mistake of discounting the enormous lack of patriotism and civil engagement among young people today. A program that requires positive action is no different from one that requires school attendance. Activism for young people is just another form of education!
8.28.2008 3:15am
theobromophile (www):
Fifty hours is a considerable amount of time, especially for high school students that hold part-time jobs or are serious about both school and athletics. Logistically, it will be a nightmare for children who do not have stay-at-home parents, or who have special needs, or who otherwise cannot put their lives on hold to satisfy Barack Obama's whims.

Kids are remarkably good at detecting hypocrisy and nonsense. They will understand that the adults around them are not leading by example (certainly, no one is yet proposing that all adults be subject to such a requirement), but, in their own accounting, credit the labour of others to themselves. It will breed a generation of individuals with deep contempt for those who can wield power over others.

It will also breed a generation of individuals who do not know the joy of doing something for its own sake, for its own good. Even if students would have worked at the local library, spent time with senior citizens, or built houses for Habitat for Humanity, they will miss the joy of doing something because it advances one's most fundamental morals.

The only good thing that could come out of this is that children would understand how precious freedom is, because they will see what they cannot have under such a regime.
8.28.2008 3:19am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Actually, this is potentially one of the few proposals by Mr. Obama that has merit -- provided that it is done properly.

First, the conly constitutional authority the President has to do something like that is the power to call up militia. However, to call up persons of age 10 we would need to adopt a new Militia Act, amending 10 USC 311 to reduce the minumum age of the mandatory militia, subject to call up, down from 17 to 10.

Second, the only constitutional purposes for which militia can be called up are "to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions", which doesn't include "community service" of the kind Mr. Obama seems to have in mind. However, it would be entirely appropriate to require the kids to be organized and trained in militia skills, especially the responsible and effective use of firearms, criminal investigation and arrest, and crowd control. Although disaster response is not a federal militia purpose, it could include such skills as long as a nexus is maintained to the other federal militia purposes.

Actually, most skills which public skills try to teach can be reasonably regarded to have a nexus to militia. Militiamen need to be able to read, write, do math, and have a knowleddge of government, law, and science. The beauty of making these things part of their militia training is that as militia they will be subject to military discipline. They may become more motivated to learn if the alternative is "gimme ten", KP or latrine duty, or being locked up in the stockade. Skipping school would be "missing a formation" or "desertion", and if we are in a state of war, the kid could be shot. Nothing like an Article 15 or court martial to focus the mind.

Let's all tell Mr. Obama we're behind him on this, if understood as outlined above.
8.28.2008 3:26am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Correction: Was supposed to be
"most skills which public schools ..."
8.28.2008 3:30am
Jim Hu:
That's the most worrisome thing? I'm no fan of this "voluntary" involuntary service, but if it was the most worrisome thing I could come up with, I'd be voting for him.
8.28.2008 3:33am
James Lindgren (mail):
Suzy,

Please tell me how this is not a fair presentation of the Obama proposal.

Mr. Obama describes his Plan as a national service program that is both "universal" and "voluntary." Yet in a free society a national service program can't be both universal and truly voluntary.

One hurdle that Mr. Obama's plan must vault is the U.S. Constitution, which limits the federal government to enumerated powers. Lacking the power to mandate universal community service directly, Mr. Obama candidly discloses his strategy: making federal funds contingent on schools having service programs that meet federal standards.

Because Mr. Obama calls his plan voluntary, it's important to understand exactly what he says and doesn't say. In both of his main speeches on national service -- on July 2, 2008 and on December 5, 2007 -- Barack Obama set his goal of 50 hours of service a year, promised that "We'll reach this goal," and explained how he would do so for middle and high school children:


So when I'm President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you'll have done 17 weeks of service.

We'll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we'll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.


If Obama hadn't promised that "We'll reach this goal" of 50 hours a year of service for all students, one might read his proposal as indicating that he would require schools to have service programs, but that these programs might not require 50 hours of service. Yet the only way that almost every 11-year old public school student in the country would serve 50 hours a year -- i.e., the only way that Mr. Obama could reach his goal -- is by doing what he seems to indicate he's going to do: setting a federal goal of 50 hours a year for each middle school student and reaching that goal by making federal funds contingent on middle schools requiring their students to serve those 50 hours.

Thus, it would be the public schools that would impose federal standards of coerced service on each child as part of their requirements for graduation. For students, service would be involuntary. Even for the public schools, their participation would be only nominally voluntary -- for how many public schools can survive without federal assistance?

Lest there be any remaining doubt that Barack Obama's "voluntary" universal service plan contemplates mandatory service for children, his Service Plan praises mandatory service in the sentence that immediately precedes his call for 50 hours of service: "Schools that require service as part of the educational experience create improved learning environments and serve as resources for their communities." Moreover, in his Plan, he promises to "develop national guidelines for service-learning and community service programs," thus not leaving the content of service programs to the states.

I suspect that Mr. Obama describes his mandatory plan as voluntary for good reasons: part of his plan -- i.e., participating in his many new "Corps" -- is indeed voluntary, and people bristle at the word "mandatory."

The other issue is whether it will apply to private schools; he is unclear on this point, but if they get public funding, then I think the answer is YES.

As for setting government standards, he is clear the the govt will set standards for community service charities. And his SERVE-STUDY program for college students explicitly rejects working in college libraries as not the sort of charitable work that will count as community service.

Obama also has otherr sweeping plans to help bring much of private charity under the government umbrella:


Social Investment Fund Network: Obama will create a Social Investment Fund Network to use federal seed money to leverage private sector funding . . . .

Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits: Barack Obama will a create an agency within the Corporation for National and Community Service dedicated to building the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.
8.28.2008 3:37am
Suzy (mail):
It's an hour a week. If this was such a problem, we should have already seen it in the schools that have a community service requirement.

We also fail to see those programs churning out students with a deep mistrust of those who wield power. If being required to perform some activity in school really has that effect, what we are to make of mandatory P.E. and music? What about anything students are demanded to do at school that they might not choose on their own? (History? Trigonometry? Duck-duck-goose?)

The faulty assumption seems to be that community service is merely "volunteering" that has nothing to do with learning, and therefore should remain purely "voluntary" as opposed to all the other forced activites that qualify as learning experiences.
8.28.2008 3:41am
Kirk:
Logistically, it will be a nightmare for children...
It will be just as much a nightmare for the organizations receiving all this largess of obligatory voluntarism. Imagine yourself as the executive directory of some small locally-based nonprofit that just barely ekes out an existence (though presumably you do great work with the limited resources you have.) Now you suddenly have dozens, or even hundreds, of middle-schoolers besieging you with requests to do extremely part-time volunteer service with your organization. What can you possibly do with them that doesn't cost you far more in time and effort that it's worth?

FWIW, my wife teaches at a private school that does have a community-service requirement, but it's only for the high-school kids, and it's only 15 hours a year, and at least half of that can be fulfilled through some school-wide organized events.
8.28.2008 3:45am
James Lindgren (mail):
Most existing programs require a small fraction of the time Obama proposes. He's talking about 7 years of service at 50 hours a year. Most existing mandatory programs have a one year service requirement for graduation, not a 7-year requirement.

In college, it jumps to 100 hours a year, but that is voluntary (though whether the proposed college pay of $40 an hour makes sense is another matter).
8.28.2008 3:46am
musefree (www):
Great post.

On the surface there is nothing wrong with the proposal. Voluntary community service can be an enriching experience both for the child and the community. The trouble starts when the government steps in. The inevitable effect is the substitution of individual volunteerism by a huge bureaucratic machine that subsists on tax money. Like many bad proposals, the detrimental effects show up slowly, but when they do, they are hard to remove.

To those who think this is good idea, the trouble is that these kind of proposals convert non-governmental organizations that flourish on private philanthropy into inefficient arms of the government. Also, as the linked article points out, those who lead these social-services groups become advocates for government-funded solutions to social problems. The result is more social problems, not less.

Volunteerism is a wonderful thing but to be truly voluntary and useful, it needs to be more than an arms length away from government control.

Now, it is possible that the government can still have some role in such programs and have a positive effect -- if it is done the right way. However I fear that will not be the case.
8.28.2008 3:50am
Suzy (mail):
Regarding whether that was a fair representation:

First, middle schoolers in my area are 12-13. So by specifying that it would begin with 5th graders (10-11), you're making an unfair choice about how to represent this proposal.

You then suggest that these 5th graders would be "cadres" of a "national security force"--rhetoric that suggests a rather misleading image of what the service learning or commuunity service would entail. So yes, that's unfair.

Your real dispute is with the word "required", because like I said before, you apparently do not believe that service learning is really "learning" rather than simply volunteering, something that as the name implies should be a purely personal choice of how to spend time. I assume you have no problem with requiring public school students to perform other activities that are deemed useful for learning. Community service can provide valuable practical service that makes lessons more meaningful and memorable to students. Those who participate in these programs are more successful as students in a number of ways, according to empirical research on the subject.

As an example, the local school here has students go on field trips to a bread factory and a dairy, among other places. I suppose they can opt out, but it's "required" for practical purposes. Presumably they do this not simply to break up the monotony of the day, but because something valuable might be gained from seeing how such places operate. It's not so different with service learning.

Should the govt. withhold funding unless schools institute a minumum amt of service? No, I'd agree with you there. The approach sounds too heavy handed. But with a few changes it could be a terrific initiative for our young people and this country.
8.28.2008 3:56am
James Lindgren (mail):
MUSEFREE:

Exactly.

Mandatory community service sucks in much that is private and diverse and spits out an excessively homogenized version of the good, a version that would come with a government seal of approval.

It's probably not an accident that many American groups who tend to favor greater government largesse are relatively stingy in their own donations to charity.

Nor do I think it an accident that Americans are the most generous people in the world, while the few European countries that have universal military or community service have populations that fall far short of America's in donating their time and money to the less fortunate.

For charity work to be truly transformative in a positive way, perhaps it must be truly voluntary.
8.28.2008 3:58am
Avatar (mail):
You say "an hour a week", but you'd have to be an idiot to do it that way - you'd spend twice as much time when you account for things like travel. Realistically, you should say "six full days a year". It's reasonable that kids and their parents would want to polish these things off in bigger chunks.

If you proposed, "Okay, let's take six days from the school year, and have no class; just send the classes out to do community service instead"... you'd get laughed out of the room. Even the people in favor of volunteer service aren't going to tell you that it's more important than classroom instruction.

So instead, we should have kids take six days of their own time, to go to state-sponsored events, with state-paid supervisors (because of course it has to be supervised!), to perform the same tasks. Er... or we could just pay teachers a bit more and hold six more days of class, I guess. Which would benefit children more?

You can turn that argument around too, of course. If we think students should spend six more days a year in school, why aren't they now? Haven't we already made a determination of how many days a student should be in school and should not be in school? If they've actually got this extra free time, shouldn't we extend the days they're in school? If we're not extending those days, maybe it's because we've already determined they don't have this extra time?

Keep in mind that children, unlike their parents, are routinely expected to perform mandatory tasks outside of the dedicated hours of employment; you may get to work 9-5 and go home, but Junior has to take an hour or two (or three, or four - teachers are not good about coordinating) of work home with him. In that sense, it's asinine to require children to perform additional unpaid labor.
8.28.2008 4:01am
musefree (www):
Perhaps it is not entirely relevant, but this thread reminded me of this (bad) NY Times oped where the author (believe it or not) argues against private philanthropy.

I think this relates to a particular mindset -- one that dismisses private endeavours (and whose advocates are often personally stingy) but expects the government to solve all the problems of the country (apparently with money that would drop from the sky).
8.28.2008 4:13am
Suzy (mail):
I'd like to present a few real-life examples of service learning here, because it sounds like there's considerable confusion about what is involved.

Two actual projects from my local elementary: Students learned about plant biology as they designed, planted, and maintained gardens around the school and on public spaces in the neighborhood. Students learning about computers helped to design some web pages with student resources, and for PTA events. I know that some of these events took place during the regular school day, while others may have taken place after school, but it's "service" that obviously involves practical application of the things being taught in the classroom. Not exactly what I think of as the work of "cadres" of a "civilian national security force", but this is service learning and it's effective both for academic teaching and as a way to get students invested in what they are doing in school and in what happens in their communities.

An actual project from a university here: Students serve as translators for patients at a local clinic. Some of the students come from language classes and get an opportunity to hone their skills with real native speakers, and others are pursuing careers in health care and will obtain valuable practical experience this way. Where is the downside to "forcing" this, any worse than the downside of "forcing" students to take pop quizzes? A lot of students learn effectively by doing, and it doesn't hurt that they have more pride in and commitment to their work when it involves this kind of service.
8.28.2008 4:15am
James Lindgren (mail):
Suzy wrote:


Regarding whether that was a fair representation:

First, middle schoolers in my area are 12-13. So by specifying that it would begin with 5th graders (10-11), you're making an unfair choice about how to represent this proposal.

You then suggest that these 5th graders would be "cadres" of a "national security force"--rhetoric that suggests a rather misleading image of what the service learning or commuunity service would entail. So yes, that's unfair.



RESPONSE:

Thanks for responding.

1. A month ago, I actually researched the literature on middle schools and what grades they start. I believe that over 90% have moved to 6th grade (some are even younger, starting in 5th grade). The ones that start in 7th grade are uncommon and anyways are traditionally called Jr. High Schools, not middle schools, which is what Obama was referring to. Last, he sends his own kids go to a school that starts middle school at 6th grade, so that's an additional reason to think he meant exactly what I took him to mean. As for the age entering middle school, in most of the few states I looked at, most children would be 11 when they entered but the younger ones would be 10.

2. The language about a "civilian national security force" comes from the July 2 speech, though it was not in the pre-released text. He said:


We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.


It's clear from the speech that Obama is referring to his many new and expanded "corps" and the programs for student community service. With all the "corps" and Obama calling them a "civilian national security force," I think my use of the word "cadre" is both fair and less extreme than the language he used himself.
8.28.2008 4:16am
musefree (www):
Suzy -- I think most of us agree that volunteerism can be a good thing. What is under debate is how much the government should be involved. I contend that the negative effects of sweeping government involvement will do far more harm than good, as the article Jim Lindgren linked to points out.
8.28.2008 4:18am
theobromophile (www):
Suzy,

There are a lot of things that would be absolutely delightful to teach small children. That does not mean that every proposed method of teaching those thing is appropriate, effective, and wise.

Furthermore, the government simply does not have business teaching morals to children. Liberals, for some reason, fail to see their own viewpoints as a version of morality, but morals it is, nonetheless, and morals it is that the government is attempting to shove down the throats of students, as if one can equate the exercise of one's freedom, morality, and talent with trigonometry.

There are good reasons for the government to not get into the business of teaching morality. One would think that we would have learned such, back when the government's version of morality included everything from Prohibition to denying basic civil liberties to people under the theory that it was best for society.

Let public schools stick to reading and math - that which they are barely able to do anyway.
8.28.2008 4:20am
theobromophile (www):
Sorry for posting in sequence, but I thought I would respond to this:
Some of the students come from language classes and get an opportunity to hone their skills with real native speakers, and others are pursuing careers in health care and will obtain valuable practical experience this way. Where is the downside to "forcing" this, any worse than the downside of "forcing" students to take pop quizzes?

When the Red Cross comes to campus, students will wait in line for two hours to give blood. There is a severe shortage of blood in the summer time, and, in general. What is wrong with "forcing" healthy students to donate? I mean, they are going to do it anyway, and they get the satisfaction of knowing that they saved people's lives - which is a heck of a lot more satisfying than planting a few flowers.

Given the benefits of breast feeding and having a stay-at-home parent, what is wrong with "forcing" new moms to do both?
8.28.2008 4:27am
llamasex (mail) (www):
In High School I had to do 40 hours a year of community service, outside of class on my own time. It was not horrible fascist and did not ruin my education.
8.28.2008 4:31am
Frater Plotter:
Mr. Obama describes his Plan as a national service program that is both "universal" and "voluntary." Yet in a free society a national service program can't be both universal and truly voluntary.

Sure it can. It can be universal in the sense of being universally available. It can also mean that he's setting an (enthusiastically high) goal of high participation achieved through sheer voluntary popularity.

When a business states that it has a goal of growing its market share by 10% next quarter, does that mean it's going to go out and force 10% more people to use its products? No, it means that it will use techniques in its power, such as making its products available in more stores or increasing their appeal through redesign or marketing. The 10% goal means that the business will measure the degree to which it has succeeded by looking for that rise in market share. Setting a goal for a program's popularity does not mean that the program must be applied by force.

I don't believe in "service learning" because it amounts to unfair competition. If towns and states want to hire teenagers to do various jobs, they can either pay the current minimum wage or pass a law reducing that wage. But the attitude expressed above is tawdry paranoia and fearmongering.
8.28.2008 4:54am
Perseus (mail):
Why is community service for middle and high school students a pressing federal issue?
8.28.2008 5:58am
vassil petrov (mail):
Obama-Jugend?
8.28.2008 6:01am
Anonymous #000:
Perseus
Why is community service for middle and high school students a pressing federal issue?
Hope. Hope for the future. Hope that our children will become pillars of their community. Hope of understanding that comes from exposure to the less powerful and the disenfranchised. Hope that our children can be molded into something to create a bright future for humanity. Hope that they might become true stewards of humanity. Hope for progress. Hope for all of our welfare.

And if that doesn't work, we always have a massive welfare state enforced by a militarized police force to expand and fall back on.
8.28.2008 6:45am
VincentPaul (mail):
It stinks.
8.28.2008 7:38am
Big E:
My high school kids have enough do without community service. I would rather have them do some kind of internship in a career they might be interested in.
8.28.2008 8:37am
Sam H (mail):
Will he require the kids to carry a little red book of his speeches?
8.28.2008 8:39am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Suzy is obviously thrilled with voluntary-until-it's-mandatory approach here.
I hate to be really obnoxious, so I won't list all the words which fit people who think the joys of volunteering for worthy causes can be learned when it's forced. Of course, they don't think so. They just like seeing others forced.
This is terrible.
8.28.2008 9:01am
PersonFromPorlock:
Despite the undoubted benefit of universal early exposure to 'government program as cluster-f**k' that 'mandatory voluntarism' would provide to future voters, there's simply no enumerated power that lets the federal government undertake the task. Pity, in a way.
8.28.2008 9:09am
James Lindgren (mail):
Big E:

Exactly right.

That Mr. Obama's view of service is narrower than mine is suggested by his proposal to move from college work-study to college "Serve-Study." He plans to mandate that 25% of college work-study jobs be directed away from working on campus, "such as in libraries and dining halls," to working in the community, eventually hoping to raise that to proportion to 50% of work-study hours.

Thus, Obama wouldn't count as "service" my wife's college work-study job as a weekend librarian in the University of Chicago's School of Social Work (one of the country's best), but if my wife had done one of Barack Obama's preferred tasks, picking up trash in the slum behind the School, Obama would count that as service.

Reasonable people may differ on whether aiding in the education of social work students is more valuable than picking up trash.

Yet in my wife's student days, picking up trash would probably have done little good in the long run because (as the Boston Globe revealed) the government-supported housing projects developed or managed by Obama's friends, clients, and biggest contributors within 500 yards of the back of Chicago's School of Social Work were allowed to deteriorate by his political donors, pretty much destroying most of the temporary improvements made in that neighborhood.

For my wife, a future academic who grew up in a poor, racially diverse neighborhood, with parents who worked on assembly lines in small factories and had no college education (one had no high school education), she probably benefited more from her intern-like paid job in a library than she would have from picking up trash.
8.28.2008 9:10am
Horatio (mail):
"Mandatory Volunteerism"

Hmmmm...

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

"The [Obamessiah] Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The [Democratic Party] and the [Republican Party] came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
8.28.2008 9:20am
Michael B (mail):
Seven years, fifty hours a year, beginning in middle-school, "voluntary". Lovely.

Collective "voluntarism" is not voluntary, it's collectivism and a type of nascent or formative statism, it also erodes individuation and individually assigned and chosen ethical accomplishments. Genuine community proceeds out of the latter, not the former.
8.28.2008 9:30am
Ted S. (mail) (www):
The pimply-faced teenager who bags your groceries (and who helps the little old lady put them in her car) is providing just as much a service as the one supervized by a quango to pick up trash. Yet for some reason, only the things done for non-profits tend to count as "service".
8.28.2008 9:30am
A.S.:
I see no difference between requiring students to complete 50 hours of math or phys ed and requiring students to complete 50 hours of service. In both cases, an important educational value is being furthered - in the case of service, the value involves civics, which to me is just as important as math or phys ed.

To be sure, I would prefer to leave this to be decided at the local level, rather than federal. But we're moving toward federal control of scools anyway
8.28.2008 9:37am
BT:
This is concerning the post directly above which does not allow comments regarding Stanley Kurtz and his research into the Annenberg Archives. Kurtz was on Milt Rosenberg's show on WGN Radio (AM720) last night in Chicago. It was a remarkable show. Kurtz was on for the full two hours. There is now a pod cast available (I can't seem to copy it here) at Rosenberg's link at the WGN web site of the show. The long and short of it is the Obama campaign put on quite a show trying to discredit Kurtz through numerous callers and emailers.

Rosenburg attempted to get someone from Obama's campaign to come on the show to counter Kurtz prior to the show. The spokeman demanded the name of the station manager and then hung up on Rosenberg's staffer. Obama's national headquarters is down the street from WGN's studios. Many of the pro-Obama callers cited the talking points reported above. I don't wnat to hi-jack this thread but I thought that for anyone interested in Kurtz' research and the implications that it has on Obama's relationship with Ayers, etc. this would be importatnt information.
8.28.2008 10:06am
EPluribusMoney (mail):
This is horrible! As is all forced labor. It's so easy to support programs that force other people to do things.

Can you say "Obama Youth"?

If this happens I'll start a nonprofit that specializes in activities that result in libertarian and conservative oriented learning by the students. Free labor!

And young minds all reading Anthem and watching The Fountainhead!
8.28.2008 10:10am
EPluribusMoney (mail):
"I see no difference between requiring students to complete 50 hours of math or phys ed and requiring students to complete 50 hours of service."

The difference is that math and phys ed are important education, but mandatory community service teaches them the pernicious notion that the state is the boss whereas they should learn the opposite, that the individual, the people are sovereign.
8.28.2008 10:16am
Tracy Johnson (www):
I think even Eugene may remember the Young_Pioneer_organization_of_the_Soviet_Union
. I suppose they could be the Young Obama Komsomol...
8.28.2008 10:23am
Abraham Lincoln (mail):
The first black man with a good chance to become president, and he wants to bring back slavery. Fantastic.
8.28.2008 10:26am
Houston Lawyer:
Who came up with this "community service is good for you" meme for children anyway. The only community service I did in my life was for my Eagle Scout project. There I learned that some government group will claim full credit for the hard work you put in.

If we want to teach the kids something useful, require them to get a job.

Abe summarizes it best
8.28.2008 10:37am
guest003332:
"If being required to perform some activity in school really has that effect, what we are to make of mandatory P.E. and music? What about anything students are demanded to do at school that they might not choose on their own? (History? Trigonometry? Duck-duck-goose?)"

like homework?

"The first black man with a good chance to become president, and he wants to bring back slavery. Fantastic."

wow.
8.28.2008 10:39am
superdestroyer (mail):
Isn't the problems with most schools policy proposals is taht they are written by elite whites who have attended private college prep schools?

Education policy seems to be written by rich whites who attended schools with all smart people who wanted to learn, where no one worked a job, and where they plenty of free time for resume building.

After watching the HBO series about the pathetic Baltimore City High Schools, does anyone believe that a shcool district where most high schoolers read at the 4th grade level is going to be able to document a community service requirement.

As with most educational reforms, the poor schools will ignore them, the middle class schools with cut other programs to fund them, and the rich kid schools are already doing them.
8.28.2008 10:40am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

What is wrong with "forcing" healthy students to donate(blood)?


If you can ask that question with a straight face, you will not be able to comprehend any answer anyone might give.
8.28.2008 10:46am
runape (mail):
Jim,
I'm not positive, but I believe you are mischaracterizing (or at least failing to mention) several aspects of the policy.

First, I believe the Obama plan (based solely on the links you provided above) would be implemented through the imposition of conditions on the receipt of federal funds for public education. Similar conditions have repeatedly been upheld (e.g., the drinking age), and I'm not sure on what grounds you think they would be struck down in this case. Perhaps you could clarify?

Second, and relatedly, I believe Obama intends to implement the plan only in public schools. "Universal" strikes me as rhetorical, although it certainly is used confusingly by the campaign. But I believe the intended meaning is "essentially universal among public school students because most public school districts would be crazy to turn down federal funds."
8.28.2008 10:59am
runape (mail):
Edit: I see now you do mention once in your post that it's only public schools. If that's right, perhaps you could clarify throughout the post to avoid confusion?
8.28.2008 11:00am
Abraham Lincoln (mail):
@Ryan Waxx,

I'm pretty sure the suggestion that healthy students be forced to give blood was reductio ad absurdum of the argument that compulsory performance of a service that does good is okay, because the result is a perceived net benefit. To wit, the end justifies the means.
8.28.2008 11:02am
runape (mail):
Second edit: I see now in the comments you acknowledge the constitutional conditions point. I'm curious: on what ground do you think it would be struck down?
8.28.2008 11:03am
Dave N (mail):

What is wrong with "forcing" healthy students to donate(blood)?
If you can ask that question with a straight face, you will not be able to comprehend any answer anyone might give.
Umm, I think the original comment was in the spirit of Sarcastro, even though he has yet to visit this thread.
8.28.2008 11:03am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I am a conservative. I believe in small local government being the best kind of government.

I personally average 200-300 hours of community server per year. I believe that charity begins at home, community service makes me a better person and makes my community a better place to live.

I was an Eagle Scout and had to participate with and organize community service projects to obtain this award. My Eagle project was to organize, fund, and complete the restoration of the doorway of the a local historical site. I was 13 years old. There was over 1000 man-hours of labor in that project. 30 years later, I still have a sense of accomplishment when I see those doors.

However, I do this willingly. If I was forced to do it, I wouldn't do it with the same willing heart and I wouldn't gain from it.

This is my basic problem with liberal solutions. These are people with a good heart. They want to help people. They see the answers, but can't get anyone else to do what they want, so they turn to Government to force people into their mold of morality. People aren't charitable enough, fine, we'll have the Government pay for the Charity and extract the money by force in the form of taxes. People aren't doing enough community service, fine, we'll force criminals to do it as part of their sentencing. Still not enough people doing community service, fine, now we will force school children to do service work to be able to graduate.

Taxes do not equal Charity and Forced Service is not the same as willing service. Society won't change because you force them to act the way you want them to.

A willing heart and willing hands are what we want to encourage. Train non-profit organizations on how to maximize the efforts of occasional volunteers. Help them advertise their needs to their community. Teach people that service is fun. Train Schools and Churches how to organize service projects. Publicly recognize the outstanding accomplishments of volunteers in your community.

But don't ever think that forced service will change someone's heart. Tying things like graduation requirements into Service is wrong. It sends the wrong message.
8.28.2008 11:06am
Waldensian (mail):
Why pick on the kids? It seems to me that if we're going to force anyone to do "volunteer" work, it ought to be OLD people. In general, they have lots of relevant experience and skills. Many of them are just sitting around drawing Social Security checks in gross disproportion to how much money they contributed to that system. I say make them work, perhaps in some sort of physical labor (i.e. an Oliver-Twist like wheel). If they're going to die from overwork, well, they should just get on with it, and decrease the surplus population.
8.28.2008 11:08am
A.C.:
I doubt very much that the previous question was asked with a straight face.

That said: Everybody. Stop. Using. The. Public. Schools. As. An. Intervention. Point. For. Public. Policy.

On anything.

Last time I think it was the HPV vaccine we were discussing. I have no problem with the vaccine as such. I just think it's outrageous to use public school attendance as a way to make the vaccine mandatory. Same with community service.

If the Boy Scouts, a private university, or a church chooses to make community service a requirement for membership, that's fine with me. But leave the public schools out of it. Most families have no choice but to use them, so you've basically got a captive population for social engineering. That's what makes this proposal a problem. Of course, the proponents will say that's what makes this proposal attractive. Nobody is going to get me to agree with that worldview.

Now, if it were a matter of merely providing the opportunity for kids to get something, whether a vaccine or a chance to volunteer, then I have no problem with using the school property as a place to coordinate. A school is a big building that isn't in use all day. My only problem is with imposing non-educational requirements as terms of attendance. And I don't buy the arguments presented above that service is automatically educational. It may be, but that proposition has to be defended on a case-by-case basis.
8.28.2008 11:09am
therut:
If Obama wants involuntary workers I suggest he start with the sluggs on Medicare disability. About 90% of those I see in my Medical Practice are NOT disabled and are drawing a free welfare check. Put them to work first as "volunteers". Even they could at least be forced to get up and go someone and sit and stuff envelopes or separate rubber bands or something for their check. Coarse there would have to been police there as it would turn into a drug swap of their pain meds they are all on for chronic back pain. There is bound to be million in the under 40 age group. Most are already working for cash under the table so make them volunteer first before you go for the children.
8.28.2008 11:12am
glangston (mail):
This just seems like a prelude to paying taxes as an adult. The variable is the amount of time "volunteering" to help others.

Maybe kids could keep their classrooms neat and clean by volunteering to sweep, mop, vacuum and clean the windows.
8.28.2008 11:20am
Sarcastro (www):
I'm glad vassil petrov mentioned Hitler, because everyone knows it's a short, slippery slope from enforcing civic duty to invading countries and targeting sending people to concentration camps.
8.28.2008 11:20am
Kirk:
A.S.,
But we're moving toward federal control of schools anyway

No possibility, or desirability, that we push back? Just go with the flow?

runape,
I believe the Obama plan (based solely on the links you provided above) would be implemented through the imposition of conditions on the receipt of federal funds for public education.
That's an enormous bug, not a feature.
8.28.2008 11:36am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> The last time this issue was discussed on this site, some of the comments revealed concern that service learning is just a mask for ideologically driven forced labor. What's the evidence for this? I've never found anything like that to be true.

Advocates of "mandatory volunteering" have yet to explain what someone gets out of doing "meals on wheels" that they don't get from delivering for Dominos. Is not getting paid a benefit?

If they're going to be forced to clean up parks, how about forcing them to do front yard work for private property as well?
8.28.2008 11:38am
PLR:
Why is the Kurtz thread not open for comment?
8.28.2008 11:39am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
As you can see, Dave N... its very much not in the spirit of Sarcastro, since he's never seen a statist-liberal idea he won't defend.
8.28.2008 11:44am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
lindgren:

it is unclear yet how much better John McCain is on service


Good point. Some information about that is here:

Putting the "National" in National Service

AmeriCorps works. In the wake of Sept. 11, it is time to make the national service program bigger

By Sen. John McCain

Though today's young people, according to polls, have little faith in politics, they are great believers in service. … It is time we tapped that urge for great national ends.

If we are to have a resurgence of patriotic service in this country, then programs like AmeriCorps must be expanded …

More than a decade ago, the patron saint of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley, Jr., offered an eloquent and persuasive conservative case for national service. …

… when Clinton initiated AmeriCorps in 1994, most Republicans in Congress, myself included, opposed it. We feared it would be another "big government program" that would undermine true volunteerism, waste money in "make-work" projects, or be diverted into political activism. We were wrong. …

… more and more of my GOP colleagues have changed their minds about the program. Forty-nine of 50 governors, 29 of them Republicans, signed a letter last year urging Congress to support AmeriCorps. One of the signers was then-Texas Governor George W. Bush. …

I believe AmeriCorps needs to be expanded …the whole national service enterprise should be expanded… National service is a crucial means of making our patriotism real, to the benefit of both ourselves and our country.

John McCain is a U.S. Senator from Arizona.


McCain is obviously a Marxist.
8.28.2008 11:45am
LIly (mail):
Our Government claims ownership to our money - now they want to claim ownership to our time. Will someone please explain how this is not tyranny?
8.28.2008 11:49am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
jukeboxgrad - as seen above, I'm a little sarcam-challenged today. So I'll ask straight out - is this sarcasm, or do you truly not comprehend the difference between voluntary and psuedo-voluntary?
8.28.2008 11:49am
Dan Weber (www):
Why pick on the kids?

Because they are smaller than us. Duh!
8.28.2008 11:52am
Javert:

2. The author of this essay is out of touch with the reality of the state of the nation if he believes that young parents today are at all concerned with teaching their children about the value of volunteering.
Ah, the voice of the people has spoken, and presumes to know what concerns "young parents today."

Why is it not obvious that Obama lusts for the power to, among many other things, control how I raise my child? Why is it not obvious that service to the state (at age 10 or 11!) is the ideology of totalitarianism? Do people need to see "brownshirts" marching in the streets before they will grasp the implications of an Obama child corps?
8.28.2008 11:54am
vassil petrov (mail):
Sarcastro,

I'm glad vassil petrov mentioned Hitler, because everyone knows it's a short, slippery slope from enforcing civic duty to invading countries and targeting sending people to concentration camps.

It may not be short, but it is a slippery slope. It erodes values of freedom of association. And of the meaning of words. "Enforcing civic duty" is nothing but doublespeak.
8.28.2008 11:59am
JAL (mail):
Just sent #4 kid off to college.

Two of the four were in a HS which required community service (working on campus in media library counted). The 4th was in NHS which required 10 hours a year (x 2 years). Community library work counted. Problem with #4 was it was hard to find local community service 'work.' The hospital wasn't taking any more volunteer kids. She ended up at a food bank which meant she (or we) drove 10 or 15 miles each way. Nice.

Three of the kids did summer mission work for anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks, here and/or abroad. Does that count?

Who is going to provide the jobs, create the jobs, supervise the jobs and get the kids to the jobs?? Obama's people? Or some poor teacher who just wants to *teach*? Or another federal employee who can never be fired?

Why does everything the groupie-think-people want to do involve more and more positions and more and more paper work? (Mandatory vounteering equals thousands and thousands of dead trees for absolutely no reason but to make do gooders feel gooder. Do us all a favor -- Save the trees.)

Forget the schools. You guys who are so flip about the kids doing it at school have no idea what it's like. REAL educational things are getting shunted aside because of heavy layers of state (tied to federal) requirements.

My last kid did honors and AP classes, NHS, 4-H, Pony Club, cello and worked part time. Worked in the church nursery regularly. Oh yea, and her NHS volunteer work. And a mission trip.... Sometimes she slept.

So who is going to do the paper work to satisfy the apparatchiks that her nursery duty was worthy of credit for "volunteer" community servce? It is none of their *&^% business.

She was just a high school kid, and she only got to do this once. She did not need to be told she had to do one more thing (except do the dishes ;-) ). I am sure she will be a productive member of society. MAKING people do things for the good of the state (who defines that?) is very very intrusive.

She doesn't belong to the State and neither do we. The State belongs to We, the people.

Barak Obama apparently didn't learn that growing up, or from Saul Alinksy or Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright or Father Pflegler.

Does it help people to volunteer (the volunteers as well as the project)? Of course. But instead of extorting it, how about exhorting a culture of volunteerism ... oops! Wait ... think post hurricane relief work ... think tsunami relief donations ... think ... fill in the blanks, folks ....

Mandatory volunteerism, or even mandatory community service is not what we want, need or desire. More people need to realize what this guy has in mind to "organize" us.
8.28.2008 12:01pm
LIly (mail):
Lets be clear: Volunteerism is good and noble and benefits both the helper and those they help. Government using its force to make you 'volunteer' is tyranny, and robs the volunteer of the true benefits of freely giving of their time to benefit others.

Its beyond me how so many cannot see the distinction.

Also, a mass of volunteers will overwhelm the system, and what we will see is a lot of young people's time wasted doing meaningless things just to 'fill the required time'.
8.28.2008 12:04pm
Seamus (mail):
I'm glad vassil petrov mentioned Hitler, because everyone knows it's a short, slippery slope from enforcing civic duty to invading countries and targeting sending people to concentration camps.

So the Hitler-Jugend would have been OK if it just hadn't led to "invading countries and targeting sending people to concentration camps"?
8.28.2008 12:06pm
Sam H (mail):
You know, this might not be such a bad idea. Just think about all the pissed-off kids. Being forced to labor for "the needs of the many" may push them away from the left years early.
8.28.2008 12:15pm
A.C.:
What does this do to the use of "community service" as a way to punish kids for minor lawbreaking? If everyone is doing community service, we'll probably have to think of something more burdensome.
8.28.2008 12:19pm
John Fahy (mail):
I'm not a lawyer, but doesn't this run afoul of that pesky 13th amendment?
8.28.2008 12:20pm
Adam J:
Some people don't have a very good grasp on what tyranny and slavery are. I wonder if these folks also think its tyranny and slavery for the government to not allow children to buy cigarettes or booze, or to force children to go to school.

Don Miller- I think its wonderful you devote so much time to charity. Perhaps you were introduced to it at home, and discovered its rewards. Myself, I was introduced to it while in high school, which did have required community service. It was probably one of the most important educational experience of my life, one I might never have learned had it not been for high school. The program doesn't force adults to do community service, it forces children. We force children to do alot of things, so that they are equipped to make the best choices for themselves when they're adults. I don't see how this is any different from forcing kids to learn history, or science, or gym, or one of the million other skills learned in school that may be useless, but also may help the child make the best choices for himself when he is an adult.
8.28.2008 12:22pm
BigSac (mail) (www):
Isn't forced labor with no compensation called slavery? Is it ironic that our first black President would propose a modern slavery system?

Just my thoughts....
8.28.2008 12:26pm
John P (mail):
Isn't unpaid, forced child labor, like, against the law? We used to call this slavery.
8.28.2008 12:26pm
Waldensian (mail):

Me: Why pick on the kids?
Dan Weber: Because they are smaller than us. Duh!

Point taken, but it's my sneaking suspicion that most old-people can be readily manhandled, or successfully threatened, into doing "community service" work.

Two words, just two words: withhold meds.
8.28.2008 12:33pm
James N (mail):
Obama's proposal is absolutely terrifying and made me recall the horrific "national service" requirements while growing up in Guyana.

At the time Guyana had a population of barely 650,000 people and yet had the following military and para-military groups; Guyana Defense Force, Guyana Police, the People's Militia, and National Service (actually a paramilitary force). One can well imagine how much of a drain these groups were on national resources.

Add to that the requirement for all school children to spend countless hours in the hot tropical sun practicing for "Mass Games" to be staged for the country's independence celebrations (based on the North Korean practice. The then president of Guyana visited North Korea and fell in love with their "mass games").

This national service proposal is simply East African socialism in disguise (read Kenyatta, Nyrere, Nkrumah and others); just as Obama's relatives are practicing it in Kenya and as it was attempted in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

The upshot of "national service" in Guyana was that the country slipped from its status as the "bread basket of the Caribbean" under British rule to one rivaling Haiti as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

The final straw was when the government mandated that all "civil servants" must volunteer to cut sugar cane as part of their national service. My mother decided that we'd be better off migrating to the U.S.

I can't help but think that this is part of Bill Ayers' philosophy adopted by Obama since Ayers made similar proposals under the guise of transforming education in Venezuela.

FWIW, I'm a black man but I wasn't thinking of voting for Obama - there are lots of blacks who think like me - and this proposal certainly gives me further pause.
8.28.2008 12:35pm
Adam J:
John P - Actually, I believe "unpaid, forced child labor" is done all the time, except we call it grade school.
8.28.2008 12:35pm
Dana H.:
The positive comments here toward mandatory service are a depressing reminder of how thoroughly collectivism and a "service to others" mentality have infiltrated a country that once stood for freedom and individualism. If my children are ever forced into this despicable service corps, I'll make sure that the charity they work for is the Ayn Rand Institute.

While this article focuses on Obama's proposal, McCain also has his own mandatory national service scheme. So I don't see much difference between the candidates on this issue. Neither one stands up for the right of the individual to his own life.
8.28.2008 12:36pm
LIly (mail):
Well Adam J - at least you admit that its using "force".

Government should intrude in the life of its people as little as possible. Protecting children from cigarettes when they are not really capable of making informed choices about their health is quite a different thing from forcing them to 'work' one or two hours a week 'for their own good'.

Also, requiring them to learn reading, math and science - knowledge which is necessary to get along in life on a basic level - is quite different from "you should volunteer because it will make you a finer person".

And there is a lot of nonsense being 'taught' in schools today. I would support streamlining the schools' curriculum. Afterall, American's average public school kids are not exactlying excelling in the basics, are they? Its is far more important that the kids read, write and calculate well than is it that they volunteer at this stage. Leave the character development to the parents.
8.28.2008 12:40pm
EG:
JAL hits the nail on the head. This isn't about helping people. This is about organizing.
8.28.2008 12:41pm
Terry Pack (mail):
A true *leader* would increase volunteerism though encouragement and example, not financial blackmail or irresponsible regulation. See JFK's Peace Corp as an example.

One could also look at the GI bill and our (truly) volunteer military as a better example of a way to have government encourage participation. In this event, colleges themselves are not forced to send students to boot camp, but those who choose boot camp are provided *additional* benefits in the form of college tuition. This sweetens the pot a bit without taking away something that citizens already have.

The proposal by Obama is, like most of his suggestions, a well-intentioned disaster. My kids participate in charity through their church. I refuse to have to fill out a fricking federal form to explain it to avoid some other penalty.

Obama is bad, bad, bad news for America.
8.28.2008 12:42pm
Doug Deal (mail):
This was the one thing that stood out at me when I first read Obama's platform. It is amazing that the man who could potentially be the first black President would propose what amounts to involuntary servitude, which is also known by another much more incendiary name. For now, I move that we call this his "Freedom Chains Initiative".
8.28.2008 12:43pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
Adam J

The program doesn't force adults to do community service, it forces children. We force children to do alot of things, so that they are equipped to make the best choices for themselves when they're adults. I don't see how this is any different from forcing kids to learn history, or science, or gym, or one of the million other skills learned in school that may be useless, but also may help the child make the best choices for himself when he is an adult.


Adam,

You make a good point about forcing children to do things because it is good for them, but you miss the big picture.

The role of schools is to teach children how to read and write.

I support schools providing volunteer opportunities for students. But forced volunteerism by government isn't volunteerism, it is servitude.

It is great that you learned a lesson from the Government forcing you to do something. But just because you learned a good lesson from it, doesn't mean that is the best solution for teaching the same lesson to others.
8.28.2008 12:44pm
LIly (mail):
And I'm not exactly excelling in spelling - sorry.
8.28.2008 12:44pm
Adam J:
LIly - "Protecting children from cigarettes when they are not really capable of making informed choices about their health is quite a different thing from forcing them to 'work' one or two hours a week 'for their own good'." Reasonable minds disagree here- having done mandatory community service in school, I found it to be for my own good. I never would have voluntarily spent time away from friends, tv and video games, probably because I was a child "not really capable of making informed choices". Having the choice taken away from me was a good thing, it forced me to try something new, and thanks it I learned the value of community service, and I now spend time volunteering as a Big Brother &gain immense satisfaction from it. Frankly, I'm a happier person for having the mandatory community service I had in school. Obviously some people won't be, but that's the point of school, to force a crapload of different experiences on children so they can make informed choices when they are adults.
8.28.2008 12:53pm
Sarcastro (www):
When will the Finnish, Israeli and Mexican slaves rise up? It's worse than Guyana up in there! Hitler youths everywhere!

American society has never been about working together is you don't want to, it is only about freedom and rugged individualism!
8.28.2008 12:57pm
Dan Weber (www):
John P - Actually, I believe "unpaid, forced child labor" is done all the time, except we call it grade school.

The students retain the fruits of the labor: their education.

They're not doing math problems for IBM, or geography questions for an oil company, or spelling checks for the Washington Post.

How do you think mandatory service is going to affect the high school dropout rate? Especially to a junior who skipped the labor requirements during freshman and sophomore year?
8.28.2008 1:00pm
Adam J:
Don Miller- It is great that I did, and I think other children did, and will, learn from it as well. I disagree with your view of the role of schools. Education goes far beyond learning to read and write- and frankly, if schools limit themselves to just this, they will be leaving alot of children behind that don't have an opportunity to learn other life skills at home. You are free to disagree, and your vote certainly means your disagreement matters. Frankly, I think the best argument against this is that its probably a choice that should be made by local governments, not national ones.
8.28.2008 1:02pm
LIly (mail):
Adam J: Just because you feel you are a "happer" person for volunteering as a child does not give you the right to support Government's intrusion into others' lives for the purpose of 'making them happier'.

And the "point of school" is not to expose them to "different experiences". It is TO TEACH THE BASIC SKILLS THEY NEED TO GET ALONG IN LIFE such as reading, writing and calcuation.

Good grief. What are we coming to? Reasonable minds indeed!
8.28.2008 1:14pm
LIly (mail):
Also, because some children have less than ideal circumstances at home is not an arguement for bringing all children under the aupices of the state.
8.28.2008 1:17pm
Wallace:
I used to work with juvenile offenders in a residential program. Once, we got a call from a local charity that wanted some kids who would like help out with one of their fund-raisers by cooking and serving barbecue.

Juvenile offenders often had a record of minor crimes before getting sent to the residential program. The most popular sentence for these misdemeanors? Community service. So, when I first floated the idea to the kids about volunteering for the barbecue, one of them shot back:

"Volunteer service? Why? I ain't done nothing wrong!"
8.28.2008 1:21pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Why not lead by example instead? Don't force kids to volunteer, inspire 'em by permitting congressmen and senators to serve one month every legislative session without compensation. I await passage of such a measure by acclamation.

Er... crickets?
8.28.2008 1:24pm
steve albert (mail):
I am writing from Montreal. In Canada we have tried this kind of thing.

The Company of Young Canadians,a government sponsored volunteer corps, was a flop. In the 1970s, the federal government also ran string of youth hostels,none of which are still operating. The government gave grants to any number of volunteer groups,most which became stridently political.

Its strange that, in the U.S. a country which is known for it volunteerism,anyone would think that this kind of thing was necessary.

It reminds one of the New Deal programs that we copied in the 1970s. Of course, conditions in 1970s were nothing like those in the Great Depression. It goes without saying that, despite all the gloom and doom from the Democrats, the U.S. is not in the same shape as it was in the 1930s either.
8.28.2008 1:25pm
Avatar (mail):
Someone raised the issue of cleaning the school as part of service. The Japanese actually do this - students are assigned to a rota for who needs to clean the classroom after class. Like a lot of other Japanese school regulations, it's "mandatory but unenforced" - they won't actually do anything to students who tell them to get stuffed, but they'll employ shame to get 'em to do it.

Biggest problem with importing that here is going to be transportation. The Japanese walk home or take public transportation - they don't have school buses. A lot of US students, quite literally, have no other way to get home besides that school bus. Requiring them to stay after school is requiring one of their parents to come get them...

Back to the main issue... It's not like I didn't do any community service back in the day. I was in Teen Court, I was in the Scouts, I built a bridge for a service project. (Didn't actually file for Eagle - they don't cotton to agnostics - but even if I didn't actually get it, I earned it. ;p) But it would have been pretty darned annoying to have had to document hours spent here or hours spent there! I'd have probably done less of it if I were just trying to tick off a box on the appropriate form.

On top of that, what happens when school administrators don't approve specific forms of service? "Sorry, your church volunteer work doesn't count, we only count officially approved government volunteer work"? Great, more lawsuits, that's exactly what we need.
8.28.2008 1:28pm
Fat Man (mail):
Worried that we are on the Road to Serfdom? You will not be able to say that you were not warned:

Michelle Obama's speech at UCLA 3 Feb 08:


"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation and that you move out of your comfort zone. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual -- uninvolved, uninformed -- you have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged."


Like the Gambler says: "Read them, and weep".
8.28.2008 1:30pm
Val Prieto (mail) (www):
They still have "mandatory volunteerism" in Cuba called "escuelas de campo", where kids are sent away to the fields for two or three weeks of "volunteer" work. Now, I dont know what Obama calls his similar plan, but in Cuba it's still known as "communism."
8.28.2008 1:31pm
A.C.:
Also, what makes people think volunteer programs scale? Even leaving aside my complaint that the government has no business imposing this through the schools (or any other way, but using the schools is particularly galling), shouldn't we be considering the OUTPUT of all that volunteer time? I submit that one school with a few hundred kids might do a good job at putting those kids into valuable volunteer opportunities like Adam J had. And I'm sure there are kids who make valuable contributions to community organizations, including their own schools.

But does that mean we can scale this up to a national level and get the results to increase in proportion to the number of people enrolled? I would tend to doubt it.

I know I read a book about this at some point, and the author may have been with the Harvard School of Public Health. It was about providing free government money to successful nonprofits in order to make them bigger and help them serve more people. One of two things always seemed to happen. Either the enlarged nonprofit captured the funding agency to keep the money flowing (a sort of a charitable-industrial complex), or the funding agency captured the nonprofit and turned it into another government bureaucracy. Whatever was innovative and tailored to local circumstances got squeezed out by the latter process.

If it's free labor rather than free money, I suspect that the latter would be more likely. Whatever agency approved the service programs would eventually develop a formula, and kids everywhere would be stuck doing the same make-work projects. Regardless of local need. Treating everyone the same is mostly a virtue in government, but in this case it isn't.

And then there's the question of how useful all this unskilled labor will be, especially at younger ages. I suppose the older kids could do physical work, but does anyone else remember how hard it was to shovel snow before they got their adult height and musculature? I suspect it would make more sense to hire people in their late teens and early 20s, train them properly, and let them do real projects that they could focus on for an extended period of time. Maybe something like, I don't know, Americorps?
8.28.2008 1:31pm
Jeff K (mail):
This idea will never gain traction for one important reason- the public sector unions will stop it immediately because it steps on their tuf. A decade or so in Philly, there was a volunteer movement started by local businesses to spruce up a park that had been neglected. The businesses actually paid their employees to pick up trash and plant some flowers. They were beaten up by members of AFSCME, the local public workers union, because, after all, that should have been work they were paid to do by the city.

At some point, the voluntary program will step on the wrong toes or will impact on someone's turf. For example, what will the teachers unions say when a state sponsored project for high school kids starts sending them into elementary schools as unpaid tutors. After all, isn't it likely the union will think that only paid, dues paying memebers should have that role.

The idea may sound great to some out of Obama's mouth, but it affects too many entrenched Democratic constituencies.
8.28.2008 1:37pm
Justin (mail):
Jim

According to this article, Kurtz's actual words were: "Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at the behest of Bill Ayers."
8.28.2008 1:39pm
Another Nick (mail):
This mandatory service issue was an old Kennedy policy that they attempted to make into state law in Maryland in 1992.


NY Times
8.28.2008 1:46pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Mandatory volunteerism is oxymoronic; a careful thinker like Obama should see that and take it off the table.

Housing the poor is a thorny issue:

1. We don't want the poor to live in dumpsters.
2. The top-down, public housing model has failed completely. The high rises built post-WWII have almost universally been torn down.
3. The bottoms-up, community-organized public-private model fails when crooks and/or incompetents try to manage the housing.
4. The assumption is that developers/operators of market-rate housing will not house the poor, because it is unprofitable.
8.28.2008 1:51pm
Suzy (mail):
First let me reply to Prof. Lindgren's message. I will grant you that the proposal is intended to include 6th graders, most of whom are 11 going on 12 that year. Some small fraction of them are 10. So you're choosing to mention only that smallest fraction of those who would be involved in the program, and then you leap immediately to calling them part of a "civilian national security force". Obama was mentioning this specifically in the context of discussing the burdens on the military, so do we have a reason to think he intends to populate it with ten year olds doing forced labor?
Also, do we have a reason to think that helping other students in a library would not be considered appropriate service work? I saw nothing to suggest that.
8.28.2008 1:56pm
anonymous_lib (mail):
I don't understand what your complaint is. Obama is simply tying federal school funds to a particular requirement. The feds do that all the time. If a local community doesn't want to comply, they can opt out of the funds. Isn't that what you claim to support? Local governments choosing to accept or not accept help?

One would think you would support this kind of measure, if only to see local communities give up reliance on federal funds. Or perhaps you'd rather see unfettered access to federal funds?
8.28.2008 2:05pm
theobromophile (www):
Ryan Waxx,

My comment was not meant as you take it; it was, indeed, a reducto ad absurdum.

I'm not Sarcastro; I'm a libertarian; and I've been commenting on this site for two years. The latter should have given you a clue as to every previous statement.
8.28.2008 2:06pm
The Unbeliever:
Please don't make the mistake of discounting the enormous lack of patriotism and civil engagement among young people today.
Are these the same young people who are so notoriously head-over-heels enthralled with Barak Obama? Can we discount their enthusiasm as the shallow naivete of an unexperienced, unengaged segment, or must we be continually subjected to commericals and viral videos where they gush about Hope and Change?

And why is it OK to question the patriotism of a teenager who wants to work at McD's in his spare time, but it's a horrible thing (and racist!) to question Obama's patriotism?

A program that requires positive action is no different from one that requires school attendance. Activism for young people is just another form of education!
Forcing teenagers to clean up at a nursing home is not activism. It may be a bit educational, but I'll posit the nation as a whole would be better off by requiring an additional high school course in Economics than by having kids pick up trash by the side of the road.
8.28.2008 2:08pm
zippypinhead:
I wonder if to some extent Obama's "goal" is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. People who think that at least middle-class kids aren't already doing a fair chunk of community service work are deluding themselves. Between my 8th grader's mandatory "service hours" requirement for for his public school (that counts toward his social studies grade), his church pre-confirmation service obligation, and the service component of Boy Scouts, he recently calculated that he owes a minimum of 30 hours of community service this year, even assuming he does the maximum amount of double-counting he can get away with (e.g., 100% of his church service can be credited toward Boy Scout service requirements for advancement to any rank below Eagle Scout).
8.28.2008 2:12pm
Suzy (mail):
A few replies to several messages at once. First, and most importantly, the aspects of this proposal that have to do with voluntary service or "charity" are being completely confused with the service learning aspects. I read that he wants to effectively "require" service learning by tying it to financial rewards for the public schools. I do not read anything about "requiring" volunteer service in any other context, do you? Where is evidence of this?

When it comes to volunteering, I read that he is proposing a kind of larger-scale United Way style matching of willing volunteers with appropriate programs. How this gets translated into mandated labor like cutting sugar cane is beyond me. No evidence that this is what he has in mind, and no evidence that we would indeed fall down the slippery slope to commie work programs because we've encouraged more people to voluntarily engage in service. The proposal specifically talks about the current problem that many people wish to serve, including this large retiring baby boomer population, though we have few effective ways of matching up their talents with the opportunities.

Now, back to the required service learning proposal for a moment. Service learning is not about teaching morality, any more than the forced practice of civics or hand-washing or rope-climbing is about teaching morality. Service learning is also about learning, not just about things like picking up trash because it makes somebody feel warm inside. The argument is absolutely NOT that "compulsory performance of a service that does good is okay, because the result is a perceived net benefit." The argument is that compulsory performance of the service is good because it improves learning and academic performance and graduate rates. How so?

Most students will learn a language better when they can practice speaking it with native speakers. Most students will learn math better when they can teach it to someone else or put it into practice solving real problems. Most students will become better critical thinkers and managers when they have to practice organizing and executing a project themselves. Learning by doing is not the only way of learning, but it is a powerful reinforcement of other methods and most students retain information better when they can have this sort of practice. Don't trust me--plenty of empirical study supports this.

Big E. wants his/her kid to have an internship in a career rather than engaging in "volunteer" service. However, the service learning class that kid takes in his/her major in college is likely to offer precisely the sort of real-life experience (not to mention networking contacts) that the internship provides. The pre-med student now has real experience interacting with patients. The advertising student has real experience putting together a marketing campaign. Where is the downside? How is forcing this somehow in a different class from forcing a pop quiz on the same subjects? Is there any evidence that the traditional homework assignment or quiz is going to produce more "learning" or expertise than the service project would?

We force students to do all kinds of things. If we're forcing them to do it just so they can "feel good", then you're all right, it's asinine. My point is that this is not what service learning is all about. Look into it, you might be pleasantly surprised.
8.28.2008 2:15pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
anonymous_lib

One would think you would support this kind of measure, if only to see local communities give up reliance on federal funds. Or perhaps you'd rather see unfettered access to federal funds?


Yeah, I know it is not a real argument, but I will bite

The Federal Government is BROKE. They have more programs than they can afford.

Obama is proposing more and more programs, but the money doesn't exist to pay for them.

I would much prefer the Feds give up funding schools at all levels. If a community decides that their school needs that money, they can pass a local option tax of somekind to pay for it.

Lets propose this "National Service Idea". Our road infrastructure is breaking down. The Federal Government should withhold Highway funding from any State or Community that doesn't require all driver's license holders spend 20 days per year working on a road crew in community service to solve this terrible National problem.

I mean, its good for the good of the country, you would be happy to give up 4 weeks of pay for better roads, right?
8.28.2008 2:22pm
LIly (mail):

Obama is simply tying federal school funds to a particular requirement


So let me get this straight. He taxes our money away from us for some stated purpose: to fund eduction, for example. But only returns it to you if you complete some other, fairly unrelated activity: compusory volunteerism. Isn't that a little like paying for something twice?
8.28.2008 2:23pm
Should be bar studying:
Let's not forget kids are people too. People with a real sense of individuality, even if they haven't truly learned all the ropes of society. Within the distribution of kids a material number, you can be sure, aren't going to take the service requirement quietly.

Volunteering down at the old folks home? Clog the toilets with toilet paper rolls, unplug some computers, and go bang on some doors and freak out some old folks.

We have to paint the hallways in the school? Oops, this bucket of paint just spilled all over the carpet.

We have to serve soup at a soup kitchen? This old bandaid and these scabs will give the soup a little more flavor.

Even if just 1% or 2% of the kids that are forced to volunteer take this sort of attitude, all the program has done is created more work for real adult workers to clean up the mess.
8.28.2008 2:25pm
theobromophile (www):
A thought:

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

2 Corin. 9:7

I know that this is not a religion blog, but why on earth would a man who calls himself a Christian make a proposal which effectively forces people to "volunteer"?
8.28.2008 2:26pm
Should be bar studying:
Suzy,
I have a real hard time believing there are people that are willing to serve, but don't have an effective way to do it. Apparently they don't really want to serve all that badly if they can't walk to their nearest church or Goodwill store, open a phone book, or conduct a google search.
8.28.2008 2:29pm
Hans Blix:
Keep Suzy and her cockamamie feel-good ideas away from my three kids! ;-)
8.28.2008 2:29pm
Adam J:
Dan Weber - I don't understand the relevance... if they were doing math problems for exxon would they be any less rewarded with knowledge? Forced labor for children happens all the time, it's called chores, it's called homework, its called tests. I don't see how having other beneficiaries makes it wrong. I had a mandatory internship in college too (which came into effect after I was admitted to school no less)... was that slavery?

Lili- We already support intrusion into children's welfare by the state for the purposes of education, so I have no idea what you're talking about when you say that I can't support this "intrusion". I think that learning about helping others is a valuable education tool. Most people would think there's a whole lot more then reading and writing involved in the "basic skills of life". Is it bad to have mandatory classes we are unlikely to use frequently in life? It might help children better figure out what they want to do when they grow up.

"Also, because some children have less than ideal circumstances at home is not an arguement [sic] for bringing all children under the aupices [sic] of the state." What qualifies as "some" children? You and I have to come under the auspices of the state to learn a whole lotta things that didn't help us but help others. I doubt your using chemistry and biology much these days. Yet I suspect a whole lotta scientists would never become scientists unless they were "forced" to be exposed to science as children.
8.28.2008 2:34pm
The Unbeliever:
Most students will learn a language better when they can practice speaking it with native speakers.
So make sure their foreign language teachers are native speakers.
Most students will learn math better when they can teach it to someone else or put it into practice solving real problems.
That's why schools came up with "word problems".
Most students will become better critical thinkers and managers when they have to practice organizing and executing a project themselves.
So have a class project. Or join an extracurricular activity club. Or hold school spirit rallys where the students are encouraged to put together a presentation.

No facet of education you've suggested throughout this thread would be better imparted to students via mandatory volunteerism, than through a robust classroom curriculum.
8.28.2008 2:35pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
theobromophile:

My comment was not meant as you take it; it was, indeed, a reducto ad absurdum.


Sorry then... I'm 0 for 2 on the 'detecting sarcasm' game today. And yet, the parodies are so hard to tell from the real thing... shouldn't that tell the statists something?
8.28.2008 2:36pm
Fub:
Waldensian wrote at 8.28.2008 10:08am:
Why pick on the kids? It seems to me that if we're going to force anyone to do "volunteer" work, it ought to be OLD people. In general, they have lots of relevant experience and skills. Many of them are just sitting around drawing Social Security checks in gross disproportion to how much money they contributed to that system.
Hey! I resemble that remark!

Silliness aside, you've hit on an issue (how to manage skilled and truly voluntary volunteers) with which I have been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Short version: it ain't trivial.

Longer version: skilled volunteers often share a common misconception with unskilled volunteers. Often neither understands the importance of quotidian tasks being done regularly and routinely. For example, how do you convince a damned good volunteer engineer that not only is clever scrounging, kludging and installation of good equipment important, but also sweeping up the mess, or refilling the soap dispensers in the rest rooms. Even worse: responding to the midnight phone call, driving red lights and siren to an isolated site to fix the cable the mice chewed and crashed the system. "Not my job description" is the deadliest enemy of any volunteer organization.

New unskilled volunteers often feel they are being denied entrance to some imagined inner circle of grand poobahs if they are asked to do routine and sometimes unpleasant stuff. Skilled volunteers often take positive umbrage at it, because they think their skills are far too important to waste their time with such mundane tasks.

Those who ultimately keep any truly volunteer organization afloat and functioning well are those who recognize the importance of both kinds of work, and perform both kinds willingly as necessary, usually in the same day.

Maybe that's why, as legend has it, visitors to zen monasteries are often surprised to discover that the old monk they saw sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets during their weekend stay is actually the roshi.
I say make them work, perhaps in some sort of physical labor (i.e. an Oliver-Twist like wheel). If they're going to die from overwork, well, they should just get on with it, and decrease the surplus population.
I'll settle for peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather; not screaming in terror like the passengers on his bus.
8.28.2008 2:36pm
Sarcastro (www):
[theobromophile I'd conter with Matthew 22:21. The Bible doesn't have too much to say about government, only the Church.
8.28.2008 2:40pm
Hans Blix:
Adam J sez: "Yet I suspect a whole lotta scientists would never become scientists unless they were 'forced' to be exposed to science as children."

Puleezz, the grease you're pouring on this slippery slope is reducing the coefficient of friction to near zero.

Regardless of any of this idea's potential merits, as recounted in painful detail above, mandatory "voluntary" charity community service is fundamentally against the America character, our Founding principles of self-reliance, limited government and non-state imposed charity, and, frankly, a scary means, of course,"for the children" to slipstream even more govt control into local matters.
8.28.2008 2:42pm
LIly (mail):
Adam J: I just can share your enthusiasm for Government control of our lives. These mediocre people holding office, and their backup bureaucracy making decisions about how I and my children should spend our time - deciding for us what is in our best interest.

That you cannot see the difference between teaching someone to read and calculate -- and requiring them to participate in certain activities for their "personal growth" is maddening.

We tolerate some intrusion of Government into our lives. But we need to seek to limit it, to keep it to a minimum -- not to look for ways to expand it.

I think, sir, that you are what my mother would call a busy body.
8.28.2008 2:51pm
LIly (mail):
Sorry: I need to work on my editing: I meant: I cannot share your enthusiam
8.28.2008 2:52pm
theobromophile (www):
Ryan Waxx - I think I've had those mornings, too. No worries.

Sarcastro: it's not relevant. Without turning this into a religion debate: Matthew 22:21 is about the justice of the tax imposed upon Jews. From Ryrie: "The burning question in the minds of many Jews of that day was simply this: if God gave the land of Israel to the Hebrews, and if God meant them to live there, and if He received their sacrifices and offerings in acknowledgment of His relationship to them, how could they pay tribute to any other power, king, god, or person? If Christ said that they should pay, they could then charge Him with disloyalty to Judiasm; if He said no, they could denounce him to the Romans."

Matthew merely states that you still owe taxes to your sovereign; it does not sanction, as wise and infallible, everything that a sovereign may demand of a person. 2 Corin. tells us that charity and giving must be totally voluntary - it must be that which a person has decided in his heart to give. Obama ought to know that you cannot force people - by receipt of federal funds or otherwise - to develop that spirit.

To put it another way: Matthew 22:21 also tells us to render unto God what is God's, not render unto Caesar what is God's. So you're proving my point. :)
8.28.2008 2:53pm
Waldensian (mail):

Please don't make the mistake of discounting the enormous lack of patriotism and civil engagement among young people today.

Other than the thousands and thousands volunteering to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, you mean.
8.28.2008 2:55pm
Adam J:
Hans Blix- so to clarify, you're not attacking the merits but claiming its a "slippery slope" and against the "American Character". Way to make a nice substansive argument. And I like how you round out your comment by obfuscating the issue with your newly invented oxymoronic term "mandatory voluntary charity community service."
8.28.2008 2:55pm
gallileo:
Suzy,

Even conceding for the sake of argument all the beautiful outcomes and pleasant results which you claim, can you address the practical issues of millions of very part-time volunteers and the supervision they would require?

And the paperwork necessary to track it--from schools that can barely meet the no-child-left behind requirements?

And the additional employees needed to track it all?

What I am hearing from the proponents is something along the lines of, "With a perfect system, everything would go perfectly." Which is true, but not very helpful. You can't get the program to be successful in its goals by fiat, and the numerous practical barriers simply haven't been addressed.

Remember, we are talking about inner-city schools here, as well as the middle- and upper-class ones.

The schools already have too much on their plate. Just getting basic literacy right is a big deal for most schools, and now you want to mandate another hour a week? If anything, we should be reducing the burden on schools, not increasing it.
8.28.2008 2:56pm
Sam H (mail):
And we haven't discussed the tens of thousdands of paid workers required to run this program. That is the classic Democratic ploy, put lots of people on the government payroll who's jobs depend on you getting relected. Hey, it has worked in Chicago for years and years.
8.28.2008 2:57pm
Val Prieto (mail) (www):
Suzy,

I read that he wants to effectively "require" service learning by tying it to financial rewards for the public schools.

This is exactly the way the do it in Cuba. Individual schools are rewarded by the amount of that schools "safra", or the amount of, say, cane their students harvest. Thus, what happens is that you have school officials forcing students to "volunteer" harder, or, as you like to put it, "learn more service."

How this gets translated into mandated labor like cutting sugar cane is beyond me. No evidence that this is what he has in mind, and no evidence that we would indeed fall down the slippery slope to commie work programs because we've encouraged more people to voluntarily engage in service.

The thing is, it's not "encouraged", it is forced.

The proposal specifically talks about the current problem that many people wish to serve, including this large retiring baby boomer population, though we have few effective ways of matching up their talents with the opportunities.

Where and who is this "we" you are referring to? The person that wants to serve finds the opportunity to do so where he or she will be able to use their talents. Why do we need the government to get involved in this? The person that tells you "Sure, Id like to serve, but I just cant find the right venue for said service" is, im sorry to say, lying to you. They dont wantto serve at all, just make you believe they do. People that wantto volunteer their services find the right venue on their own.
8.28.2008 3:03pm
A.C.:
The fact that this is a condition on federal funds to schools is the worst problem. If it were just an aspirational program, or if it were a competitive grant program open to non-profits, I wouldn't fuss. But it's a problem to make it compulsory for a set of institutions that most people have no choice but to attend.

That's before you even get to the question of whether volunteering and service learning are good for the students, or good for the recipients. I would say that volunteering should NOT occur if it is good for the students at the expense of the recipients, for example if students have a day out but the work is done badly for lack of adequate supervision. (This seems likely.) It is fine if volunteer work costs the volunteers something and benefits the recipients, but the government should not be mandating this sort of thing. Especially not from people who are too young to vote.

Is lack of unskilled volunteers even a problem, anyway? I would think that the usual problems would be disorganized administration, lack of specific skills in something complicated like electrical work or driving large trucks, or lack of physical raw material such as food or building materials. Picking a stupid or counterproductive goal can also be a problem. Every volunteer effort I've ever been involved in with has gotten stuck on one of these, at least for a time, even when plenty of willing bodies were around.
8.28.2008 3:03pm
The Unbeliever:
And we haven't discussed the tens of thousdands of paid workers required to run this program. That is the classic Democratic ploy, put lots of people on the government payroll who's jobs depend on you getting relected.
...all of whom will join a union, of course.
8.28.2008 3:03pm
Margaret Kantro:
Don Miller - The role of schools is to teach children how to read and write.

Don, I think you concisely phrased the (misguided) assumption upon which many of these posts are based.

If the point of the schools was simply to teach the students how to read and write, our society would crumble. We would create readers and writers without the ability to think creatively, to solve problems, and to create. In fact, the point of schools is to create citizens. Yes, literate citizens, but also much more than that. Students should be able to see the world as we created it and move it beyond that. They are our next leaders, and simply limiting school to the three R's ignores that crucial fact.

I started volunteering in high school because one of my teachers imposed a 10 hour requirement (in a semester class) in order to pass - beyond the high school's own community service requirement. I am beyond grateful to her for that. I learned responsibility and leadership - two things which are not found in a classroom. More importantly, I learned what it meant to work in the real work and to maintain my perspective on life.

I continued that work throughout college and then went in to Teach for America. Community service is important for all. It reminds us that we are not alone; that we are part of a greater world in which we all much play a part. It teaches the privileged kids that they should always appreciate their privilege and the less privileged that there is work they can do in their own communities to change them for the better.

The fact is that we "force" children to do things all the time because it is good for them. We have mandatory PE requirements because we can see our nation become more and more unhealthy and we do not want that in our future. Obama, and others like myself, see a nation divided and struggling in many ways. Volunteerism is a potential solution.

Dan Weber - How do you think mandatory service is going to affect the high school dropout rate? Especially to a junior who skipped the labor requirements during freshman and sophomore year?

Dan, I think the volunteering requirement may have the opposite impact that you are assuming will occur. Volunteering teaches students that there is more to life to care about and that school requirements are relevant in the real world. These students are not dropping out because they "skipped the labor requirements," or because they are lazy - they are dropping out because they see no relevance to schooling or because they have other responsibilities. The latter group would not likely respond to volunteering, but for the former, volunteering has the potential to bring them back.

Finally, for all those who claim that community service opportunities are too hard to find, this argument has no merit. There are millions of opportunities - some near home (in church, through Scouting, through school and libraries, and many many others) and some farther away.
8.28.2008 3:03pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Note that Obama's campaign hasn't mentioned the spiffy uniforms yet.
8.28.2008 3:09pm
zippypinhead:
Fub wrote:
I'll settle for [dying] peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather; not screaming in terror like the passengers on his bus.
Although Waldesian took a strong run at the title, Fub wins this thread!

Now, before I literally die laughing, back to our regularly-scheduled political debate...
8.28.2008 3:11pm
Nifonged:
"In fact, the point of schools is to create citizens."

Are these citizens of the "Starship Troopers" mold?
8.28.2008 3:12pm
gallileo:
Margaret,

Again, no one is claiming that volunteerism isn't good. We are all claiming that a federal mandate to do it in the schools would be bad.

I'm glad volunteering worked out for you. Was your school that required the community service public? Was it suburban or inner-city? What was the funding level per-child vs the median national funding? What percentage of the kids spoke fluent English?

And frankly, if we are looking for ways to build good citizens, then basic literacy for disadvantaged kids is a much better place to start than requiring mandatory service for the privilaged. Many of whom are already doing it for the college admission benefits.
8.28.2008 3:13pm
Sarcastro (www):
[theobromophile huh. Neat! Certainly not what my (Unitarian) church teaches, but makes good sense!]
8.28.2008 3:16pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
Margaret:

I appreciate you have dedicated your life to service, but your teacher was dead wrong to mandate service as a requirement for passing your class.

It isn't service then. It is work. True charitible service comes from the heart and the reward is paid in the personal growth that comes with it.

You are an anecdotal evidence of a success story, but I would argue that your success in this service requirement is more reflective of your basic personality and spirit than it was a result of what you learned from the assignment.

I would bet money, if I interviewed everyone you went to school with, I could find someone who resented the service requirement and were left bitter about the experiance. Is their experiance any less important or valuable to this debate than yours.

Schools can teach civics. They can provide oppurtunities for people to volunteer and serve their communities. But the moment they require these service oppurtunities as a condition of passing or graduation, it is no longer service.

Encourage, provide oppurtunities, train organizations how to handle unskilled volunteers effectively. These are good and effective things.

Why stop at making Children be "good citizens", why not force adults to do this too? 50 hours of service per year shouldn't be too much to ask for the privledge of having a driver's license is it?
8.28.2008 3:24pm
Ken Arromdee:
The fact is that we "force" children to do things all the time because it is good for them.

We don't force children to do things because it's good for us (except for the limited case of parents, who get more leeway on this than society in general).
8.28.2008 3:26pm
LIly (mail):
Hey, here is another great idea: Lets require all children in public schools to do yoga or other meditational activities! I have personally benefited from this type of activity, and just know everyone else will be better off for it too. Just think, if we are more calm, there will be fewer arguments, car accidents, wars, etc. The World will be a Better Place. And we will all be Happier People. Why, oh why haven't we thought of this before?

I have a lot more great ideas to make you all Much Better People. Note to Self: Call Obama to Schedule Meeting.
8.28.2008 3:27pm
Sarcastro (www):
It's important to see things in terms of black and white so we don't get confused.

All foreign problems can be blamed on a sinister cabal of Nazis Muslims and Communists.

All economic problems can be blamed on a ominous covenant between the socialists the Fed and regulators.

Legal problems are the ACLU-Trial lawyers consortium.

This problem doesn't exactly fall in any category. But have no fear! I won't allow anyone to think the Dems think this is good policy!

it's gotta be some plot by a sinister cabal of the unions, Cuba and Obamamaniacs to enslave us all!
8.28.2008 3:27pm
Adam J:
LIly - "I just can share your enthusiasm for Government control of our lives." Our lives? I'm an adult, I thought you were as well, this isn't about government control of our lives, its our children's lives. And I'm sure you do share my enthusiasm for government control in many instances (e.g. crime, national defense, etc.), so maybe we should avoid being melodramatic and instead focus on why you oppose government control in this instance.

"That you cannot see the difference between teaching someone to read and calculate -- and requiring them to participate in certain activities for their 'personal growth; is maddening." Look, I'm not saying theres alot of merit to your argument, I'm just saying its pretty tricky figuring out what school should (and can) teach. The issue (to me) isn't the likelihood that most people won't use the knowledge later in life- many subjects aren't used by most people later in life, yet seem are still of benefit to people in helping them choose how to live their life. The issue is whether community service is a valuable experience that some people are frequently not exposed to (outside of school). I obviously don't have an unbiased viewpoint here, as I personally found it to be quite rewarding. I don't see why you find it maddening, there's a whole lot more then reading and calculating that is necessary for children to learn to live satisfying and fulfilling lives- just because you found many of these other things at home doesn't mean all others do as well.
8.28.2008 3:29pm
Sam H (mail):
"In fact, the point of schools is to create citizens."

Are these citizens of the "Starship Troopers" mold?


One can dream.
8.28.2008 3:42pm
LIly (mail):
The question is: Why does the Government get to decide what we should do to help us live "satisfying and fulfilling lives" - and then Mandate it using force? There are many things you and I can do to become better people. However, to make it law? >>Shudder<<.

What I find maddening is your support for forced 'goodness' and self improvement. Choose for yourself where you want self improvement. Leave me and mine alone.

And, I say again, just because some children have parents who would neglect their best interest is not an argument for the State to come in and take control of the lives of all children. I suspect that the Government, support by busybodies, really wants to take as much control of all our lives as they can and point to the children of neglectful parents as a pretext.
8.28.2008 3:43pm
Dan Weber (www):
this isn't about government control of our lives, its our children's lives

WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!??!11112two
8.28.2008 3:46pm
B Dubya (mail):
My experience in these matters is indirect, of course, but when I hear the One talking about his vast civil apparatus of organized "volunteers" I am reminded of pre-war Germany with the Brownshirts , the SS, and the Hitler Jugend. I am reminded of the truth that the children in that structure were not to be loyal to their parents and families, but only to The Leader. I am reminded that the society that it engendered pitted neighbor against neighbor as spies and stoolies.
I am also reminded of Stalinist Russia and of every other tinpot dictator that ever destroyed the freedom of his won land.
I am thinking that these proposals may be unconstitutional and I am sure that this is nothing like what the Founders had in mind when they crafted the limitations on the Executive.
8.28.2008 4:00pm
ginsocal (mail):
Having just read another article on the exponential growth of the power of non-profits, due to their being a conduit into politics (see Barry Obama), I find this proposal to be just a backdoor way of, yes, recruiting ever more future Obots into the "movement." Brainwashing begins at a young age, if one is to do it properly, as documented in Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism." This is nothing new; Wilson and the Progressives tried it almost a century ago, and the Germans even beffore that.
8.28.2008 4:01pm
Virginian:
I am often stuck, when reading arguments like these, as to how different people can have such wildly divergent views of the proper role of government. I think differences like this are emblematic of why bipartisanship and compromise are nearly impossible these days. And it makes me wonder if it ever really existed in the past.
8.28.2008 4:03pm
Adam J:
The question is: Why does the Government get to decide what we should do to help us live "satisfying and fulfilling lives" - and then Mandate it using force? There are many things you and I can do to become better people. However, to make it law? >>Shudder<<.

The funny thing is (to me anyways), is that you're describing any and all grade school education. What's the distinction between forcing a kid to learn how to use a bunson burner and forcing a kid to learn about community service? If you're so concerned about your kid doing mandatory community service at a public school, may I suggest sending him to a private school (oh wait... most of them have even more severe public service requirements- and yet shockingly many parents are not just okay with this, but they actually pay money!!!).

"[J]ust because some children have parents who would neglect their best interest is not an argument for the State to come in and take control of the lives of all children." Once again, this is what grade school education already is, it forces all families to educate their children (you can homeschool your kids, but you must adhere to state imposed standards). Look, I'm open to debate about whether there are good reasons to resist state control here, but saying this isn't even an argument for state control is a non-starter to me.
8.28.2008 4:04pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Sarcastro wrote:

I'm glad vassil petrov mentioned Hitler, because everyone knows it's a short, slippery slope from enforcing civic duty to invading countries and targeting sending [sic] people to concentration camps.

A short, slippery slope indeed. A substantial number of registered Democrats will tell you that Chimpy McHitler invaded two countries for no good reason (other than to steal their oil, of course) and is already targeting people for concentration camps -- in fact. the U.S. has already set up internment camps. Many of these same people will also tell you that Chimpy McHitler ordered the events of 9/11, or at least knew all about them in advance and permitted them to happen.

So Sarcastro seems to me to be in agreement with Mr. Lindgren that the Obama Jugend would be a Bad Thing. Those mandatory volunteer brigades would seem to be the last step down the slippery slope to tyranny.
8.28.2008 4:10pm
LIly (mail):
Adam:

Michelle Obama said (I paraphrase because I'm just too lazy to look it up) "Obama will not let you go back to your usual complacent, uninvolved lives..."

We in America have the right to live complacent and uninvolved lives. Even our children. Each of us has the right to pursue happiness in the way WE define it. Not the way some Government official (or even you) sees it.

I, like you, would recommend and encourge everyone to look for ways to contribute to his or her community and world. It really is good for the person - and for the community. However, I would not, cannot, support requiring people to volunteer.

It should be Their Choice. Not Obamas. And not yours.
8.28.2008 4:11pm
LIly (mail):

Look, I'm open to debate about whether there are good reasons to resist state control here



No, you're not. Have your read your own comments?
8.28.2008 4:14pm
LIly (mail):

Look, I'm open to debate about whether there are good reasons to resist state control here


Your comments can be summed up as: It good for the kids, and since we already require other things such as learning to read, there is no reason not to require this as well.
8.28.2008 4:16pm
Virginian:

What's the distinction between forcing a kid to learn how to use a bunson burner and forcing a kid to learn about community service?


Adam J - Forcing a kid to perform 50 hours per year of involuntary servitude is simply "learning about community service"?
8.28.2008 4:16pm
LIly (mail):
The difference between public and private schools mandating public service is that you have a choice to attend private school. If you don't like it, you have the choice to pull out. Since most parents cannot financially swing private school, and therefore, they and their children don't have a real choice.

BYW, my child is in private school, and there is no mandated community service. Its encouraged (and rewarded) but not required. And that is the way is should be.
8.28.2008 4:23pm
Dan Weber (www):
oh wait... most of them have even more severe public service requirements- and yet shockingly many parents are not just okay with this, but they actually pay money!!!

That's free association. A private school can place the requirements on graduation that it wishes. Students can attend or not.

Your biggest problem is the massive arrogance: that you know better how to raise someone else's kids than they do.

Is public service good for my kids? It could well be. Or maybe not. Maybe my kids are working extra jobs just so the family can make ends meet. Maybe we really don't have time. Maybe we don't like any of the approved organizations and don't want to support them.

Why not use all your logic to make church attendance compulsory? (Oh, you can try to bring up the First Amendment, but it's already well established by the paternalists that when it's for the children we throw the Constitution out the window.)

Let's go through the checklist.

Get plenty of anecdotes of people telling you how church enriched their lives growing up. √ Even if they didn't want to go. √

And people talking about how it exposes them to stuff in the world. √

Talk about how some private schools actually require it already, so it must be A-OK for public schools to require it. √

Education is about so much more than books! √

IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN! √√√√√√

That's it! Mandatory church attendance, here we come!
8.28.2008 4:31pm
Adam J:
LIly- Yes, I am open, however your comments consist of "we should resist state control because its state control". That doesn't make sense to me, what does make sense is arguing that its better learned outside of the classroom, that it can't be administered effectively by a school, that community service can't be taught by coercion, etc. etc. You're argument can be summed up as "state coercion bad". Considering how so alot of state coercion (most criminal and civil law for example) is actually quite good for society, I think that's a pathetic argument.

Virginian- Involuntary servitude? Gimme a break. What do you think they're gonna do if a kid refuses... break out the whips? Not to mention you don't have to send your kids to public school if you don't want to. On the other hand, you have a fair point about whether 50 hours is necessary for a child to learn the rewards of community service- at some point it obviously goes past learning and becomes simply work.
8.28.2008 4:32pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Jim Lindgren wrote:

One hurdle that Mr. Obama's plan must vault is the U.S. Constitution, which limits the federal government to enumerated powers. Lacking the power to mandate universal community service directly, Mr. Obama candidly discloses his strategy: making federal funds contingent on schools having service programs that meet federal standards.

Suppose President Obama thought it would be a wonderful thing if everyone attended church ... but of course it would not be constitutional to require citizens to do so. But what if that, to further this end, Congress passed a law that taxpayers could reduce their income tax by 50 percent if they attended church? Or what if Congress passed a law to withhold federal funding from school systems whose students did not attend church? Would either of those be constitutional?

I'm not being facetious. To me it's obvious that Congress does not, and should not, have the power to make wither of those things happen. So how is it that Congress supposedly does have the power to make federal funds contingent on schools having service programs that amount to involuntary servitude by their students?
8.28.2008 4:33pm
K:
Many people obviously and sincerely believe programs such as this are good for the young and for society.

I suggest they volunteer their own children for double or triple involvement and get double or triple the benefit.

Information about those who don't volunteer should be kept a database. Then, depending upon priorities, the state can devise a different means to correct their defects.
8.28.2008 4:36pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
"Community service" is generally useless. Next to nothing is done that is actually a benefit to society.

Look at Suzy's examples.

Kids planting gardens that die as soon as the school year ends and the kids stop coming around. School computers used to produce web pages that no one will look at.

"Community service" is also terribly elitest. Its nice that the bright, motivated kids at private schools and other middle class schools do this "service" that helps on the college application.

What about working class and poor kids? They barely get an education now as it is and their lives are a struggle. Wasting their time and their families time at getting them to silly projects is just upper middle calss disregard for the needs of the lesser classes.
8.28.2008 4:37pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Dan Weber wrote:

Why not use all your logic to make church attendance compulsory? (Oh, you can try to bring up the First Amendment, but it's already well established by the paternalists that when it's for the children we throw the Constitution out the window.) [...]

That's it! Mandatory church attendance, here we come!


There was no collusion between us in proposing this. I guess it's the wave of the future!
8.28.2008 4:38pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
LIly

BYW, my child is in private school, and there is no mandated community service. Its encouraged (and rewarded) but not required. And that is the way is should be.


Exactly. I don't have a problem with schools encouraging community service

Regular feature on the difference students are making in the community in the school newspaper

Special shirts for volunteers

An awards ceremony to recognize kids that go above and beyond to truly be of service

Special page in the year book dedicated to people with lots of service hours

A special day in the spring for Seniors to go do a community service project just before graduation

The list of ways to recognize and encourage service are too numerous to list.

But to tie service to grades or graduation belittles what service is supposed to be about.

To tie school funding to the amount of service that students do is morally reprehensible.
8.28.2008 4:43pm
Virginian:

What do you think they're gonna do if a kid refuses...


As I understand it, schools that already require this make it a graduation requirement. That's a pretty draconian punishment, and really offers no reasonable choice but to comply. Maybe BO does not intend such a requirement, but there will obviously need to be some "stick" if there is any hope of this becoming "universal."

Yes, I can probably afford to (and probably will) send my daughter to private school. But many, many people do not have that choice.

I suppose you would prefer if I just keep my wallet open and my mouth shut, keep sending my taxes in (like I have a choice) and not complain about any hare-brained scheme the nanny-statists come up with to further f#$% up public education in this country.
8.28.2008 4:43pm
Angus:
I think most people are missing the point of Obama's proposal. It's one of those things that politicians outline to show that they care, but which they have no intention of actually doing. Obama knows just like most everyone else that this proposal would be dead on arrival.
8.28.2008 4:46pm
Sam H (mail):
Virginian:

"And it makes me wonder if it ever really existed in the past."


A long time ago in days but dimly remembered, the Federal Government was limited in what it could do by something called a Constitution. Then the courts of the land began to find strange new powers in the Constitution. Some of the people cheered and some fought back and thus it has been every since.
8.28.2008 4:47pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Community service is important for all. It reminds us that we are not alone; that we are part of a greater world in which we all much play a part. It teaches the privileged kids that they should always appreciate their privilege and the less privileged that there is work they can do in their own communities to change them for the better.
So, in other words, you're explicit that it's about promoting left-wing ideology. Points for honesty, anyway. But what about those of us who don't believe all the things you just said? What about those of us who believe that actual employment rather than "volunteering" is how to change communities for the better?
8.28.2008 4:47pm
Adam J:
Dan Weber - Cool, how'd you put the checks in your post? Seriously though, accusing me of arrogance is pure ad hominem. I've never suggested that I know mandatory community service is best for kids. I've only suggested that an argument about mandatory community service in schools doesn't begin and end at involuntary servitude or state control is bad. All of public education is "involuntary servitude" and "state control". All of public education is paternalistic. Most posters simply like to knee jerk lash out how all state intervention is evil without anything remotely resembling a real discussion. All state intervention is not evil, much of it is quite beneficial- without criminal law we'd be free to commit crime, without civil law we'd be free to ignore a contract we sign and free to act negligently, without mandatory state education we could avoid that unpleasantness of grade school. Shucks, its a shame we lost all those liberties... oh wait.

Frankly, I think what goes into a school curriculum probably shouldn't always be determined on a national level, particularly on an issue like this. I also feel any program this divisive should probably have an "opt out". But the discussion here apparently isn't whether mandatory community service good intervention or bad, the discussion "is state intervention bad". I'm just saying not necessarily, and everyone is flipping out.
8.28.2008 4:49pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Adam J wrote:

LIly- Yes, I am open, however your comments consist of "we should resist state control because its state control". That doesn't make sense to me, what does make sense is arguing that its better learned outside of the classroom, that it can't be administered effectively by a school, that community service can't be taught by coercion, etc. etc. You're argument can be summed up as "state coercion bad". Considering how so alot of state coercion (most criminal and civil law for example) is actually quite good for society, I think that's a pathetic argument.

No, I think that LIly's argument can more fairly be stated as: "State coercion is bad, but when the alternative is worse then state coercion is justified; state coercion is bad and unjustified it is not necessary to prevent something worse." See how criminal and civil law fit into the picture?

You supposed justification usually devolves into: "What is not compulsory is forbidden; what is not forbidden is compulsory."
8.28.2008 4:50pm
A Free Dude:
This sure makes homeschooling sound attractive. How long before he criminalizes it, and forces your kids to go to their local indoctrination center?

This is, of course, an extreme... but it is a slippery slope where Mr. Obama walks.

He can't give my ass a big enough, sloppy enough kiss to ever get control over my children. I will raise them well, I will raise them to mistrust socialism.
8.28.2008 4:54pm
Suzy (mail):
Of the various arguments opposed to service learning in schools, I think Gallileo's (above) is the best one. Yes, the scope of this proposal sounds like a logistical nightmare. On the other hand, current service learning programs have been successful. The question is whether they could be expanded to the degree proposed here while maintaining the present benefits. The answer could be no, but I think the benefits are great enough that it's worth a serious effort.

What are the benefits? This gets into a few replies to objections raised above:
#1 is that nobody has provided evidence to contradict the research showing that students who participate in service learning are more likely to graduate, attend college, and earn better grades. This reinforces my point that service learning is learning: it's valuable because it's about academic improvement, not just "feeling good".

#2 is that thousands of applicants are indeed turned away from programs like Americorps, YouthBuild, Teach for America and the Peace Corps. Thousands are matched up with volunteer opportunites through the web or local agencies, but it's a somewhat disorganized patchwork right now. I don't see the downside of making this process easier and more effective, apart from the fact that some people believe govt. has no business doing anything of the sort. Fine, then, you oppose all of the above programs, so why debate the details at all?

#3 is a similar point: if you oppose service requirements as some kind of unjust enslavement, then you ought to have a problem with most of what goes on in school. Teachers and school systems get to make all kinds of tyrannical decisions about how students might best learn various concepts. They also choose the content of what should be learned. Someone has decided, hopefully based on good evidence, that children learn better and pay attention in class better when they have physical activity. They also decided that knowledge about the body and health that could be conveyed here is important. Therefore, we have phys ed classes. Is this as important as learning to read or add? Probably not. But is it otherwise useful and effective? The best evidence says yes. Same thing with service learning.

The gardens I mentioned are alive and thriving all year. The web pages are used by students and parents at the school. These are indeed useful projects, and most importantly, info was learned and retained by students who took responsibility. I'm scratching my head over the suggestion that students could just do a "school project" or a "word problem" and accomplish the same goal. What do you think a service project is? It's exactly that, except that instead of being another silly, meaningless story problem, it's real and the effects can be witnessed. Should all learning be service learning? Of course not. Most is going to be presented in other ways, but this is a great way to reinforce and help retain skills and info. If you want to argue that govt. shouldn't do this, ok with me, but then you're basically arguing that govt. shouldn't get involved in education at all, or should be tied only to certain methods even if they're less effective.
8.28.2008 5:12pm
Smokey:
Jeff K:
This idea will never gain traction for one important reason- the public sector unions will stop it immediately because it steps on their turf.
That's exactly why the Odumbo/Ayers conspiracy wants ownership of our 11 - 12 year-old kids. It kills two birds with one stone:

First, it allows what will certainly be heavy-duty Liberal/Leftist indoctrination [like weekly re-runs of An Inconvenient Truth, and Jennifer Has Two Daddies], with no dissenting point of view allowed. Karl Marx, but never Adam Smith. One Party will control all indoctrination. And they have made it crystal clear that power, control and hugely increased taxes -- not doing good -- are their real objectives.

Second, by forcibly rounding up our eleven and twelve year old kids, it does not deprive unions of possible dues-payers. The kids will have to go back to school; they can not take union jobs at their age.

Remember that numerous Democrat politicians, like Charles Rangel among others, regularly propose re-instituting the draft. That is exactly the same mind-set of Big Government libs. Democrats want total control of the lives of our country's youth. This election will determine whether Americans think that is the right road to go down, or not. From the comments here, most folks don't like it.

Finally, just imagine the apoplectic red-faced shouting and arm-waving by the liberals if John McCain had proposed the same thing that the Dem's empty suit is proposing for our eleven and twelve year old kids.
8.28.2008 5:13pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Why do conservatives hate America?

/snark off
8.28.2008 5:17pm
Nifonged:
"I don't see the downside of making this process easier and more effective, apart from the fact that some people believe govt. has no business doing anything of the sort. Fine, then, you oppose all of the above programs, so why debate the details at all? "

None of those programs are mandatory.
8.28.2008 5:19pm
theobromophile (www):
What about those of us who believe that actual employment rather than "volunteering" is how to change communities for the better?

Or those of us who believe that paying a fair wage and earning a living by performing good work are morally good things? That it is equally as wrong to force someone to do community service as it is to force someone else to do your homework?
8.28.2008 5:22pm
Anony:
I'm amazed that some people can't see the hypocrisy of "forced volunteerism."

I've despised it all my life - I dropped out of the national honor society in junior high school (and stayed out through high school) because it required volunteerism. My law school was one of the "enlightened" early adopters of a mandatory pro bono requirement. I completed that with a heavy heart and in a very minimal fashion. In both cases, the vast majority of the pre-approved volunteer opportunities were influenced by left-wing values.

Volunteering is great, and the option should be available to everyone. But involuntary servitude is bad at all levels, and becomes terrifying when the government gets involved as BO is planning.
8.28.2008 5:25pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
Suzy,

If these are learning activities, don't call it "service". It's not service if it is mandatory. It's work.

Our schools are having trouble teaching basic reading, writing, arithmetic, science and history. I feel these are critical core subjects. Anything that requires students to lose focus on these topics is detrimental to their future.

If these outside projects are so beneficial to learning these core competencies, then school districts will adopt them without the Federal Government mandating them.

Frankly, the reality is this proposal is based on a desire to force people to behave in a manner that some people label as "good". It is about Power and Control

While I personally believe that service is good, forcing it on people doesn't make them good. The only way to make people be good, is for them to choose good.
8.28.2008 5:30pm
Sarcastro (www):
Smokey: Odumbo/Ayers conspiracy

Sounds like some kind of a blog or something!
8.28.2008 5:33pm
theobromophile (www):
Suzy,

If the work is as beneficial (to the proposed recipients) as you claim, why not pay people to do it?

If it is beneficial to the doer, why does it matter if there is service involved or not? For example, if speaking French is a great way to learn it, why not simply mandate 50 hours of extra-curricular learning, rather than limiting it to "service"?

For all - would prostitution count?
8.28.2008 5:39pm
Toby:
Three riffs:

One of the lowest moments of the Reagan years as was some do-goodism to appeal; to the base, enforced by the power of the purse. This do-goodism is currently in the news, as many college presidents are now professing that the mandatory national drinking laws have actually contributed to binge drinking and the growth of a drunken hook-up culture. It only took them 25 years to recognize it.

Yes, I am referring to my own lame senator's creative linking of federal highway funds, raised off gas purchases, to following her social purposes. It was a bad idea then, it is a bad idea now.


It is a poorly recognized corollary to the truism "The Power to Tax is the Power to Destroy" that "The Power to Fund is the Power to Destroy". Close watchers have seen it again and again if they watch the groups funded by the United Way. Grassroots community organizations start out funded by and supported by their community. They get a little money from the United Way. Staff start preparing next year's budget proposal to the United Way earlier and earlier, and become non-responsiveness to its community.

At last, the United Way's funding direction changes, and the organization is left without fund and without the skills to get them, like a wild animal raised in the zoo and suddenly set free. Few organizations survive this transition.

What happens to the non-approved organization, when its volunteers are siphoned off into approved make-work? What happens to the pride of participation, when your classmates start to sneer that you are doubly duped? And what happens to the organization that relies on the approved list at the local middle school, only to be dropped one day?


The point of school is indeed to make citizens. This plan raises subjects. Citizens are sovereign, subjects are not.

The back-and-forth biblical quotations leave out the clearest summary; Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. It does not say render unto God what is Caesar's -- nor does it say render unto Caesar that which is God's. I do not require citizens to have the same concept of god as I have, or that they have any at all. I do wish that those who worship the State would offer me the same courtesy.

Adam, and Suzy -- this last applies to you.
8.28.2008 5:49pm
Sarcastro (www):
Toby If I see one more liberal cross himself upon passing one of the 3 branches of government (3 branches, but one substance), I'll be sick!

And I'm sure Israel will be interested that all its people are subjects, not citizens!

Also, we shouldn't give the government any power, because government might abuse it, like with that hateful United Way.
8.28.2008 6:06pm
kurt9 (mail):
This is just campaign rhetoric.

There is very little Obama can do as president to implement this. HS graduation requirements are set by the respective states, not the federal government. K-12 public education is funded mostly on the state and local level. Very little federal money goes into K-12 education. No money, no leverage.

The feds have limited options in regulated university entrance requirements. The only thing the feds could do is to require that all students applying for federal=backed student loans must have X amount of public service. It may be that the feds will require that universities require public service as entrance criteria in order to get federal funding for R&D. However, I think this unlikely. I do not think that congress will side with Obama and make federally funded R&D monies hostage to Obama's public service agenda.

These same comments are applicable to McCain as well.
8.28.2008 6:17pm
A.C.:
Well, the possibility that the government may abuse power is one of the reasons we want to have everybody in the whole society keeping an eye on it and criticizing it. And why we assign one branch the job of watching another. What's your point?
8.28.2008 6:18pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Whaddya wanna bet that no Eagle Scout projects would count towards mandatory community service, because the BSA excludes gays?
8.28.2008 6:18pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Suzy, phys ed classes are even more useles than "service learning". Give the kids recess, they will get just as much physical activity with much less stress.


For all - would prostitution count?


More social benefit involved than planting gardens.
8.28.2008 6:20pm
gallileo:
Suzy,

Thanks for the compliment.

The problem with saying that, "It is worth a serious effort to try" is that these programs tend to go forever, whether they are successful or not, and well beyond their original scope.

No Child Left Behind is pretty-much universally hated, but it isn't going to be canceled any time soon. Price supports, energy subsidies--they last forever. So, "give it a serious effort" means, in practice anyway, "Lets generate yet another federal program that will go on forever, whether or not it is effective."

Even assuming the benefits you mention (which I doubt, but others are handling that angle), I think the major resources this would require are better spent on more basic life-skills.

Finally, one more story. I am an Eagle Scout, but I was more or less forced by my parents to get it (oh the fights!), and I did all the service necessary to get it. Today I am reasonably civic minded, but I am not proud at all of an honor I was forced to get. I don't think of it fondly at all. For many people forced service is going to be like that.

(No disrespect to the true Eagle Scouts here--I probably don't count as a real Eagle, even though I have the certificate, as my attitude was all wrong. But that's the point, really.)
8.28.2008 6:23pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

There is very little Obama can do as president to implement this. HS graduation requirements are set by the respective states, not the federal government.

So was the drinking age.

I know the feds have less economic leverage over K-12 than over roads, but that might change. Funding schools based on local real estate values creates big differences in money spent per student. Federal tax money could be used to equalize what each district can spend.
8.28.2008 6:23pm
Adam J:
Don Miller- It's not service if its mandatory? Congrats on making the only argument in this entire thread that can be objectively called wrong.


Mike G- If that was Lily's point then I agree. That is the proper limitation of government. Of course there's some question about how much we should defer to the government in deciding when the alternative to coercion is worse. We certainly defer in alot of cases. Are we as citizens the experts in determining whether our kids should do community service, should we leave it to our kids, does the government have expertise to know better? Maybe, maybe not. Does the government really have the best idea of how to go about the job of education, what should it rely on families to teach, what about the families that don't teach?

And I don't really understand what "What is not compulsory is forbidden; what is not forbidden is compulsory." If your trying to say my logic is circular, you're gonna have to elaborate and explain why. I cant see where I said anything of the sort.

Toby- Do you find yourself explaining things multiple times? Coherence really doesn't seem to be your strong suit.
8.28.2008 6:31pm
Caryn:
Our schools are having trouble teaching basic reading, writing, arithmetic, science and history. I feel these are critical core subjects. Anything that requires students to lose focus on these topics is detrimental to their future.


Service-learning, done properly, teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, and more. It's a teaching method--it's not volunteering or community service.

Countless students have improved their science skills by learning how to perform useful tests in the classroom and monitoring water quality, testing fish DNA, investigating plant disease and advising community members on how to combat it. Students learn history and communication skills through investigating the lives of immigrants or a WWII-era POW camp in their community.

The key with service-learning is that the activities get tied directly to the curricular goals. And kids themselves have a voice in the projects that they decide to tackle.

Are most classroom teachers versed enough in the pedagogy to do it effectively? Probably not. But it can have powerful effects on academic outcomes and community engagement.
8.28.2008 6:32pm
Lily (mail):
Adam: (don't you love this private conversation we're having?)

You seem to be saying that because I allow some State coercion of my child (such as requiring her to learn to read), then I cannot reasonably object to any other State coercion so long as the State determines it is beneficial for her.

Let me state here for the record that I reserve the right to object to any overreaching on the part of the State with the respect to myself or my child. (I would define required Volunteerism as a condition of graduation, or a good grade, as overreaching)

Adam, all good ideas do not make good law.

I am very happy you benefited from community service. Now leave my child alone.

BYW, you suggest you are open to discussion about whether this is overreaching (as I call it). Many on this board have made good arguments against Obama's plan. Do you find any of them at all persuading?
8.28.2008 6:37pm
theobromophile (www):
Bob from Ohio - yeah, that was my thought. Well-researched health benefits, shortage of volunteers, etc.
8.28.2008 6:41pm
kurt9 (mail):
Funding schools based on local real estate values creates big differences in money spent per student. Federal tax money could be used to equalize what each district can spend.

This is true. However, it limits the feds ability to intervene to the poorer school districts. The percentage of school district money that comes from the feds is around 10%. All Obama could do is funnel more fed money to the poorer school districts.

I just saw the platform on Obama's website. He is proposing a $4,000 per year educational tax credit for parents whose kids do community service work. This, of course, means that the parents who can afford to send their kids to college without need of this credit will simply disregard it. The middle or lower middle income families who cannot will not.

Also, what counts as public service? Spending a 100 hours on your eagle scout project? Working for the Salvation Army? These things are relatively non-controversial. I spent way more than 100 hours on my eagle scout project (it took most of a summer, but it was a large project) and I spent at least 100 hours working on my friends' projects.

The controversy is if the feds reject these existing community organizations and insist that the kids enroll in some kind of nationwide thing where they have to work in places far from their homes (i.e. kids from X, Iowa having to do community service work in Chicago's south side). It is my prediction that this will never happen. All it takes is for one suburban kid to get knifed while doing mandatory community service work in the hood and the political firestorm and lawsuits will end any such a program immediately.

National service has been bandied about by the dems since Clinton's 1992 campaign.
8.28.2008 6:47pm
Nifonged:
"Are we as citizens the experts in determining whether our kids should do community service, should we leave it to our kids, does the government have expertise to know better?"

Oh good grief what "expertise" is needed? We have church and other faith-based groups, boy/girl scouts, 4-H, honor societies, Junior America, etc that already have American youth involved in community activities. This is an example of an overbearing, unnecessary, over-bloated requirement that's not needed in the least.

I left the grocery store earlier and saw a car in the lot with the (requisite?) dozen left wing stickers with the obligatory "Obama" (hope, change, whatever) NEXT to a sticker that said something about "blind faith in American government." What on earth is this?
8.28.2008 6:47pm
Suzy (mail):
I am certainly no worshipper of the state. I simply, like Caryn, find that applied activities have been empirically shown to improve student learning and retention of the very "basic" subjects like math, reading, science, history, et al. that I presume we all agree are essential. If students can accomplish something useful that motivates them to complete the work along the way, all to the good.

I was interested to see one person above mention law school "pro bono" work as a negative example of service learning. Don't many law schools have such clinics, perhaps civil or criminal? Is it not a very useful way to practice skills, on real-life cases? I've never done it so I honestly don't know, I'm asking. Do students learn any practically useful skills by participating in such clinics, or is it purely a feel-good enterprise that is less effective than further traditional classroom education would be?
8.28.2008 6:56pm
Helene Edwards (mail):
What if my community service violates speech taboos? I hereby volunteer to spend 250 hrs. a year delivering the following message to kids not yet infected:

Yo black folks! No one gives a fig about skin color any more? This has been true since about 1985, at latest. What's holding you back now is the concept of "cool." See, cool feels good but doesn't cut any ice in the world at large. So the keys to success are using standard English, using a belt to keep your pants up, and striving. When you get in the game and play by the same rules as everyone else, you'll miraculously notice that you're getting respect.

Go ahead, editors, remove this post.
8.28.2008 7:06pm
ruralcounsel (mail):
Fascinating topic.

I'm appalled at the number of people who are so willing to close their eyes and accept, nay, even embrace this approach.

There have been many compelling analogies about forcing the elderly, or medicare patients into involuntary "volunteerism". It all boils down to forcing a population segment (as powerless as possible)to do something that "someone in Government" thinks is a "greater good". Children seem particularly vulnerable when the concept comes couched in terms of "education".

The rationale that some kids might benefit from this as a justification just blows my mind. I'm sure most adults would benefit with some physical exercise and weight loss, but I don't think we'd want to be put to forced labor and starvation diet to achieve it. But hey, I'm sure there are some chain gangs out there you can volunteer for.

If most kids are as contrary as mine, I think this will actually backfire, in terms of teaching "connections to the community" and whatever other psychobabble terminology you want to use. Kids are pretty good at cutting through the BS and figuring out when they're being used.

I'm adding this to my list of reasons to home school my children. I have a higher opinion of what my childrens time is worth than this. And their time surely isn't a free resource available on demand to anyone outside my family.
8.28.2008 7:07pm
ruralcounsel (mail):
Suzy wrote:

I was interested to see one person above mention law school "pro bono" work as a negative example of service learning. Don't many law schools have such clinics, perhaps civil or criminal? Is it not a very useful way to practice skills, on real-life cases? I've never done it so I honestly don't know, I'm asking. Do students learn any practically useful skills by participating in such clinics, or is it purely a feel-good enterprise that is less effective than further traditional classroom education would be?


Lots of bar associations suggest pro bono work. Suggest, not mandate. And when one is using it as a training exercise for a chosen profession, it is quite different than what I expect some 7th grader is going to be put to work doing. My expectation is that this will be a labor pool for every charitable group who has a dirty or tedious job to do ... like sorting used clothes for the Salvation Army or Good Will, or sorting recycling. Not exactly the kinds of work I want my children doing for a bunch of strangers. Nor the kind of work that prepares them to do anything that I would have them aspire to doing for a profession.

So I think it is horribly inappropriate analogy.
8.28.2008 7:15pm
Adam J:
Lily - I didn't say anything of the sort. Its your democratic right to object. Also, I think there's alot of things government shouldnt do, even if they somehow manage to summon up a majority of people to make a law to do something. I'm saying what's overreaching isn't always easy to see. Mandatory community service for children may have substantial benefits to the children that outweigh giving them or you a choice. After all, what if you looked at any educational requirements as overreaching. Some paternalism should be allowed by the state, because some parents are asses who won't look out for children. I'd certainly like to see some more evidence that mandatory community service in some way justifies this, but I don't see any reason to simply have a knee jerk reaction that its government coercion and therefore its bad.

However I do think there's probably legitimate reasons to dispute mandatory service. It is a bit elitist, can we really be sure the state knows better then the parent in this case? I also think a program like this should allow the parents the opportunity to opt the kids out of the program. Opt outs aren't coercion, you have a choice to get your kid outta the program if you want, but they use inertia to insure most kids stay in the program that will probably be beneficial to them.
8.28.2008 7:30pm
Smokey:
Helene Edwards, please report to the Obama Jugend Re-Education Camp immediately.

You may bring a toothbrush and a change of underwear. Our Lord and Messiah has generously agreed to provide a soap bar for you at the disinfectant shower.
8.28.2008 7:43pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Suppose every time some moron refers to this as "volunteer" everybody within hearing shouts, "BULLSHIT!".
Suzy would surely be a public nuisance, wouldn't she.

IMO, any kid who doesn't want to do this stuff isn't already doing it. And to force him will, as an earlier poster suggested, provide ample opportunities for sabotage, which would arguably be morally justified.

If you think volunteering is a good idea, volunteer and keep your hands off other people's kids.

You should recall that NCLB is not mandatory. Only thing is, you get money if you do it and not if you don't. So it's mandatory in effect. Matters not how many teachers don't like it, how many parents have been brainwashed into thinking it's a bad idea, it's here to stay. So presuming the schools are going to pass up the incentive money is inhumanly stupid. No matter what kind of sticks they're going to have to purchase to whip the recalcitrant with.

This is going to be in the hands of people who put a kid in jail because they forgot to change the time on their answering machine. And forced pelvic exams on middle school girls despite their pleadings. Who have strong reasons not to let Christians come close to exercising their religion, but will put a week's pretending to be Muslims into the curriculum. I mean, of all the people in the nation to be supervising this, you're looking to school administrators??? Are you insane?
8.28.2008 8:01pm
Lily (mail):

Lily - I didn't say anything of the sort


I believe that a reasonable person would infer from your comments that you believe that since we already allow he State to control our children on some levels - academic - that is not reasonable to object to the State's mandate for other virtuous activities.

Your Words:


We already support intrusion into children's welfare by the state for the purposes of education, so I have no idea what you're talking about when you say that I can't support this "intrusion".



I don't see how this is any different from forcing kids to learn history, or science, or gym, or one of the million other skills learned in school...



What's the distinction between forcing a kid to learn how to use a bunson burner and forcing a kid to learn about community service?



All of public education is "involuntary servitude" and "state control". All of public education is paternalistic.



To address your earlie commment: I do believe that "State coercion is bad". Absolutely. But some minimum level of coercion is necessary for society to function. A very minimum level. That is why the State should meet a VERY high standard before it is allowed to intrude and coerce and control. "Because it will help the children grow and become better people and better citizens" comes no where near that minimum level in my opinion.

Community Service is good and virtuous. My 11 year old already contributes. She asked to do so. I never told her she had to. She would have no trouble meeting Obama's requirements on her own. But I have a strong, philosophical objection to mandatory or coerced community service. It's not the American way. Its not the America that I knew.
8.28.2008 8:04pm
zippypinhead:
Whaddya wanna bet that no Eagle Scout projects would count towards mandatory community service, because the BSA excludes gays?
That would be a bloody tragedy. The Boy Scouts of America provides millions of hours of volunteer service each year to virtually every community in the nation. But I wouldn't be surprised if a centrally-managed mandatory service program ends up picking winners and losers based on all sorts of political criteria (and if supporting gay rights is a prereq to be a legitimate service organization, there goes any credit for volunteering for Catholic Charities or even the food bank run by your local Baptist Church as well). There is a fear in the Scouter community that an O administration will retaliate against BSA any way they can, from the symbolic (refusing to be Honorary President of BSA, a tradition for every President since Taft), to the truly hurtful (revoking BSA's Federal charter and 501(c)(3) status, and denying Scouts access to parkland or other Federal facilities such as Fort AP Hill).

If Obama decides to advance other policy goals by picking winners and losers in his mandatory service scheme, maybe Act-Up and PETA can at least take over BSA's nationwide Scouting for Food program after the Scouts are gone? [naw, not enough tofu available to fill the food banks].
8.28.2008 8:11pm
Lily (mail):

I left the grocery store earlier and saw a car in the lot with the (requisite?) dozen left wing stickers with the obligatory "Obama" (hope, change, whatever) NEXT to a sticker that said something about "blind faith in American government." What on earth is this?


Thanks for the laugh of the day!

I once saw on the bumper of the BMW 500 Series driving in LA: "Live Simply that others may Simply Live".
8.28.2008 8:29pm
Fury:
Great discussion.

Serving on my school district Board of Education, parents and teachers (most) best know the needs of children and what they need to succeed while in school. When children master math, science, ELA, history and the like, when children do not need the benefit of Academic Intervention Services or Reading Recovery services, then we can talk about volunteer service performed by children. There needs to be a sense of priority to what children do with their time.

Until then, from my perspective it's inappropriate for the Federal government to mandate such service. I want our students to excel at 1) Academics (whether it be traditional school or Vo-Tech) and 2) Extracurricular activities - both of these help prepare students for life after high school. The decision to mandate community service needs to be data-driven, and I'm not sure that data exists.

For our school district, I believe that a majority of the Board of Education would vote to forgo federal funds if such aid were based on a requirement for community service. If community service is part of a student's curriculum, fine. But it will be a decision made at the local level and by the people most knowledgeable about the students in question.
8.28.2008 9:13pm
Michael B (mail):
"It's important to see things in terms of black and white so we don't get confused."

[...]

"it's gotta be some plot by a sinister cabal of the unions, Cuba and Obamamaniacs to enslave us all!" Sarcastro

You should, at least on occasion, attempt some more subtle forms of irony. As to not being confused and seeing things in black and white, your own low disdain for most anything that fails to conform to your view of the world is itself a source of irony. Unintentional and unconscious, but bemusingly ironic.
8.28.2008 9:27pm
Smokey:
Obama wants to 'mandate' the indoctrination of our kids. OK, how about this proposal: mandatory after school Study Hall for 50 hours a semester, until all fifth graders can read and write at a 5th grade level, eighth graders at an 8th grade level, etc.?

The teachers ["If you can read this, thank a teacher"] should be forced to 'volunteer' their time after school, just to show the kids how this mandating thingy works. The kids need role models to see how forced volunteering operates, right?

The Democrats can implement Obama's new plan for the children.
8.28.2008 9:40pm
Hoosier:
Sarcastro—Yeah. The joke is old now. How about a different character from "The Tick"? Johnny Polite, perhaps? Or Baby Boomerangutan?

Feral Boy would be cool for a post or two. But after a while, "Grunt, grunt, grunt!" would get old, too.
8.28.2008 9:41pm
David Warner:
Suzy,

I think you're correct about the benefits of service learning. I also think the best way to preserve and expand those benefits is to allow service learning programs to continue developing organically instead of getting the (already overburdened and frequently clumsy at best) state more involved than it already is. Reducing taxes/spending/regulation would free up more resources for citizens and communities to invest more heavily in these, and other, laudable programs.

I hope you're not feeling overwhelmed. Ideas like this tend to stir up the libertarian hornet's nest.
8.28.2008 10:01pm
theobromophile (www):
Suzy,

Law school clinics are not volunteer work. They are:
1. graded; and
2. for credit,
both of which distinguish them from that which is done solely out of the goodness of one's heart. If you take a clinic, that's one less tax or family law class that needs to be taken.
8.28.2008 10:05pm
theobromophile (www):
Whoops - can't believe I missed the third part of them. They are entirely voluntary, which distinguishes it from this proposal. The ABA has not mandated that law students spend their time in clinics, serving the poor. We can receive federal loans and load up on classes, journals, judicial internships, or independent research projects and eschew clinics.

That gets back to my earlier point about the fact that all learning is not necessarily in the pursuit of service. When I was an engineering student, I interned, but was compensated quite well for my time. I learned a TON - some of which was because they weren't paying me to wash glassware (which they could well do if someone is there for free). The fact that I drew a salary meant that they had to give me work that was worthy of that salary, rather than have me slump around the lab.
8.28.2008 10:13pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Justin,

Thanks for the info. Kurtz's Fox comments were probably somewhat similar; he gave some reasons for his speculation, though they were far from conclusive: It was a very small board at first (3 members) and Ayers was at the meetings acting as sort of an ex officio member, since he was the primary founder. I remember more what I thought than what he said: he has evidence of more contacts but no direct evidence that Ayers had a role in Obama's hiring.
8.28.2008 10:21pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Fat Man:

Until your post, I had no idea that the speech so often quoted was from UCLA. She was talking about the program for college students.
8.28.2008 10:23pm
kurt9 (mail):
Guys,

The way to deal with this is to spam all of the conservative websites and to make a youtube video about this issue. The letter and video should be targeted to parents and prospective parents. The gist of it should be that Obama has plans for your kids and that these plans may not be in your best or your kids best interests.

I would highlight the possibility that Obama's community service ideas does not mean that the kids would work for local charities that operate in their neighborhoods and towns. Rather, Obama's plan is to create a parallel civilian equivalent to the military where kids may be drafted into and possibly shipped to other regions of the country to do "community service" work.

Highlight the potential danger in this (e.g. kids from small town Iowa possibly having to do "community service" work in Chicago's south side, etc.) to their kids. I would also highlight the urban hiphop atmosphere that surrounds Obama and his campaign and how he wants to introduce this to YOUR kids.

Even if Obama has no such plans for such a parallel organization, the fear that can be generated in the minds of millions of voters over this issue could be highly damaging to Obama's campaign.
8.28.2008 10:48pm
TJIT (mail):
Suzy does Orwell proud by coming up with an incredibly misleading name for forcing people to do government mandated busy work.

service learning does sound more attractive but that does not change what it is, government mandated busy work.
8.28.2008 11:02pm
David Warner:
TJIT:

"service learning does sound more attractive but that does not change what it is, government mandated busy work."

No, service learning already exists and already works and will continue to if not crushed by the love of the Lenny State.

Libertarians could make a concrete contribution on the local level by expanding the definition of "service" in "service learning" to better include the private sector and for-profit activity.
8.28.2008 11:32pm
Kirk:
Margaret Kantro,
In fact, the point of schools is to create citizens.
Right out of the "progressive" playbook, yes, but that doesn't mean anyone else necessarily agrees with you.

Mike G,
other than to steal their oil, of course
You say that like it's a bad thing! Wouldn't you know, though--Bush didn't manage to pull this part off, either.
8.28.2008 11:47pm
Hoosier:
"In fact, the point of schools is to create citizens."

No. It's to teach kids. If it were to create citizens, we'd be justified in keeping foreign kids out of our schools, wouldn't we? I mean, what's "the point"?
8.29.2008 12:04am
Hoosier:
kurt9: GREAT IDEA!

Let's get started! YOU go learn to play banjo, while I go take a nap in front of the TV!

We'll get this plan rollin' yet!
8.29.2008 12:05am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ryan:

I'm a little sarcam-challenged today


I think the problem is that you're reality-challenged. If Obama had said the words that McCain said (that I cited), certain people would have used that as an excuse to label Obama as a Marxist. And the distinction you raised about "voluntary" or not would not have amounted to a hill of beans.
8.29.2008 12:36am