What Does the Future Hold for Mandatory Public Service?

Time magazine ran a story back in 2007 on “The Case for National Service.” The story described the positions of the candidates for president on expanding “public service” programs. Two of the Democrat candidates favored mandatory community service by all high school students. And two others — Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden — favored creation of a U.S. Public Service Academy for training civil servants.

Barack Obama has centered speeches around this idea of public service. He waxes sentimental about what we can each do for our country. All in one speech, he said that we must “answer a new call to service to meet the challenges of our new century” and that he “won’t just ask for your vote as a candidate” but “will ask for your service.” And he said that, in fact, this is the cause of his presidency.

Obama, though, is not listed as favoring this proposed academy. Instead, he proposes expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps along with several other programs, and offering funding to students in exchange for community service. We can only hope that he isn’t convinced by his supporters and colleagues to change his mind on this.

Proponents of the academy argue that we’re facing a shortage of public servants, and such an academy could help. Of course, they do not mention that we could reduce the size of government instead of training our youth like soldiers to work for an ever expanding public sector.

It isn’t mere rhetoric to say they would be trained like soldiers. Supporters of the bill have called the proposed academy the “civilian counterpart to the uniformed service academies.” But we should not need a civilian counterpart to the military service academies beyond the police academies that already exist — because the civilian counterpart to the military is just the police officer corps.

Another scary thought is that the belief in mandatory community service for high school students, or mandatory military service as Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has proposed, could combine with this call for a Public Service Academy. In fact, Rangel himself suggested that under his proposal, “Recruits not needed by the military in any given year would be required to perform some national civilian service.” He argued that mandatory service would close the economic gap, in which the poor are forced to serve disproportionately. However, this gap is actually a myth.

The idea that America’s youths should train like soldiers to serve government on the domestic front is contrary to the freedom and independent spirit this country was founded on. Furthermore, such programs are reminiscent of Soviet youth programs and Soviet job programs, and would similarly incorporate propaganda beneficial to the government in power. A free economy founded on small government has no need for such things — and they set a dangerous precedent.

Mandatory Public Service?

A new bill could force young adults to do two years of public service

What is it?

A new bill named the Universal Service Act of 2003, introduced by Democratic House of Representatives members Charles Rangel of New York and John Conyers of Michigan and Sen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, was the most recent mandatory-service proposal considered by Congress. Americans would be required to complete two years of service for the nation between the ages of 18 and 26 in one of various programs.

This service could include military time or active participation in programs such as Peace Corps, Teach for America or AmeriCorps. The president would determine the number of people needed and the means of selection. Deferments would be limited to those completing high school, up to the age of 20, with no exemptions for college or graduate students. The bill has not yet been acted upon.

Most recent proposals would provide some sort of payment for young people's service. One plan allows for four years of college tuition in exchange for two years of service. Participants who do not choose college might be able to apply for funds to pay for job-training programs or to help start a small business.

While many young people volunteer to join the U.S. military as an act of self-service, other programs such as AmeriCorps also draw more than 50,000 volunteers annually. In addition to tutoring children, building homes, cleaning up the environment and helping communities through disaster relief, AmeriCorps members work with 2,100 nonprofits, public agencies, and faith-based organizations. Other service programs, such as Teach for America, work toward eliminating educational inequality throughout the United States. Young people generally make up most of the volunteer staff who spend two years in low-income, urban areas to teach children.

“I’ve actually thought about joining AmeriCorps,” said sophomore Jessica Keough. “I think it’s a great program our country benefits from. Service like that teaches you so many things. I just think the main reason why people should really consider something like AmeriCorps is because it opens your eyes. It teaches you to be selfless and to appreciate what you have. It’s also just nice to give back to those who are in need.”

“Teach for America...is an opportunity that people don’t seem to know much about,” said sophomore Hayley Schools. “I truly admire those individuals that give up two years of their life to help children succeed. However, I don’t feel mandatory service is necessary. As soon as I graduate college, I want to get out in the world and start working.

Who’s requiring service now?

The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse reported that 5.5 million high school and middle school students are engaged in service learning. Some administrators are now requiring students to complete a certain number of community-service hours in order to graduate high school. These include states such as Maryland and Minnesota, and cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia.

Deborah Brannock, director of Counseling Services at Owings Mills High School in Baltimore, said she was torn on the subject of required service. “I do believe that there are individuals who just don’t have the desire to give in that way,” she said. Owings Mills High School has a system to incorporate service-learning hours into the classroom in order for the students to accomplish the 75 hours needed in order to graduate.

What are people saying?

Although there are many reasons for mandatory service, many people still oppose it, primarily because they believe in the right to choose how to live their lives, which is one opinion of people from the Elon community who were recently informally polled.

“I think it should be optional because by making service mandatory, it would take your freedom of choice away,” said Sheila Lackey, an employee of the Coming Attractions Beauty salon in Elon. “It’s just a bad idea.”

Local resident Linda Stitt remembered the draft during the Vietnam War. “I think it’s just an awful idea," she said. "I have a lot of respect for the people who do and are involved with service projects, but I do not think people should be forced into something they don’t want to do.”

Elon Police Chief Lavell Lovette was in high school when the draft was mandatory. "My opinion is that people between the ages of 18 and 20 need to go to college or the military or some sort of service in order to grow, mature and become responsible,” she said.

This article was contributed by Ashley Busch, Elizabeth Colquitt, R.J. Fenn, Jessica Frizen, Rachel Hinson, Leanne Jernigan, Abby Joyce, Tim Rink, Nathan Rode, Ashley Shelton, Paul Skrickus, Katelan Steele and Mike Vivenzio. The story content was edited to fit this layout.

Countries and national states such as Israel require national service for every American over the age of eighteen. As Israel requires every teenager that turns eighteen, male and female, to join the military for a tour of duty, a similar measure is being developed for proposal in America. The idea of mandatory national service isn’t in particular a bad one. Not only would the measure occupy the time of adults that, consider that, for one reason or another, won’t attend college, but it will also reduce the demographic of civilians that are incarcerated for crimes of need. Also, if the legislation were passed, not only would the bill brandish the aformented effects, but generally, it would do a great good for America as a whole. Simply, legislators would need to consider the ratio of young adults working against the ratio of them doing nothing before enacting and requiring mandatory national service, and alas, the simple good that it would do for the good of the United States of America if every American over the age of 18 did a small part, massing up to a monstrous, great whole.

Young adults in America that do not occupy themselves in anyway usually, if not always, evolve into nuisances for society. For example, over time, there has been a steady amount of decline including young adults and community service. From 1990 to 2000, the percent of non-volunteers rose from 56% to 67%. This staggering indicator, along with the common knowledge that college is being a road traveled by less and less, displays that young adults nationally that refuse to commit to donation time to the community are either wasting their time doing nothing, or generally, are up to no good. Along with this shocking statistic, an ironic landmark begins to appear when considering the idea of national service for young adults, inner city youth. AmeriCorps, is a volunteer service comprised of young Americans, primarily visits and intervenes in the lives of young, inner city youth, as well as the homeless, and community health clinics. The irony I’ve referred to, represents the fact that, if AmeriCorps, a group comprised of young Americans, folds, then the younger Americans to come, will not only befall the curse of the current one that refuse to stay occupied, but the AmeriCorps members that would be misplaced, would also become to a similar fate. Of the former mentioned, the intervention in the lives of young urban youth can make a large difference in the well being of the country. If these youth are not instructed that there is something to do in life, they will either, as I’ve said before, rot where they stand, or quickly become incarcerated Americans. For the fates and lives of our young adults, and young adults to come, mandatory national service, in all lights and every spectrum, ought to be considered. Armstrong Williams, further elaborating on the current topic of the fate of our young adults to be, in his article that supports the bill, says, “Each passing generation produces teenagers who are more and more brazen, disrespectful, lazy, and ill-qualified for the real world”. AmeriCorps has a chance of breaking the cycle, and producing respectful, active adults that are ready for the workforce. Why would any bill legislator look over a bill that would enable more, mature, work ready Americans?

Beside the fact that it would do great benefit to the young adults in this nation, the considerance of the bill would also benefit the country as a whole. On a general scale, young adults volunteering could do nothing but well for a country in despair as ours. Not only would they work with the masses, but also they would for free, a relief for a country so deep in debt. Once more, I must refer to Americorps, who, f a different kind of war, against illiteracy, AIDS, and school dropouts. Simply, organizations like Americorps can only build our country not destroy it.

Although the opposition attempts to make a joke out of the bill to be, stating that, “If Orwell were alive, he’d die of laughter”, I disagree. . George Orwell, author of 1984, wrote of a world controlled by a “Bigger-Brother” government. His prediction of what 1984 would be was incorrect, and if he were alive today, he’d be thanking god of the free government we have.  Young Americans volunteering could only build free-beliefs of Americans, and pride in younger ones who serve their country proud. 

The well being of young Americans, and the country itself, are two, prime reasons why the bill needs to be considered. The idea of mandatory national service can only build the country as stronger as one, not destroy it as many.