Monday, July 07, 2008

Obama: Students should serve

Barack Obama believes that all students should serve their communities.
The plan Obama outlined in Colorado Springs called for getting middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of community service a year and 100 hours a year for college students.

He said the goals would be achieved by making federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs.

But Obama also said he believed young people would rise to the occasion - challenging what he said were "cynics."

"These are the voices that will tell you - not just what you can't do - but what you won't do," Obama said. "Young Americans won't serve their country - they're too selfish, too apathetic or too lazy. This is the soft sell of the status quo. The voice that tells you to settle because settling isn't that bad."

But Stevenson worried it sounded like a federal mandate.
Well, Stevenson is right, it would be a mandate, just as testing is a mandate, you either do what the Feds tell you or you can kiss that Title I money good bye (I have some real problems with this governmental money with strings attached methodology, but that is a post for another time).

Some states, such as Maryland, my home state, have community service graduation criteria, 75 hours of "preparation, action, and reflection". My beef is that it is "forced volunteerism" which kind of negates the point of volunteerism doesn't it. By definition, volunteering is something you do out of personal choice, but if you have to "volunteer" in order to graduate, that personal choice is obviated.

But Stevenson brings up a good point. What would be permitted volunteerism? I don't know the expanse of Maryland's volunteer requirement, but I can be pretty sure it wouldn't involve say, organizing for the Nazi Party of America or the KKK. I would be pretty sure that church volunteerism would be covered as long as it is "community based," i.e. not evangelism or trying to convert people, since that might violate church/state principles.

I also don't like the college service requirement. On a personal level, I attended college after military service and I had to hold down a couple of jobs to make ends meet. I did volunteer activities through my fraternity, but nowhere close to 100 hours a year. I would resent being told I have to volunteer to graduate (which would be the only way the colleges could ensure they had enough volunteerism to ensure they get their federal funds).

Look, Obama encouraging service, including it should be noted, military service is all well and good. But there is a difference between "encouraging service" and "requiring service," the latter is called conscription and it never breeds the community spirit you are seeking.

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