Service isn't slavery or socialism

Community service isn’t slavery or socialism, writes Michele Catalano on Pajamas Media.

It’s taking the “ask not what your country can do for you” attitude and transforming it into smaller clusters, where we ask what we can do for those we live with and around, instead of waiting for people to do for us.

Asking people to volunteer is just fine. Offering college aid to volunteers is fine, though potentially expensive to implement.  What critics attacked was a proposal on Barack Obama’s change.gov site to require students to put in service hours. Obama heard the critics and changed the wording to make service a goal but not a government mandate.

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Comments

  1. A mandatory plan is still at BHO’s site; details at my name’s link.

  2. Service is required as part of the living skills course in Palo Alto high schools. As a Scoutmaster, I’ve signed a few of those forms.

    That is part of a pretty thorough service learning setup, including two-week service summer camps (middle school attendees, high school counselors):

    http://www.pausd.org/community/ycs/index.shtml
    http://www.youthcommunityservice.org/

  3. Community service that is required by the government is slavery – plain and simple. Unpaid work that is mandatory is slavery. If someone wants to participate in community service voluntarily to reap any rewards offered by Obama’s camp – then great! Go for it. But, do NOT “require” that I or my children do community service – do NOT make it mandatory – do not “require” participation. We are too busy trying to make a living to survive in these horrible (and going to get much much worse) economic times.

  4. Fuzzyrider says:

    Voluntary community service is great and noble. Forced community service is is just a less nasty term for slavery. It is the difference between “Give ’til it hurts” and “Give or I’ll hurt you”. Isn’t it somewhat ironic that it is an African-American president who wants to re-introduce “involuntary servitude” in the United States?

    What punishment will await those who refuse to comply with the governments orders?

  5. My main beef with this idea of community service, is in how other service will be credited. I bet a kid who helps set up adn tear down his church’s fellowship every Sunday (for about 100 hours a year) won’t get credit for it. Neither will a Scout who does many many hours of work toward his Eagle Scout project if that project helps out his local church.

    Certainly, I see if any college money goes to the amount of community service, then there will be limits to what counts, and a lowering of the standards of the actual community service.

    If people want $$ for college by doing service, join the military. If they are ineligible to join the service, then join Americorps.

  6. Scouting, a great organization training boys into men with a great emphasis on service to one’s nation and community. Obama’s plan is not going to include or reward the numerous hours already put in by churches, high school clubs, or service organizations such as Scouting. Instead he wants to create another organization where only those who participate in his “club” will be rewarded with $40/hr credit towards college. True service organizations are teaching our children to give without reward. Obama’s plan is just another “What’s in it for me” plan. I don’t think his plan will teach children service before self.

  7. Fuzzyrider says:

    And,of course, it goes without saying that a $4000 credit toward college will be followed immediately by colleges hiking their tuition exactly the same amount…

  8. Restrictions and red tape will probably only allow the payments be used at public schools, not private colleges. If it really was the student’s money, they should be able to use it where ever they want. Giving you money that you have no control over is socialism.

  9. I really love all the arguments against rules that haven’t even been contemplated yet.

  10. I’m having trouble with the idea that forced service is slavery but forced attendence at schools, forced subjects of study, forced curriculum, forced dress codes, forced book reports, etc. isn’t.

    Being a student IS doing a bunch of stuff you don’t don’t have any say in whatsoever. At least this bit of forcing benefits the community at large in a way forcing a kid to obey the will of class bells doesn’t.

    I can’t really take the outrage over this too seriously.

  11. Fuzzyrider says:

    I can’t see any rational justification for compulsory school attendance, especially considering how crappy and often dangerous even some ‘good’ schools have become.

    I have seen way too many young people who would have done far better if they had to work to support themselves, rather than being a destructive influence in a high school that they were forced to attend against their will-

    Freedom means making choices and taking consequences, oppression is having “choices” forced upon you and divorcing consequences from actions.

  12. The whole idea of “community service” is predicated upon the idea that society owns you. If somebody has the right to tell you what you MUST do — in an affirmative sense rather than the “don’t do harm” sense — you are not truly a free person. We accept that for minors. We shouldn’t accept it for adults, under any circumstances.

    As for the comment that we’re arguing against rules that haven’t even been contemplated yet, well, they HAVE been contemplated. There are plenty of proposals such as this floating around out there. And since Obama has expressed favorable sentiments about the general idea, we would be idiots to wait until it was a “done deal” to start voicing objections.

  13. My main problem with the whole idea of compulsive community service is that this is being proposed more for the development of our characters than for any real community need — at least for any need that could be met by untrained help. Many of us already devote hours of our week to community service. And many of us are very busy.

  14. Dawn,
    The problem is:
    1) the schools aren’t doing their primary job properly now, why add more to their day?
    2) we’re busy. Our kids are busy. Adding more to our day isn’t going to help.
    3) many of our kids already volunteer ON THEIR FREE TIME.
    4) I can’t help but go back to the primary job of public education…to educate our kids. Looking at the results, I think the schools need to concentrate on their primary mission before taking anything new on.
    Cheers,
    IM

  15. I fear that we all may have to start watching what we post on the Internet after January 20, 2009. Don’t be surprised if, around next June or July, you (and me, and everyone else who posted replies to this story) gets a knock on the door from the FBI or Secret Service to question your lack of approval of President Obama’s ideals. Are you a racist? Anti-American? etc.

    I don’t think anything extreme is going to happen, but do expect to end up on a list where you are going to be very closely observed for quite a while…

  16. superdestroyer says:

    Maybe if the high schools seniors could all read at the 12th grade level, actually knew when the civil war occurred, could actually balance their checkbook, and actually understood what mean and median were, then the government should talk about volunteer work. But when you read that only about 30% of high school graduates are really read for college and that many will require remedial classes, then it should be obvious that there is more important work to be done than forced labor.

  17. Miller T. Smith says:

    Margo said, “I really love all the arguments against rules that haven’t even been contemplated yet.”

    Uh…Margo…it is easier to stop a stupid rule from being implemented than it is to get it thrown out. You better open your mouth before a rule or bill becomes law or it will be considered that you were okay with living by that rule.

    Margo, you have not one iota of a right to a drop of my sweat. You seem to think that you do. All moochers do.

    This is a work tax on the poor. Private schools and colleges allow the rich to avoid these “requirements” Anyone who claims a right to any portion of my life is a thief in heart, mind and soul.

  18. CharterMom says:

    In her article Michele Catalano lists a number of personal benefits of community service. Those benefits are true of VOLUNTARY community service. Once service is forced then it merely becomes drudgery. As a teen I was a perfect example of that — I spent one summer working as a volunteer at a camp for disabled children. It was one of the very best experiences of my life. However I assiduously avoided many of the service “opportunities” shoved on me by the Honor Society and other school organizations. While some small number may learn the benefits of community service through forced service programs an equal number will be so turned off that they will recoil at the idea of community service for a long time.

    As far as concerns about some things not being “counted” as community service — my workplace is already an example of that. We can have up to 8 hours a year off for community service but specifically excluded is any time spent working for our churches on church-related activities.

    I also question the practicality of the entire scheme. How is service going to be tracked and verified? Are non-profits now going to be stuck with a new layer of bureaucracy to track and report service? Why should college kids be paid $40./hour tax-free ($4000 tax credit divided by 100 hours) to do work that is currently either done by true volunteers or by lower-paid staff?

    And as for the “goal” language for the middle and high-schoolers — I do remember reading where the plan was to tie grant money to school districts to that goal. The minute that happens then a “goal” becomes a requirement. Remember the 55MPH speed limit? The federal government couldn’t force it on the states but by tieing highway dollars to it, it was forced.

  19. IronMike – Whoops, I should have qualified my last sentence.

    “I can’t really take the outrage that compares sevice to slavery too seriously.

  20. I’m having trouble with the idea that forced service is slavery but forced attendence at schools, forced subjects of study, forced curriculum, forced dress codes, forced book reports, etc. isn’t.

    All of the above are, at least in theory, for the benefit of the student. Although one could argue that being the unwilling customer of the school system is a form of forced service, or that mandatory education for the purpose of indoctrination is something similar.

    The term slavery is a bit much, but the 13th Amendment also uses the term involuntary servitude.

  21. Between voluteering in youth sports, at school, scouts, community meetings and church – I’d estimate my wife and I and the kids volunteer over 300 hrs a year – my guess is little of that will qualify under any gov’t sponsored compulsory program – plus my youngest is 6 and is a brownie – how many hours would she be required to volunteer and for what? But then again – those re-education camps aren’t going to build themselves.

  22. Reading and writing (English, not language arts), mathematics, science, history (not social studies), geography(!), foreign languages, and civics (government) up to and through high school. You may have other academic subjects you want to add. Anything else, it’s not a school! We haven’t had real schools now for many, many years. Compulsory government service in government schools is just another way of “distracting” schools from what should be their primary mission.

  23. You know, I hate to admit it, but the majority of high school and college students in the U.S. could actually use some discipline. Six months of community service and six months of ROTC should do it.

    (It could be required for high school graduation in the K-12 system, and a way to reduce student loans for those already in college.)

    Doesn’t Switzerland and Sweden do the same thing? And, like the U.S., those two nations are considered two of the most democratic, free, and peaceful nations on Earth…

  24. …the majority of high school and college students in the U.S. could actually use some discipline. Six months of community service and six months of ROTC should do it.

    What would six months of community service do that 12 years of school couldn’t?

  25. “What would six months of community service do that 12 years of school couldn’t?”

    It could expose the kids to true poverty and suffering, to let them know how fortunate they really are to have their youth, their health, three meals a day, a roof over their heads, be living in a free country, etc.

    Now, I have no problems making community service and/or ROTC mandatory for the K-12 crowd as a high school diploma requirement – they are, after all, minors, and I also think it would do most American kids a world of good – it’s making it mandatory for the 18-25 crowd I have a problem with. Once you’re an adult and no longer a minor, the U.S. Constitution applies in full, as others in this thread have said earlier.

    I would be all for making the community service and/or ROTC voluntary for the college students, though, as a way to reduce their student loans.

  26. Kindergarten ROTC – there’s one I hadn’t thought of yet.

  27. Andy Freeman says:

    > actually use some discipline. Six months of community service and six months of ROTC should do it.

    Sorry, but that doesn’t follow. While one can imagine community service programs that would instill discipline, there’s no reason to believe that the programs being proposed will actually do so. Instead, there’s every reason to believe that they’ll be political indoctrination.

    And, we know that it won’t be real ROTC because the Dems have already said that ROTC preys on poor people and shouldn’t be tolerated in elite colleges. (The “elite” distinction continues to exist only because they haven’t figured out how to kick ROTC off the other campus’ yet.)

  28. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    Was it the Stakhanovites who carried voluntarism to an extreme?
    As I recall, The army that attacked me November 26, 1950, was composed entirely of volunteers if we can believe Mao, and I suspect many educators do. I suspect that, like the shared community charities, this field would soon become another nursery for Green Brownshirts.
    The draft, during Vietnam, damn near ruined our ability to defend ourselves.
    My grandson will be doing his “Living Skills this summer. I will try to see if his helping my in the yard and hooking new stuff to my computers can count. I will try to teach him how to subvert crap like this.

  29. “While one can imagine community service programs that would instill discipline, there’s no reason to believe that the programs being proposed will actually do so. Instead, there’s every reason to believe that they’ll be political indoctrination.”

    Can you name three?

  30. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    How about naming by exception – why are scouting and church excluded?

  31. Walter:

    Excluded from what, exactly? The only thing that they have been excluded from so far is the straw man arguments that have been posted here. My son contributed 75 hours to a program run by my church in order to meet the community service requirement of his school. I don’t know if he could count scouting hours, because scouting excludes him.