Some aren’t ready for college at 18

Not every 18-year-old is ready for a four-year college, says Jeffrey Selingo, author of College (Un)Bound.  Many “end up in college because we have few maturing alternatives after high school, whether it’s national service, apprenticeships or structured ‘gap year’ experiences.” Well, we’ve got military service, work and community college.

National servants

Let’s Draft Our Kids, writes Thomas Ricks, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in a New York Times op-ed. His goal is to discourage wars by putting the children of the powerful at risk  – and to provide cheap labor for the government.

A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.

Actually, mowing lawns or pushing paper on an Army base — with no chance of deployment — isn’t “military” service and won’t put anyone’s kids at risk. The military already uses civilian workers for many routine jobs to avoid wasting the time of highly trained soldiers.

Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.

Teaching in low-income areas!?! These are teen-age conscripts with no training. For that matter, rebuilding infrastructure? With no training?

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

Many Americans would pledge to take only minimal government help in exchange for minimal taxes, but that’s probably not what Ricks has in mind.

The high cost of finding some sort of work for unskilled 18-year-olds would be offset by providing a “pool of cheap labor” which could be loaned to states and cities, he argues. Ricks imagines unions would let $15,000-a-year (plus room and board) teen custodians do work otherwise performed by professional custodians earning $106,329, the top base salary in New York City. Those construction workers who’d otherwise be rebuilding infrastructure wouldn’t mind if draftees took their jobs.

Even if it were fair to “put millions of innocent people in involuntary servitude so that their parents would become politically active, it won’t work, writes David Henderson. Conscription won’t reduce support for war.

Obama on education

Education was the “third challenge” in Barack Obama’s speech last night. He’s for it.

There was the usual nod to the global knowledge economy: “We know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.” He promised “access to a complete and competitive education” to every child from birth to first job. Then there was the one-two punch: More money for programs and more money for reforms.

We’ve dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We’ve made college affordable for nearly seven million more students — seven million. (Applause.) And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. (Applause.) That is why this budget creates new teachers — new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools. (Applause.)

(Applause was not universal: Check out Edspresso’s How do I react? for the photo of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.)

Obama asked young Americans to commit to at least one year of college or career training after high school.  He offered tuition aid to those who “volunteer in your neighborhood” or in the military. If the Kennedy-Hatch bill, which he touted, is the guide, that doesn’t mean the feds will offer college aid only to those who’ve served in some way.

Education stimulus money won’t be distributed based on need, reports Education Week.