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Mandatory Community Service and Labor Unions:

InstaPundit, OverLawyered, and Coyote point to the Obama transition site, which says:

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation's challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

This sounds like mandatory community service ("require") for millions of 12-to-20-something-year-olds, but whether it's mandatory or voluntary, I'm curious: How would unions react to this? I take it this means somewhat fewer jobs and less overtime for their members, especially since many government organizations of the sort in which these community servants will serve are unionized workplaces.

If, for instance, college students help out in schools, I take it there'd be fewer jobs for teacher's aides. Moreover, the loss of such possible union jobs will be roughly proportional to the public value that the community servants will provide: If the college students require more supervision than they provide value, that might mean more union jobs, but it will also mean that they won't do much good to the institution they're supposedly serving.

Is this a political difficulty that has already been resolved with past community service proposals? Is there some obvious way of finessing it, for instance by making sure that the community servants will only go to institutions that unions are for some reason not interested in organizing? (For instance, say what you will about mandatory military service, it's unlikely to run into this sort of particular obstacle, at least so long as the military sticks with military service and doesn't take over traditionally unionized civilian programs.)

I should stress that this need not be a normative argument against the propriety of mandatory community service (though I'm certainly open to such normative arguments), but only a question about the likely politics of the matter. I should also stress that these questions really are just questions — I'm not remotely expert on the subject, and it might well be that there are very simple and satisfactory answers to them that I just haven't thought of.

UPDATE: After I posted this, the site was changed to read, in relevant part, "Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free." This might or might not mean the service isn't mandatory -- but, as I said, the question about likely union reaction seems to me to be relevant even when the service isn't mandatory.

Robert J:
Not to mention that 100 hours for many college students means forfeiting enough money to pay the rent or buy books for a semester.
11.7.2008 7:05pm
Brett:
I can think of few things more likely to inspire white-hot rage among the 14-21 age group than forcing them to work on government boondoggles when they could be doing something important, like putting pictures of themselves on Facebook or playing XBox.
11.7.2008 7:07pm
mporcius (mail):
Robert J,

I seem to recall that the "volunteers" will be paid.
11.7.2008 7:10pm
ginsocal (mail):
Not sure of the union intracacies (why are they still around?), but I can assure Barry et al, that no one in my family, of whatever age, will be spending so much as a minute with his stormtroopers community organizers.
11.7.2008 7:14pm
mporcius (mail):
Eugene,

Maybe Obama's plan will allow "volunteering" for the union to count as community service. Even if it doesn't, enough of the "volunteers" will be doing the grunt work for lefty organizations like ACORN, PIRG, BAMN, et al that the unions will be persuaded that the community service will help put more Democrats in office, office holders who will do the unions' bidding.
11.7.2008 7:14pm
Anonymous Poor:
James Lindgren, your office is calling!

(Seriously, I can't wait to see what he says about this.)
11.7.2008 7:17pm
Grant Gould (mail):
The word we are all looking for is "corveé."

IIRC, though, in most places teachers aides aren't unionized, or at least not under the teachers' unions, so I don't see that particular one as a big issue.
11.7.2008 7:20pm
Donna (www):
How can you quarrel with requiring young people to contribute to the betterment of their local communities? Except for homework, those who complete it, what kid hasn't complained about being bored with "nothing to do...?"
11.7.2008 7:25pm
DDG:
Oh, what can we call these brave youths for Obama , these young pioneers, this youth league?
11.7.2008 7:28pm
Gov98 (mail):
I do not mean to compare such a program to slavery because it is not comparable, but I am curious how this program would not run afoul of the plain language of the thirteenth amendment.
11.7.2008 7:28pm
Donna (www):
Oh, I forgot. My 16 year old daughter goes to a local private college prep school. Each student must complete 120 community service hours to graduate. My daughter has a very high grade point average and over 400 hours thus far. I have never "made" her complete even one of them; she did them on her own and it has certainly enhanced her as a person.
11.7.2008 7:29pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Mandatory community service sounds a lot like a draft. What will happen to somebody who refuses? Will he go to jail for not participating in the Obama youth corps? How about retired people, will they have to volunteer too? This is dynamite stuff if he really tries to press it. Perhaps people will end up volunteering for the military in order to overthrow the Obama dictatorship.
11.7.2008 7:31pm
Colin Fraizer (mail):
How would this not violate the 13th Amendment prohibition on involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime?
11.7.2008 7:33pm
Reader5000:
What would be the power for this? Conditioning federal school funding on implementing such a program? That would require congress to act at least. The thing seems utterly insane.
11.7.2008 7:38pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Will the Obama "volunteers" be subject to propaganda as part of their training program? Will they march down the street holding giant signs with Obama's picture on it?
11.7.2008 7:42pm
Gov98 (mail):
"How can you quarrel with requiring..."

Well, there is this thing I learned about in school called freedom. I thought it was a good concept.
11.7.2008 7:42pm
glangston (mail):
With all that "volunteerism" it certainly looks like you're going to be served (or serviced) (in the immortal words of Mayor Gavin Newsom) "whether you like it or not"

The Mormons and the Boy Scouts already do a lot of this. Will their service count?...Or do they belong to the wrong groups?

I'm a little cynical but as I've considered this, it would make perfect sense for some of this service to include keeping their school clean like they do in Japan. And graffiti cleanup would be a nice bonus. 15 min. to a half hour of cleaning per day and you'd meet the 50 or 100 hour goal.
11.7.2008 7:44pm
Reg (mail):
Obama wants us to work to expand our liberty! That's why all the libertarians said we should vote for Obama, right?
11.7.2008 7:47pm
Just John:
I've read one suggestion, somewhere on the Internet, that all of these Corps are a fiendish and devious (and also cunning) plan by the Democrats to siphon people away from that other group made up of volunteers, the U.S. military. Gives kids the option of a safe job far away from terrorists and flying bullets, while the word "Corps" in the title gives an impression of patriotism and warrior spirit without actually being a Marine.

Of course, I hope none of those kids come up to an actual Marine and say something like, "My Corps is better than your Corps!" Because I don't think Classroom Corps will teach anyone how to defend against an angry Marine.
11.7.2008 7:48pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

What would be the power for this? Conditioning federal school funding on implementing such a program?



Yes. Leverage the school with the funding, the school leveraging the students so the school can acquire the money.

Mandatory, in practice.

Same as the health plan- leverage the institutions with federal funds against the health of the patients. At some point, the patient is required to maintain a certain level of health/lifestyle to satisfy the disbursement of the funding. In practice, live as the government tells you, or no funding.


Corvée is labour, often but not always unpaid, that persons in power have authority to compel their subjects to perform, unless commuted in some way such as by a cash payment; sometimes this was an option of the payer, sometimes of the payee, and sometimes not an option. It differs from chattel slavery in that the worker is not owned outright – being free in various respects other than in the dispensation of his or her labour – and the work is usually intermittent; typically only a certain number of days' or months' work is required each year. It is a form of unfree labour when the worker is not compensated. It is not technically a tax as there is no actual obligation to pay cash or a physical good such as wheat, but – particularly with a commutation option – it operates very much like a tax for all intents and purposes, usually a poll tax.

The term is most typically used in reference to Medieval or early modern Europe, where work might be demanded by a feudal lord of his vassal or by a monarch of his subject; however the application of the term is not strictly limited to that time or place: the practice is widespread, of great antiquity, and not extinct. Corvée has existed in modern and ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, China and Japan, France in the 1600s and 1700s, Incan civilization, and Portugal's African colonies until the mid 1960s.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvee

And what of the military?
11.7.2008 7:48pm
Nifonged:
"Oh, I forgot. My 16 year old daughter goes to a local private college prep school. Each student must complete 120 community service hours to graduate."

Congrats, you must be very proud.

For kids in rural areas (where I grew up) attending public schools that are needed to work at home or kids in any location otherwise with the same obligations, this would be a ridiculous requirement. For me: Spring = planting season. Summer = maintenance. Fall = harvest, and throughout the rest of the year I was doing things like lettering in football, basketball and baseball, i.e. being a NORMAL kid.

This is just an indication as to how out of touch Obama is with reality. There is NOTHING wrong with public service (I strongly think it should be encouraged), but not everyone has the benefit of private high schools and their funding/infrastruction, Columbia/Harvard education and U of Chicago employment. For someone who rode the populist wave into the Presidency, he's absolutely clueless as to the daily life of a middle-American.
11.7.2008 7:53pm
Fury:
Eugene Volokh:

"If, for instance, college students help out in schools, I take it there'd be fewer jobs for teacher's aides. Moreover, the loss of such possible union jobs will be roughly proportional to the public value that the community servants will provide: If the college students require more supervision than they provide value, that might mean more union jobs, but it will also mean that they won't do much good to the institution they're supposedly serving."


For background I serve on two Boards of Education, so will provide the info I am aware of.

It depends on how they would help out. More and more districts are moving away from teacher's aides and to teacher's assistants per NCLB. In several states teacher aides are classified in the noncompetitive class of the civil service. Depending on the district, teacher aides and other paraprofessionals also have collective bargaining agreements with school districts.

Teacher Assistants are another matter. In many localities they are members of the teacher collective bargaining unit. Additionally, NCLB has specific requirements for teaching assistants. For example, teaching assistants that are paid f or with Title I, Part A funds are required to have one of the following:

1) Completed two years of study at an institution of higher education; or
2) Obtained an associate’s (or higher) degree; or
3) Met a rigorous standard of quality and be able to demonstrate, through a formal State or local academic assessment, knowledge of and the ability to assist in instructing, reading, writing, and mathematics (or, as appropriate, reading readiness, writing readiness, and mathematics readiness).

- see here.

Additionally, under NCLB teaching assistants working in a program supported with Title I Part A funds available under the act can do any of the following:

(1) provide one-on-one tutoring if such tutoring is scheduled at a time when a student would not otherwise receive instruction from a teacher;
(2) assist with classroom management, such as by organizing instructional materials;
(3) provide instructional assistance in a computer laboratory;
(4) conduct parental involvement activities;
(5) provide instructional support in a library or media center;
(6) act as a translator;
(7) provide instructional support services under the direct supervision of a highly qualified teacher.

[Title I, Section 1119(g)(2)] - see here.

I can't reasonably see teacher's unions allowing duties and tasks they currently perform being delegated to teaching assistants or aides without negotiating that via collective bargaining agreements.

Speaking to the practicality of community service, many districts already have a civics requirement already high school seniors as part of a civics requirement. Every year, you see a few seniors who choose to attend Board of Education meetings trying to keep awake (they wake up at the end of the meeting when they need to get their attendance slips signed). I'd like students to focus on mastering core competencies that will be needed to succeed in college, the skilled trades or the military. I'm not convinced that the community service will help students be more successful. That is not to say it would not be an asset, but I'd like to see some peer reviewed research that bears this out.
11.7.2008 7:55pm
Dan M.:
I'm going to homeschool if this shit becomes permanent.
11.7.2008 7:56pm
commontheme (mail):
This is all most excellent.

I just came over from Derbyshire's musings at NRO in which he compares the national servce proposal to both Hitler and Stalin.

For a moment I thought that the electoral ass-whuppin' might cause some of the right-wing nutjobs to pause and reflect that their rhetoric and opinions have not, shall we say, furthered the election of Mr. McCain. But no. No chance of that.

So, please do carry on with the discussions.
11.7.2008 7:58pm
Donald Kilmer (mail) (www):
I would "volunteer" if I received a tax credit equal to my hourly rate as a lawyer (or CEO or mechanic or teacher, etc...) for every hour of gov't service I provided.

Otherwise, we are in the "from my cold dead hand" category of defiant political disobedience.
11.7.2008 7:59pm
erik jay (mail) (www):
Hey, Donna, do you read your own posts? YOU don't have to make your daughter do it because the SCHOOL is making her do it. Would she (and you) be so happy about her conscription if she had been put to work, say, emptying bedpans or helping out at the Old Republicans' Home? As long as you agree with what your conscripting agency is doing, all is well in your Groupthink Paradise. Do you honestly not understand that the word "volunteer" will be completely meaningless in this kind of regime? How can you possibly make a principled argument for any kind of involuntary servitude? I guarantee you that (what was that final number again?) at least 47.1% of the population will rebel against this -- for starters. Then, as more and more of you collectivists get mugged by your own reality, that number will doubtless grow. Just where the frig do you, or anyone else, get off telling any (semi) free American what they MUST do, and where, and for how long? What, there aren't enough knuckleheads like you and your friends to fill up the available "volunteer" slots? Shame on you, then! Oh, and I checked out your blog -- you need a good editor, You also need to read a little more widely, I suggest you start with The Federalist.
11.7.2008 8:00pm
Nifonged:
commontheme,

do you have a point related to the post at hand? Is there a chance of real intellectual discussion, or you another Kos troll with the "wow the Conspiracy are nutjobs" post with no substance. Please, if you post again, make a freaking point. This isn't Kos.
11.7.2008 8:01pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I'm going to homeschool if this shit becomes permanent.


you-don't-even-let-it-start...
11.7.2008 8:04pm
Fury:
Reader5000:

What would be the power for this? Conditioning federal school funding on implementing such a program? That would require congress to act at least. The thing seems utterly insane.

I think this is probably how such a program would be implemented. For what it's worth, an informal poll of the one school board I serve on indicated that BOE Members would be willing to forgo the Title I Part A funds if the receipt of funds is conditional on such a service requirement and the district believes it would hinder students achieving mastery in core competency areas such as ELA, History, Math, Science, etc.
11.7.2008 8:06pm
commontheme (mail):
Nifonged

So sorry that my (rather obvious) point escaped you. Let me try to speak more slowly: the inane hyperventilation demonstrated in the comments in this thread (and elsewhere such as the Derbyshire column) are prime examples of why the nutter-right is drilling itself into utter irrelevance. Do you understand that now? Or is it too meta for you?
11.7.2008 8:10pm
Nifonged:
No, because once again you didn't address the point at hand.

Do you think the community service requirement would be looked on favorably by unions?

Or more generally, is it (the community service requirement, in case it isn't obvious) a good (or even Constitutional, as opposed to simply political) idea?

Those aren't difficult questions, why are you ignoring them?
11.7.2008 8:16pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I've read one suggestion, somewhere on the Internet, that all of these Corps are a fiendish and devious (and also cunning) plan by the Democrats to siphon people away from that other group made up of volunteers, the U.S. military. Gives kids the option of a safe job far away from terrorists and flying bullets, while the word "Corps" in the title gives an impression of patriotism and warrior spirit without actually being a Marine.



-all that aside, but to this point- when the government sets up an agency, let's say a charity-type operation, private versions of the same tend to wither, leaving only the government version.

As to union reactions to the "volunteers"- the answer is to organize them.
11.7.2008 8:24pm
ShelbyC:
commontheme, stop driveling and make some kind of point already.
11.7.2008 8:26pm
commontheme (mail):
Nifonged - I think I can tell from your handle that you are the sort of faux-conservative who delights in fighting yesterday's battles. I will leave you to it.

But my compliments to you, your single minded focus on the narrow confines of EV's post - while blinding yourself to the larger (and much more important) question of whether this is a discussion that folks should be having at all - tells me that you excelled at coloring in the lines in grammar school.
11.7.2008 8:26pm
Waldo (mail):
Community service will probably be made to support unions. How? Simply unionize community service "volunteers."

Allow the union to set community service work rules (who gets which service job, when), then add card check, and there's a strong incentive for people to join.
11.7.2008 8:31pm
Nifonged:
"question of whether this is a discussion that folks should be having at all "

Why would anyone question having a dicussion about anything? What are you afraid of discussing?

Did I just read that post correctly? If so, we're in worse shape than I originally thought. I pray (and I'm an atheist) that you aren't an American.
11.7.2008 8:41pm
Blar (mail) (www):
The state of Maryland already requires service learning (75 hours total for each student during middle school &high school), and has for the past 15 years. I don't know how well it's worked, but I at least haven't heard any of the kinds of dramatic complaints that people are making here.
11.7.2008 8:43pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):

If the college students require more supervision than they provide value, that might mean more union jobs, but it will also mean that they won't do much good to the institution they're supposedly serving.

Indeed. More generally, conscripting people for a week or two per year of community servitude would seem to be a pretty inefficient way of getting things done; in many cases the value extracted would be less than the cost of supervision.

The efficiency of conscripts would likely be a tiny fraction of the efficiency of enthusiastic volunteers.
11.7.2008 8:43pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Let's test the idea. How about having the volunteer program applied only to blacks? If they embrace it and consider it an honor and opportunity, then the rest of us can try it. If they see it as a return to slavery, then the rest of us can recognize it for what it is.
11.7.2008 8:43pm
Calderon:
If, for instance, college students help out in schools, I take it there'd be fewer jobs for teacher's aides. Moreover, the loss of such possible union jobs will be roughly proportional to the public value that the community servants will provide

Focusing on educationg to start, are there lots of jobs for "teacher's aides" now? I don't remember any such positions when I went to school 15-20 years ago. I assume that the intent is for the college-age "volunteers" to provide individualized help to students as they do problems in class or whatever, and to sit there pointlessly while the teacher is lecturing.

More broadly, it's never been clear what community service the "volunteers" will be doing. Organizing millions of people to do something or other also is likely to be a high cost of the program (though also a good way to hand out patronage jobs, go Chicago way!) This is one of those idea that I guess sounds good to someone somewhere on paper but the administrative details sounds like a nightmare (setting aside any constitutional issues).
11.7.2008 8:44pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Nifonged:

There's been at best two comments even touching on the union issue in this thread. Many more comparing the plan to Nazis and Stalinists. Commontheme makes a valid point.
11.7.2008 8:46pm
pdxbob:
commontheme - I take it we should all just shut up and go along with all proposals. Excellent point. Anything else?
11.7.2008 8:47pm
RebelRenegade:
I tend to struggle with whether I should feel bad for people like commontheme. He doesn't feel bad for himself. In fact, he thinks very highly of himself. He's sitting there typing away thinking he's so clever and all his like-minded friends will be patting him on the back for putting some random internet person in his place for the crime of civilly discussing a topic.

No reason to feel bad or respond to trolls I guess. But sometimes I forget and have to remind myself.
11.7.2008 8:47pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
If I work in another local's jurisdiction, I'm paid my wages, but my pension/welfare/benefits are not mine, but that local's.

The "volunteers" would be a constant source (turnover) of those monies being turned into each local's general fund.

The unions might love that, and the government pays it.
11.7.2008 8:48pm
pdxbob:
I just visited the transition web site, and apparently the wording "required" has been removed and replaced with "setting a goal". That's change I can believe in.
11.7.2008 8:48pm
Sagar:
what Waldo said.

Obama said they will be paid at min wage rate or something along those lines - part of the pay could go to union reps to provide guidance and services to the student 'volunteers'.

these kids will learn the goodness of unions and collective bargaining from a young age and will graduate into regular labor unions as adult workers.
11.7.2008 8:48pm
Nifonged:
JS, BS (pun intended).

He/she makes a valid point when he/she addresses my initial comment, unless you think it invokes Godwin's law.
11.7.2008 8:49pm
CDR D (mail):
>>>Well, there is this thing I learned about in school called freedom. I thought it was a good concept.

<<<

I used to think that, too.

We can discuss it should we meet somewhere in a re-education camp. Learn a tap-code.
11.7.2008 8:49pm
Kieffer (mail):
They've changed the page to remove the word require.
11.7.2008 8:49pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Nifonged:

I don't think you understand what a "pun" is. Beyond that, while I'm sure Commontheme can speak for his/herself, he/she was responding to the majority of the comments on his thread.
11.7.2008 8:51pm
Alex Bensky (mail):
I think Obama has a good idea and I suggest that all these "volunteers" in the various corps wear a uniform shirt. For the color, I suggest brown.
11.7.2008 8:51pm
luagha:

And how would this work with GED high school degrees?

I can see the prisoners in prison working on their high school GEDs passing the test but having to do 100 hours of community service stamping out license plates for the gubmint to actually get their diploma.
11.7.2008 8:52pm
JosephSlater (mail):
And there's Alex Bensky to underscore the point.
11.7.2008 8:52pm
govols:
I'm confused.

Are students, schools, or states entitled to federal aid for education? Assuming the answer is no, why is there a 13th amendment problem with putting a service requirement on receipt of that money? If college students don't like it, don't take the money. If states don't like it, they don't have to take the federal funds.

Re: "Mandatory, in practice." In practice? Are libertarians interested in defining financial inequality as a freedom problem? Because "mandatory, in practice" sounds suspiciously like defining freedom in a positive, "Four Freedoms" manner. I don't think anyone opposed to the national service plan should be interested in following that logic where it takes you.
11.7.2008 8:53pm
Calderon:
They've changed the page to remove the word require.

Impressive. That's one of those things (like Obama's dodge of the question at his press conference about whether and when he'll propose raising taxes on the top 5%) where I'm not sure whether I should be more worried or less.

Prof. Slater, since you entered the thread and have a background in labor law, I'm sure you'll be more useful than the rest of us in analyzing Prof. Volokh's question. So what's your opinion?
11.7.2008 8:53pm
Nifonged:
"while I'm sure Commontheme can speak for his/herself, he/she was responding to the majority of the comments on his thread."

I don't care what you think, I care whether or not commontheme has a position on the matter.

Then again, I change my mind. What's your position? Why are you posting? Care to answer the 2 questions I posted above? Are they not reasonable questions?
11.7.2008 8:55pm
Sagar:
commontheme,

i don't see much of whacky discussion here - so i don't see your point either. if someone at NRO was comparing Obama to Hitler or stalin, what is the purpose of complaining here? go comment about it where you see that argument.
11.7.2008 8:55pm
Lior:
Well-run community service programs for high-school kids are in principle a good idea. As long as this takes place during school hours, requiring students to do community service is no different from the school requiring students to do physical activity, or learn history. Of course, this only works if the parents can enroll their kids in another school if they disapprove.

Regarding the main question of the post, such volunteers cannot perform the functions of regular employees except in exceptional circumstances, so I think there will be no effect of taking away employment from unionized labour. There will be a reduction of unemployment of unskilled labourers, but these are rarely unionized.

Volunteers are usually assigned to jobs based on the connections between their school and the organization taking them up, not based on skills and qualifications. Moreover, the jobs they are used for are very different from the unskilled "for-profit" jobs young people usually take. Thus, the main effect is to reduce the availability of labour for jobs currently filled with high-school students ("flipping burgers").
11.7.2008 8:57pm
Starship Trooper:
Remember, service guarantees citizenship!
11.7.2008 8:59pm
taney71:
I enjoyed this thread. I didn't realize how many Kos trolls come on this site. When did this start happening?
11.7.2008 9:07pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Nifonged:

OK, I don't think unions will have a problem with this, because I don't think the volunteers will do what union workers do.
11.7.2008 9:08pm
Nifonged:
JS (no pun this time), thanks.

Do you think generally its a good idea? If you don't want to respond I understand, but I think its a legitimate question, particularly with an upcoming administration that many people (myself and virtually all of my family and friends included) believe was not properly questioned on ANY issue, but to this thread's point this issue.
11.7.2008 9:12pm
Allan (mail):
Hard labor for the holdouts.
11.7.2008 9:14pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Nifonged:

To be honest, I'm not thrilled about mandatory service, nor am I appalled by it -- assuming what is meant by "mandatory" is "conditiong certain funds" on it.
11.7.2008 9:15pm
RebelRenegade:
taney71: I was curious about that too, but I suppose any site that mentions an Obama policy in a critical light has to be re-educated.
11.7.2008 9:15pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Are students, schools, or states entitled to federal aid for education? Assuming the answer is no, why is there a 13th amendment problem with putting a service requirement on receipt of that money? If college students don't like it, don't take the money.


That's not viable on a large scale. The economic distortion of large (often full ride) scholarships provides too massive of a difference for the market to adjust to, while often mandating against both the provider of the service and the purchaser of those services can not avoid the mandates involved.

The result is a drastically increased cost for all of these services, on a universal level. There's a reason that school courses cost so much compared to past levels.
11.7.2008 9:18pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

They've changed the page to remove the word require.



screenshot from earlier today
11.7.2008 9:19pm
Fury:
Blar:

The state of Maryland already requires service learning (75 hours total for each student during middle school &high school), and has for the past 15 years...

I think the difference is the Obama plan states 50 hours per school year. That's 75 hours total for middle through high school for Maryland vs. 350 hours total for middle school through high school for the Obama plan. I'm not sure how well the Obama plan scales, as you would have many more students and the resulting compliance paperwork, supervision of students, etc. Additionally, there will be legal issues. For example, will organizations who use student volunteers be indemnified against claims arising from a student being injured while volunteering or who cause a loss where they volunteer? If so, who pays for that? The district? Insurance companies are increasingly becoming even more risk averse than in past years (e.g. schools removing playground equipment due to potential injuries, etc.).

There are potential unintended consequences of large scale efforts such as this. And as stated prior, my belief is that the first priority for students is mastery in the core competencies needed for graduation and entry in college, the skilled trades, or the military.
11.7.2008 9:20pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

If college students don't like it, don't take the money.



it won't be a matter of the student refusing the money, the government won't provide the money to the school if it's requirements aren't met.
11.7.2008 9:22pm
Nifonged:
JS, I think that it is a very fair and reasoned postion, with emphasis on the "assuming what is meant by "mandatory" is "conditiong certain funds" on it" piece. That's a big point, and I don't think people should fault those who are concerned as to whether that assumption is indeed correct. In an open discussion, all results should be considered, and to that point, if this is truly a mandatory service, and not a funding condition, I think this has been a fairly measured thread.
11.7.2008 9:23pm
Calculated Risk:
This post needs to be updated, because the website that is linked to has changed. It now says:


The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.


Notice now that with respect to high school students, it says "setting a goal" instead of "require" (although it is not clear whether Obama proposes to make service a graduation requirement or not -- it sounds like a great idea to make it such a requirement to me) and with respect to college students note that there is definitely no requirement. If you don't want to do service, don't. If you do service, you are eligible for a tax credit though.

Overall, I think it is truly hilarious that so many commentators are hyperventilating over this. Yeah, I am sure that 50 hours of community service over a whole entire year will just absolutely KILL young people. I mean, that is like a whole entire hour a week. The horror! The horror! Kill me now! Its worse than a draft into the military!

Hey, don't forget. You can always move to Canada...

With respect to Eugene's point, I don't imagine that unions will have big objections to community service. It is not as though there is not enough work that could be done.

You know, if you spend some time tutoring someone, that doesn't necessarily mean a teach aide is now out of a job. Overall, there are too many struggling students and not enough help, not vice-versa.

The basic flaw in Volokh's point is his assumption that the amount of work that could be productively done is FIXED. That isn't the case.
11.7.2008 9:26pm
Tolley Jenkins (mail):
The language on change.gov no longer mentions "requiring" community service. It now speaks in terms of incentives. A commenter at coyoteblog noticed that the Obama website was changed from the blockquote above to what I've pasted below. Maybe it's innocuous, but that rubs me the wrong way.


The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
11.7.2008 9:29pm
zippypinhead:
Funny, but it seems that this proposal is geared towards building a huge and costly new "volunteer" infrastructure (and associated bureaucracy), without a word about further leveraging and encouraging the already-huge, low-cost volunteer infrastructure in our country that is provided by churches, fraternal organizations, and existing youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Hmmm...

Speaking of one group whose name apparently hasn't crossed the lips of our incoming President-Elect during the campaigh: The Boy Scouts of America - which provides literally millions of totally free hours of service annually in a myriad of projects that range from environmental conservation, to food bank collections, to senior citizen aid, to mentoring at-risk children, to almost any age-appropriate community task you can think of. And has as one of its program goals instilling a lifelong spirit of helpfulness and cheerful service in its members. But hey, since BSA isn't too popular with some of the POTUS-Elect's "base," I guess we shouldn't be surprised if he pretends it doesn't exist.

Ironically, one of Scouting's traditional service projects, through BSA's National Capital Area Council, is to provide volunteer ushers at official Presidential Inauguration events. But this time I understand the Inaugural Committee seems to be working hard to not even acknowledge BSA's offers of free help. Hmmm...

Now excuse me. I'll be off to the corner quietly clinging to my God and guns, quivering at the prospect of the union thugs personally presenting me with my pre-filled-out checkoff card, and waiting for my Whatever-Corps draft notice to arrive in the mail...
11.7.2008 9:31pm
Nifonged:
"I am sure that 50 hours of community service over a whole entire year will just absolutely KILL young people."

I for one, don't think the issue is that it will kill them, as so much that it will be a colossal waste of time and resources. Someone has to oversee these kids (on the government's payroll), some entity will have to insure their safety (on the government's payroll), some administrative body will have to administrate this HUGE endeavor (yadda yadda yadda). Its not as if there aren't available opportunities for kids to contribute, heck I have an acquaintance who is a young associate at a decent regional law firm who is trying to do pro bono work and the market is saturated with attorneys doing likewise. Americans volunteer a lot as it is, do we need the least able (at least from an experience standpoint) of us to be forced into it at the taxpayers' expense?

Others can disagree.
11.7.2008 9:32pm
Calculated Risk:

There are potential unintended consequences of large scale efforts such as this.


There are also potential unintended consequences to your decision to get up and go to work in the morning.

You could get hit by a car. You might mess up at work and get fired, whereas if you called in sick, you would still have a job the next day. The building you work in might be attacked by terrorists (if only you had stayed home!).

Oh, there are also possible unintended consequences of staying home. Your house could catch fire and you could be injured or get smoke inhalation. Oh, also, your house could get robbed and you might be murdered because you were home.

I guess there are "potential unintended consequences" no matter what you do.

Why certain conservatives/libertarians think the phrase "unintended consequences" is somehow a conclusive debate-ending phrase is beyond me.

Yeah, there are potential unintended consequences to this program. Just like every other action and inaction in life.

So freakin what?
11.7.2008 9:33pm
Tolley Jenkins (mail):
Calculated Risk:
The basic flaw in Volokh's point is his assumption that the amount of work that could be productively done is FIXED. That isn't the case.

Blasphemy!!!!!!
11.7.2008 9:38pm
Calculated Risk:

Others can disagree.


And I do! I think it is good for young people to get in the habit of serving others. Whether or not they are advantages or disadvantaged.

We live in a society. And a country. And we are bound to each other. And we should serve each other.

I do not think service is a waste of time.


Someone has to oversee these kids (on the government's payroll), some entity will have to insure their safety (on the government's payroll), some administrative body will have to administrate this HUGE endeavor (yadda yadda yadda).


I guess you could say the same about public education. Maybe we should do away with it! Of course, I am sure some will disagree.

By the way, overseeing these kids and ensuring their safety are the one and the same concept. Are you like trying to make one point into two to score rhetorical points or what?

And, I guess it is a HUGE endeavor, when considered in the aggregate. But, that could be said for ANY national program whatsoever. 1 hour a week per middle school and high school student is not a very big burden.
11.7.2008 9:38pm
Jake LaRow (mail):
Nifonged

Regarding Commontheme, I believe the proper strategy is to not feed the troll. Should fix the problem.
11.7.2008 9:39pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
It'll be interesting to see how much lower the number of men in college will get before 2012 rolls around. Can we get below a 40% share?

I hope, as a fan of Grove City College, that the Obama administration goes out of its way to encourage higher education types to opt out of federal funding altogether. No ROTC, no Pell Grants, no Stafford loans, no research funding. He should make it a 1000-hours-per-year requirement.
11.7.2008 9:39pm
Nifonged:
"We live in a society. And a country. And we are bound to each other. And we should serve each other. "

I'm only bound to those who I choose to, I don't bind myself to felons or those that otherwise commit senseless crimes, or to people that choose not to work, or to people that don't respect the property, efforts and contributions of others.

When you give me a country with 300 million people that none fit into the above paragraph, I might start to reason with you.
11.7.2008 9:42pm
Calculated Risk:
zippypinhead,

Actually, the Boy Scouts has a HUGE bureaucracy associated with it. And, contrary to your strange assertion to the contrary, it is not actually FREE. It costs volunteers their time. Trips costs actual money. Uniforms cost money. Badges cost money. Lots of things cost money.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Hey, I think the Boy Scouts are great. And it seems to me that doing activities in the Boy Scouts might be a great way for someone to meet their community service requirement. (Wow! Imagine these things working together...)

But, as great as the Boy Scouts is, it is not a bureaucracy free organization nor is it free. The resources that are invested in the Boy Scouts could be invested elsewhere. There is no such thing as a free lunch!
11.7.2008 9:43pm
DiversityHire:
I do not think service is a waste of time.

Good, come do my lawn, it will take you less than an hour a week, its not a big burden. Come-on you're bound to me and it will benefit the "community".

Mandatory service is an oxymoron.
11.7.2008 9:46pm
Nifonged:
"By the way, overseeing these kids and ensuring their safety are the one and the same concept. Are you like trying to make one point into two to score rhetorical points or what? "

FYI, I'll address this point. My father has been a public school teacher (and NEA member) for 40 years so I have some knowledge on this, insuring (not ensuring) field trips and other school functions have become a huge cost in his district (at age 63 he still teaches) to the point that they are almost eliminated. I'm not sure if this is a national issue, but even if its concentrated in local districts it would seem to me that any effort that may be contemplated that would have Americans' children engaging public service would certainly need some sort of major insurance policy in the event of any harm.
11.7.2008 9:46pm
norm (mail):
My guess is the union reaction would vary tremendously by union and nature of the work. Our school district has volunteers in the classroom whenever we can get them; no problem for the classified employees union even if some of the volunteers photocopy and do other stuff union members do. But suggest maintenance work like painting or cleaning and the same union goes nuts. The officers of the union tend to be the indoor employees too. I live in a town of about 30,000 ... probably a much bigger problem in big school districts.

Programs can be made "voluntary" with just a little common sense. For example sex ed is taken by over 99% of our kids. The program is not particularly good or exciting, but the alternative is writing a paper and "everybody" does the class. Middle schoolers don't want to be different. Same with schools that require community service; there are ways to satisfy the requirement without much trouble. Where the idea will break down is if the implementation doesn't allow the Boy Scouts or working on some politically incorrect program. Or, for the young adults, requiring unionization which would be politically disastrous. Are the Democrats that stupid?? One of our charter schools requires service, which can include working on school bond campaigns. I always secretly hoped someone would try to claim credit for working in opposition just prove their freedom. I was secret in my hopes since I chaired one of these campaigns. No one ever did.

The bigger problem for me is that many want to require so many things from kids they would have no time for any life. English, math, history, science of course. Community service fits in with foreign language, PE(sports and non-competitive) , art (2D and 3D) music (vocal and instrumental) sex and drug ed, how to get along with others, economics (balance checkbook and macro) computers, shop (doesn't exist anymore around here) home skills (sewing cooking etc.), geography, civics, etc. Others think kids should have some time to play on their own or read books for fun. Also, as mentioned, for many kids just mastering English and math doesn't go too well.

A program that allows and encourages community service could be a good thing, but there are many ways it can go bad. Seems most posters here assume it will go bad. (I fear you're right.)
11.7.2008 9:50pm
Calculated Risk:

I'm only bound to those who I choose to


Wrong! If you disobey the law, society will punish you. You are part of society, like it or not. If you don't like this society, you can go to another. But it is highly unlikely you could survive without some involuntary associations that you did not choose. (Maybe you could live in Antartica... I doubt you would survive there without the help of others, though.)

I don't bind myself to felons or those that otherwise commit senseless crimes,

Oh really? Maybe the license plate on your car was made by a felon. Maybe the guy serving you lunch is an ex-felon. And, just maybe, the guy who commits a crime that harms you is a felon. It kind of sounds like you and these felons that have some chance of colliding in life and affecting each other.


or to people that choose not to work


Hey, some people who choose not to work are felons, and I have already established above that you are in the same society as felons. QED.


or to people that don't respect the property, efforts and contributions of others.



Some felons don't respect the property, efforts, and contributions of others. But, you still impact and are impacted by them.

The bottom-line is this. We clearly do not disagree (unless you are truly deranged) that you impact and are impacted by others whether you like it or not. (In other words, you are bound to others, whether you like it or not.) You aren't some lone atom with 8 electrons in your outer shell.

You are an American. Start acting like it.
11.7.2008 9:50pm
Acreofindependce.com (mail) (www):
Good point on the union aspect of this, idea. Yet another reason why I think this thing will get watered down to oblivion. I wrote about the dubious service mandate here today as well.

Also, I joked around in the comments here about designing a "national service cap and trade system", so you can free up your gifted kid to do something creative by having your troublemaker kid do double the mandated amount of service.

Cheers!
11.7.2008 9:51pm
Calculated Risk:

Good, come do my lawn, it will take you less than an hour a week, its not a big burden. Come-on you're bound to me and it will benefit the "community".


F*ck you. I hope your lawn dies.

I will volunteer for a good cause that I choose. I don't have a particular duty to maintain your particular lawn. However, I certainly do have duties to the wider community.

Is that concept somehow difficult for you?

I mean seriously, you make yourself into a joke. Oh yes, if we think that community service is good, it means that we think that you should get free lawn care. Huh?
11.7.2008 9:53pm
Calderon:
You are part of society, like it or not. If you don't like this society, you can go to another.

I've heard a rumor that if you don't like the society you're in you can try to change it. I've also heard you can argue against new ideas that you think will be bad for society. Confirm/deny?
11.7.2008 9:55pm
Nifonged:
"We clearly do not disagree (unless you are truly deranged) that you impact and are impacted by others "

The difference is you change my words, sure if someone murders my wife I'm "impacted" by that action, but I'm not bound to that individual to change their ways.

Yeah I'm an American, as is my wife. We work, we pay our taxes, we don't commit crimes, we donate and volunteer for the charities of our choice.

We're part of the problem with America?
11.7.2008 9:56pm
Calculated Risk:

The bigger problem for me is that many want to require so many things from kids they would have no time for any life. English, math, history, science of course. Community service fits in with foreign language, PE(sports and non-competitive) , art (2D and 3D) music (vocal and instrumental) sex and drug ed, how to get along with others, economics (balance checkbook and macro) computers, shop (doesn't exist anymore around here) home skills (sewing cooking etc.), geography, civics, etc. Others think kids should have some time to play on their own or read books for fun. Also, as mentioned, for many kids just mastering English and math doesn't go too well.


Wow! An actually thoughtful and well-reasoned objection to community service other than 1) "I do not owe society anything whatsoever" or 2) "community service is slavery!"

Maybe you libertarians could learn from this commentator how to make reasonable arguments.

I think this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. And, while I acknowledge that some of our kids have WAY too many things going on, I think that community service of some sort is important enough to put into the schedule. But, I really respect this particular objection. It is practical and pragmatic, rather than hyperventilating and ideological.
11.7.2008 9:59pm
DiversityHire:
That service is extra, CR. :)

Coercing another to perform a task is wrong. It is the act of choosing to perform a service that elevates it to a duty, embues it with meaning, etc.

For any given service you or your friends, or the federal government deems worthy of mandating, someone will have the same reaction you did to doing my lawn.

Anyway, it's a small law. Can I expect your help? Or do I need the government to persuade you a little bit?
11.7.2008 10:02pm
DiversityHire:
small lawn. big law.
11.7.2008 10:03pm
David Warner:
commonmeme,

"inane hyperventilation"

So you're putting your money on inane condescension instead. Good luck with that.
11.7.2008 10:03pm
Calderon:
I will volunteer for a good cause that I choose.

If the government mandates community service, or gives a financial incentive for community service, how do you know your definition of a "good cause" will fall under the government's definition of "community service." What if the government decides to require you to do something besides what you (or another person) considers to be a "good cause," or limits your choices to what you consider to be "bad causes."
11.7.2008 10:05pm
DiversityHire:
I think that community service of some sort is important enough to put into the schedule.

Good, go have some kids & schedule them to your heart's' content. But hands-off everybody elses'!
11.7.2008 10:05pm
taney71:
Calculated Risk:

Take your meds and go back to Kos. Why does Obama and his supporters want to force people to do things?

Ok, community service is a great goal. But forcing people to serve isn't the why to go. It's the first step down a long road to slowly taking away liberty.
11.7.2008 10:05pm
Calculated Risk:

The difference is you change my words, sure if someone murders my wife I'm "impacted" by that action, but I'm not bound to that individual to change their ways.


Well, to the extent that we can implement programs that prevent murders (including the death penalty) you clearly have an interest here.

I would be willing to impose the death penalty on someone if I thought the deterrent effect were such that your wife or someone elses wife was not murdered. (i.e. the death penalty would act as a deterrent).

The reason I would contemplate such a penalty is because I think that those who murder are bound and owe something to the rest of society. Because they impact and are impacted by others.

Its really simple.


We're part of the problem with America?


This is such a vague statement, I don't know what to make of it. Are you part of a problem that exists in America? Yeah. We all are. Do you use gasoline? Well, then your consumption (when aggregated with the consumption of others) raises the price we all pay. And increased prices of this fungible commodity then goes to fund Middle Eastern terrorists. Okay. So, you do contribute to problems in America. I am sure you also contribute to solutions.

By the way. Guess what. You can disagree with me on just about everything involving politics, and I am not going to think your a "bad person" merely because you see the world differently. Thank God people see the world differently!

That said, the idea that you are not bound to anyone else is just absurd and a total denial of reality. You have duties to society.
11.7.2008 10:07pm
flyerhawk:
I love how the patriotic get so indignant about contributing to our society.

Seems pretty straight forward to me, least for public school students.

If you wish to graduate from a public school you must complete X number of hours of community service. They are, of course, free to decline. Just as they are free to decline to take algebra or gym.
11.7.2008 10:08pm
Calculated Risk:

If the government mandates community service, or gives a financial incentive for community service, how do you know your definition of a "good cause" will fall under the government's definition of "community service." What if the government decides to require you to do something besides what you (or another person) considers to be a "good cause," or limits your choices to what you consider to be "bad causes."


Well, I am assuming that the program will be reasonable.

If the definition of community service includes only mowing the lawns of politicians and nothing else, then I would be opposed.

I am pretty damn sure that the definition will be broad enough to include plenty of choices regarding how one serves. And, if it wasn't, THEN I would oppose it.
11.7.2008 10:09pm
Fury:
Calculated Risk:

Yeah, there are potential unintended consequences to this program. Just like every other action and inaction in life.

So freakin what?


I'm not saying it is a bad idea. I'm saying that if we're going to commit to this program, there needs to be more information.

And every one of the examples you give does not consider the fact that students are minors and while they are participating in school related functions, the school has a degree of responsibility and liability. Insurance companies that insure schools have decreased over the past 10-15 years. In some states, there are only two insurance companies that provide such insurance for schools. Just came back from a conference in New York State and New York has two insurance companies that provide P&C insurance to schools - Utica Mutual Insurance Company and the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal. Insurance isn't cheap and companies are getting more finicky on what they will accept in the way of risk.

School boards have a fiduciary responsibility to perform due diligence when it involves taxpayer money. That means a thoughtful decision making process that considers all relevant factors.

and:

With respect to Eugene's point, I don't imagine that unions will have big objections to community service. It is not as though there is not enough work that could be done.

Specifically referring to my earlier example of college students volunteering at a school district, you're not thinking as a member of a collective bargaining unit. If you don't think that unions will object to this, ok, but I believe you're incorrect. Being directly involved with negotiating two collective bargaining agreements over the past three years (on the district negotiating team for one of these), I can relate that unions will use whatever advantage they can to get the best deal for their union membership. I'd expect them to do nothing less and that's appropriate. If work is being taken away from teachers and being performed by volunteers, my experience is that the union will not just bargain that away without getting something in return.
11.7.2008 10:09pm
David Warner:
Bill Sommerfield,

"More generally, conscripting people for a week or two per year of community servitude would seem to be a pretty inefficient way of getting things done"

It's not about getting things done, its about moral formation. This is part of the liturgy of the established church of media/school/law Progressivism.
11.7.2008 10:09pm
Do Not Feed The Troll:
Oh my. Here we go again.

"Calculated Risk" officially crossed over at 9:53pm, although he/she/it had some real ROTFL misreadings of other posts well before then that led to a fair number of unintentionally hilarious and un-witty responses.

Please troll elsewhere.
11.7.2008 10:10pm
Calculated Risk:

I've heard a rumor that if you don't like the society you're in you can try to change it. I've also heard you can argue against new ideas that you think will be bad for society. Confirm/deny?


Confirm. But you could also leave! If you wanted.
11.7.2008 10:12pm
jccamp (mail):
The election is over. Let the healing begin.
11.7.2008 10:14pm
Calderon:
That said, the idea that you are not bound to anyone else is just absurd and a total denial of reality. You have duties to society.

I think even the most hardcore anarchists and libertarians would agree that they have "duties to society" (such as not committing unprovoked physical violence against someone else)? But the question is, what should those duties be? And more specifically to this post, the question is whether some kind of mandatory or government-incentivized service community service should be one of those duties. Simply saying "duties to society" over and over can't answer that question.
11.7.2008 10:15pm
Calderon:
To Do Not Feed The Troll -- you're right, I'm feeding, I apologize, I'll stop. I consider not feeding trolls to be one of my duties to society.
11.7.2008 10:17pm
Calculated Risk:

But the question is, what should those duties be? And more specifically to this post, the question is whether some kind of mandatory or government-incentivized service community service should be one of those duties. Simply saying "duties to society" over and over can't answer that question.


Oh I agree with this entirely.

What are the duties that we have to each other? I didn't say it was an easy question, did I?

That questions like this are hard is part of the reason why we have democracy, right?

My position is that having community service as a graduation requirement is fine. I can understand and respect arguments to the contrary.

But, this hyperventilation and whining is over the top.
11.7.2008 10:22pm
Calculated Risk:

To Do Not Feed The Troll -- you're right, I'm feeding, I apologize, I'll stop. I consider not feeding trolls to be one of my duties to society.


Yes indeed! But, I don't see any reason for you to think that I am actually a closet libertarian or someone who doesn't actually believe in community service.
11.7.2008 10:23pm
David Warner:
Nifonged,

"My father has been a public school teacher (and NEA member) for 40 years so I have some knowledge on this, insuring (not ensuring) field trips and other school functions have become a huge cost in his district (at age 63 he still teaches) to the point that they are almost eliminated."

Maybe Obama can lean on his ABA buddies to move beyond the John Edwards raping the common good for fun and profit model of lawyering...
11.7.2008 10:25pm
Reg (mail):
I do not think service is a waste of time.

Good, come do my lawn.

F&#k You. I hope your Lawn Dies.

Haha
11.7.2008 10:27pm
Fedya (www):
The people who get paid to bag the groceries of little old ladies at the check-out counter are performing just as much of a service as anything a group like AmeriCorps does. Yet the former never seems to get counted as service.
11.7.2008 10:33pm
Another pinhead (mail):
Ah, this reminds me of the glorious days of my youth in the Пионерский лагерь ("pioneerski lager"; young pioneer camps). Singing the International and working in the service of the goals of the fatherland. It brings a tear to my eye. Lenin! Stalin! Da!
11.7.2008 10:36pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
Since Reg likes to speak using vulgar words, he should be at least suspended and his post immediately preceding mine should be deleted.
11.7.2008 10:37pm
Reg (mail):
How about I work it off?
11.7.2008 10:41pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Overall, I think it is truly hilarious that so many commentators are hyperventilating over this."

I think it's truly hilarious they changed this well thought out policy position on Friday night.
11.7.2008 10:41pm
jccamp (mail):
Let me rephrase: The healing has begun.
11.7.2008 10:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
First it was in no way possibly mandatory.
Now mandatory is good.
Like we didn't see that coming.
11.7.2008 10:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Oren?? Oren.
You were going to object.
Remember?
Your word.
Something like that.
11.7.2008 10:56pm
Donny:
Some web lackey inserts some awkward wording (such and such is required in order to gain the reward of a voluntary program) and suddenly the blogosphere explodes with accusations of Fascism.

Now I know what's it feels like to have been a Republican the last eight years. (Except, of course, your side really did spirit people away to secret prisons where they were tortured, with you believe those commie liberals at the Washington Post.)
11.7.2008 11:03pm
Donny:
Bush forced me to make those typos!
11.7.2008 11:04pm
loki13 (mail):
You know, I was hoping for some more reasoned discourse on this website. Considering that both the GOP and Democratic candidates were running on a theme of service (Obama's being listed here, McCain with his 'Country First' and calls to service) you think this would be an occasion for a little more, uh, nuance. But maybe nuance is one of those dirty French words we can no longer use in political discourse.

Look there's a problem- there is increasing atomization in American society, less a feeling that we're a nation, together, made stronger by our individuality, and more a feeling that we're a bunch of individuals that happen to live in this nation. Serving in some form (whether it is in the Military, the Peace Corps, or some unspecified national service commitment) is arguably a way to begin to address that problem. The feeling of shared sacrifice, of bonding, of accomplishment, and of cameradrie that you can get is hard to replicate, and might help with the atomization of our civic and civil society.

That said, I have problems with this. The first, of course, is that anything given to teens that is mandatory tends to be disliked and reviled. The second is that it smacks of fascism (in the sense that you are organizing the people to serve the state in a nationalistic fashion). Finally, I worry that this will become a financial boondoggle.

I think the 13th Am. is a non-starter (see prev. S.Ct. precedent). So there aren't legal problems with this sort of conditional (dependent upon Fed. funds) service. I think it is a good-faith attempt by President-elect Obama to attempt to get more social cohesion in our society- few would argue that volunteer work (or paid community work) is a bad thing. I worry about the practical effects of such a proposal, and wish we had more discussion about that.
11.7.2008 11:06pm
reslabed (mail):
I personally prefer the GWB definition of sacrifice and community service - "go out and shop"
11.7.2008 11:11pm
Reg (mail):

Look there's a problem- there is increasing atomization in American society, less a feeling that we're a nation, together, made stronger by our individuality, and more a feeling that we're a bunch of individuals that happen to live in this nation.


I blame video games. I propose the government ban video games. If that doesn't work and we still feel atomized, then I propose mandatory church attendance.

Look, some ideas aren't worth serious discussion. Mockery is better than giving them legitimacy by presenting serious discussion. That's what is so great about this election: lots of new ridiculous liberal ideas to mock.
11.7.2008 11:19pm
Calculated Risk:
I mock your mockery!
11.7.2008 11:21pm
zippypinhead:
Finally, I worry that this will become a financial boondoggle.
Almost inevitable. We ARE talking about a new bureaucracy, after all. And assuming EV's hypothesis has some basis, it will probably be a unionized bureaucracy to boot.

Which reminds me of this year's D.C. local government "summer youth jobs" program that started as a modest way to get teens off the streets, but somehow ballooned into roughly a $40 million boondoggle, and still didn't have enough money left over after the bureaucracy was fed to actually give the promised stipends to the kids they were supposed to help. With our luck, the first Cabinet-level Secretary of the Department of Community Services will be the clown who ran the D.C. program.

But if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Maybe I'll form an SBA set-aside corporation and bid for the lucrative contracts to administer a couple of the newly-minted "Volunteer Corps." My big fear is that even with the small business bidding head-start, I could still lose the contracts to Lockheed-Martin, Northrup-Grumman or Blackwater, who will have lateraled into "promising new markets" as their current ca$h cow DoD contracts dry up.
11.7.2008 11:33pm
Kazinski:
I can't wait until this is implemented. Unlike a lot of local school board requirements, this will be branded with a Democratic identity. Any Republican that obstructs this should be drummed out of the party. Stand aside and let Obama and the Democrats shoot themselves in the foot.

I've got a 22 year old daughter that works 30-35 hours a week and goes to school full time. She was an enthusiastic Obama supporter. I absolutly guarantee she will turn on a dime and enthusiastically vote Republican if they try to make her do community service.

Elections have consequences, lets let the Democrats turn themselves loose.
11.7.2008 11:33pm
RPT (mail):
I suppose the conservative consensus is how to take from others rather than to consider giving back. So much for any claim to Christian values.
11.7.2008 11:43pm
phantommut (mail):
Hey, I'm looking forward to having my kids help out at the local methadone clinic. I figure it will really help them understand the needs of our less fortunate citizens.
11.7.2008 11:53pm
Splunge:
And I do! I think it is good for young people to get in the habit of serving others. Whether or not they are advantages or disadvantaged.

We live in a society. And a country. And we are bound to each other. And we should serve each other.

You're right. A fairly large number of people, most particularly the young students at elite colleges who were so passionately for Mr. Obama, have not had much of that humanizing and humbling social experience of directly serving another human being, in return for which you get some meager financial incentives, the amount of which is determined by (1) how many hours you volunteer, and (2) the quality of your efforts to understand and meet the actual needs of those you serve, and (3) whether you volunteer in an area of greater need, i.e. where relatively few other people volunteer.

This experience, which many of us from an older generation have actually had quite a lot of, particularly in rough economic times, is called getting a job.
11.7.2008 11:56pm
phantommut (mail):
"Some web lackey inserts some awkward wording (such and such is required in order to gain the reward of a voluntary program) and suddenly the blogosphere explodes with accusations of Fascism."

Barack Obama … is going to demand that you shed your cynicism… 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.


Some lackey said that.
11.7.2008 11:57pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
Much of this comment thread is disheartening.

Of all the complaints that have been lodged against this community service boondoggle, it appears to have occurred to almost no one to suggest that this simply is not a matter that should be addressed by the federal government one way or another, that educational service requirements are the province of local school boards and college administrations, that we need a national policy on school-related community service like we need a national policy on recess or spring break.

The federal government has too many pressing concerns (e.g., conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the present financial crisis) and too many other valid spending priorities that it must address with our finite resources to involve itself in the management of teenagers' extracurricular activities.

If libertarians and conservatives cannot make a cogent counteragument in favor of limited government with respect to a national community service program, and instead waste time ranting about involuntary servitude and fascism, then we deserve to be in the wilderness.
11.8.2008 12:06am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
But by Golly, that's why you're here, innit??

And thank God.
11.8.2008 12:20am
Elliot123 (mail):
"I suppose the conservative consensus is how to take from others rather than to consider giving back. So much for any claim to Christian values."

No, that's progressive tax rates. The few carry the many.
11.8.2008 12:30am
John Moore (www):
Obama has made several statements that indicate he believes that economic activity is not noble, not service to community, not something one should aspire to. He has instead called on people to join the government, and here he coerces service outside the eocnomic sectory.

At best, this is a sign of how little he values free enterprise (and military service). At worst, it is how he plans to indoctrinate our young pioneers.
11.8.2008 12:30am
VincentPaul (mail):
So BHO failed to volunteer for the Peace Corps or the military, but now he's going to impose national service programs on America's youth and retirees?
11.8.2008 12:31am
Reg (mail):
VinceP: Does that make BHO a Chickendove?
11.8.2008 12:34am
Hedberg:
Calculated risk:
What are the duties that we have to each other? I didn't say it was an easy question, did I? Calculate3d risk


I don't see this as a tough question. We have the obligation to conduct our affairs in a manner commensurate with being productive and law-abiding members of society. We have the obligation of taking care of ourselves and our families to the extent possible. We have the obligation to not prey on our neighbors and weaker members of society. We have the obligation to conduct our affairs honestly and without fraud. We have the obligation to pay our taxes, and in my opinion, to accept reasonable societal impositions placed on our liberties -- reasonable people differ as to what constitute reasonable impositions. We should endeavor to not place an undue burden on society in general, realizing that we hate to see our neighbors in dire circumstances, we should not unduly risk becoming a burden, but, shit happens.

How does this relate to mandatory/coercive service programs? In my opinion, advocates of mandatory/coercive service programs are asking that some people be required to give free stuff/free labor for the benefit of others or as a benefit for society as a whole. This strikes me as a very greedy attitude: gimmee, gimmee, gimmee. Something for nothing -- free lunch (from the perspective of the individual providing the labor) If there are tasks that need to be performed, if there are service that need to be rendered, and it is the obligation of society or of the government to provide these services, then they should be identified, argued for, and funded. Just like roads and parks and bridges to nowhere, somewhere, and everywhere. If funding for these tasks cannot be obtained as normal I have serious doubts that these tasks are sufficiently important to our society that we should compel those who cannot fight back to perform them.

But, the other aspect to the program is the indoctrination aspect. Our children, apparently, need to be indoctrinated in the idea that giving free stuff and free labor, at the direction of government functionaries, is a good idea -- a valid government purpose. I don't believe that such indoctrination of a partisan political philosophy is appropriate. It may not be possible, either. It may just create cynical attitudes among the conscripts.

So, for those who think that mandatory/coercive government service is a good idea: what, exactly, is it supposed to accomplish. As far as indoctrination, exactly what values are hoped to be instilled in the children taking part in the program and why are those worthy values for the government to instill via force/coercion.

What service tasks are going to be accomplished, why are these tasks appropriate tasks (as opposed to others) and how much is the accomplishment of these tasks worth -- please be specific.

Finally, all the good things that you claim will arise from forcing/coercing children to give away their labor. How do you know the program that you want to implement has any chance at all of success?

We went through this all before with Clinton. Clinton wanted a 100% mandatory service program for young adults. I think he wanted a year or two service. Of course, that idea went nowhere and we ended up with Ameri corps which, as I understand it, costs a lot of money for what it accomplishes. The only good thing about it is that it's voluntary and almost vanishingly insignificant.

I just glanced over the site explaining the Maryland program (75 hours total). It looks like those hours are divided up among thinking about serving, actually doing something, and then contemplating what was done and it appears that almost all the students satisfy the requirement completely during school hours. Perhaps it's a more serious program than the site suggests, but it appears to me to be pretty effete.
11.8.2008 1:15am
Second Amendment Sister:
Any thoughts on how this would impact homeschoolers? "Regulation" is a state-by-state issue.
11.8.2008 1:20am
M:
(A) The federal government will "require" the presence of my children anywhere other than mandated public school over my very loud protests. The school is enough. When does it end? When does it become a Platonic fantasy where the kids are taken away and educated by our betters?

(B) Once required to do public service, I do hope Heritage and FIRE will hold open many research positions for their young troops. Try to deny their legitimacy if ACLU or ACORN is an option.
11.8.2008 1:41am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"I suppose the conservative consensus is how to take from others rather than to consider giving back. So much for any claim to Christian values."

Repeated studies have shown that conservatives consistently give a greater portion of what they have to charity than do liberals. See, for instance, here .

The difference is that Conservatives belive that they should give of what they have, and should be able to control where they give it themselves. Liberals believe in giving away *other* people's money and pretending they are the ones sacrificing.
11.8.2008 2:05am
nyu law libertarian (www):
The real question is how to decide what types of "community service" are worth $40 an hour. Why don't we just tell college kids to get a part time job and "serve the community" by delivering their pizzas like I did and have the "community" pay for their services as they are provided?

Hell, if I could have got $4,000 by "serving the community" while at undergraduate school I would have done it. Unfortunately I had to drive around Atlanta during the summer in a non-air-conditioned car with smelly pizzas to "serve the community" - or as we capitalists call it: making money.

$15 an hour was the best I could do.

$4,000 for 100 hours of work? ... that a plumbers wage ... Joe the plumber (he's not going away!)
11.8.2008 2:14am
Tom Perkins (mail):

The basic flaw in Volokh's point is his assumption that the amount of work that could be productively done is FIXED. That isn't the case.


Of course you are completely wrong, laughably so.

365*(24-9)=5475 hours a years you could theoretically work and still bathe and eat in a rudimentary fashion. And here we're talking abut the work being done for the reasons approved of by a centralized political bureaucracy, so those hours will necessarily be less well spent than they might.


Yeah, I am sure that 50 hours of community service over a whole entire year will just absolutely KILL young people. I mean, that is like a whole entire hour a week. The horror! The horror! Kill me now! Its worse than a draft into the military!



Yes it is far worse than the draft. It is--not that I can see that you have any worth mentinioning--the principle of the thing. The draft is at least vaguely constitutionally justified by the capacity of the feds to call out the militia--no such thing exists here.


We live in a society. And a country. And we are bound to each other. And we should serve each other.


We are bound nationally to the constitution, and owe each other nationally solely what that document authorizes the federal government to require of us. Nothing more can be just or legitimate.


Actually, the Boy Scouts has a HUGE bureaucracy associated with it. And, contrary to your strange assertion to the contrary, it is not actually FREE. It costs volunteers their time. Trips costs actual money. Uniforms cost money. Badges cost money. Lots of things cost money.


And they actually are volunteers, they are not deferring to a central authority and it's blandishments, that does make all the difference.


Wow! An actually thoughtful and well-reasoned objection to community service other than 1) "I do not owe society anything whatsoever" or 2) "community service is slavery!"


No one has made the first argument and it certainly is involuntary servitude, to the extent it compelled.


If you disobey the law, society will punish you. You are part of society, like it or not. If you don't like this society, you can go to another.


No, society won't punish me, government will. Or it will attempt to. Heck, if I can figure a way out of this idiocy of Obama's much of society will celebrate me. Admit or deny?


I think that community service of some sort is important enough to put into the schedule.


Then put it into your schedule as you see fit.

@ flyerhawk


If you wish to graduate from a public school you must complete X number of hours of community service. They are, of course, free to decline. Just as they are free to decline to take algebra or gym.


The national government has no power to compel this, therefore it should not.


RPT wrote:

I suppose the conservative consensus is how to take from others rather than to consider giving back. So much for any claim to Christian values.


This is not about not giving back, it is about opposing unjust authority.

@ Hedburg
I completely agree, what we owe each other in regard tot he prescriptions of the national government is not hard to discern in this regard--they have no constitutional authority to do it. Let them get an amendment first.

@ Second Amendment Sister

Any thoughts on how this would impact homeschoolers? "Regulation" is a state-by-state issue.


It's less and less a state-by-state issue with this isn't it? All that centralization without benefit actual power given to do it.

Except in the ideas of these majoritarian troglodytes.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.8.2008 2:19am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Conservatives should start a "volunteerism" movement targeted 100% at union jobs.

That would be super-awesome.
11.8.2008 3:21am
nyu law libertarian (www):
I'll volunteer to fix your plumbing ... as long as the government pays me $4,000 every 100 hours. Hell, this could be my profession ... wait ...
11.8.2008 3:34am
Kevin P. (mail):
It looks like Obama wants to bring the Federal Assault Weapons ban as well:

[Obama and Biden] also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent


Is this change something we should believe in?
11.8.2008 4:27am
bill gsnorph (mail):
I live in rural area with two colleges three high schools and assorted junior highs. there are about 35k people between 13 and 23. they are all over the place. Its like you are wading through young people all day long. There are many private organizations like boys and girls club, boy scouts, girl scouts. There are religious based youth groups and there are government sponsored things like parks and rec that focus on doing things with to and for these people, yet there seems to be a need for a lot more.

It is a common observation amongst the 40 and over group of workers and parents that I belong to that too many young people are wasting away, getting in the way, being obnoxious, messy and disrespectful.

We also observe that there are many things that need to be done that just aren't getting done. In my area there have been devastating forest fires, there is Ike and Katrina. on a mundane level we see worn out and deteriorating parts of town. The list goes on.

It seems entirely appropriate for my government to try to do something about these things. Work with young people and fix up the place. Of course it would be good if we could pay young people but unfortunately the current government blew all our money helping the young people of Iraq.
11.8.2008 4:30am
Sophie:

You're right. A fairly large number of people, most particularly the young students at elite colleges who were so passionately for Mr. Obama, have not had much of that humanizing and humbling social experience of directly serving another human being, in return for which you get some meager financial incentives, the amount of which is determined by (1) how many hours you volunteer, and (2) the quality of your efforts to understand and meet the actual needs of those you serve, and (3) whether you volunteer in an area of greater need, i.e. where relatively few other people volunteer.

This experience, which many of us from an older generation have actually had quite a lot of, particularly in rough economic times, is called getting a job.

by Splunge, 11:56pm.

Awesome comment!
Although $4000 of free college tuition for 100 hours is a pretty nice hourly wage as compared to traditional "volunteering."
11.8.2008 4:43am
Sophie:

It seems entirely appropriate for my government to try to do something about these things. Work with young people and fix up the place. Of course it would be good if we could pay young people but unfortunately the current government blew all our money helping the young people of Iraq.


bill gsnorph, you don't think $4000 is payment???

Heck the government could pay all of the obnoxious youth you talk about $20 per hour and get twice as many hours from them!
11.8.2008 4:50am
tsotha:
It seems entirely appropriate for my government to try to do something about these things. Work with young people and fix up the place.

Of course it seems appropriate to you - you're not planning on doing any of the work. I'm sure higher taxes on other people seem appropriate as well. Perhaps it's appropriate for the rest of us to subsidize your lifestyle?

It's funny you should use the word appropriate in this context, given the other meanings of the word.

Well, at least it would be a good lesson for these kids - make sure you control the government, so you can be the one to order people about instead of the other way around.
11.8.2008 5:57am
Wayne Jarvis:
Isn't this $4000 tax credit more welfare for the well off? That is, I suspect that college students as a population are better off financially than those that do not attend college. But the credit only goes to those who attend college and not to those whose do not.
11.8.2008 7:54am
Tom Perkins (mail):

Liberals believe in giving away *other* people's money and pretending they are the ones sacrificing.


William, I don't know that they are pretending even that.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.8.2008 8:17am
Tom Perkins (mail):

It is a common observation amongst the 40 and over group of workers and parents that I belong to that too many young people are wasting away, getting in the way, being obnoxious, messy and disrespectful.


Yeah! And their music's too loud, their clothes and hairstyles are funny, and they don't have to walk uphill to work both ways!

Tn the waist deep drifts of snow.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.8.2008 8:18am
Karl (www):
Hey, it just came to me! I just thought of the perfect slogan for both this mandatory volunteer community service program, the new tax code revisions, and several other facets of Obama's platform:
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
Alert Obama's Inaguration speech writers! With this sort of catchphrase, they'll be quoting Obama for 100 years! In fact, with any luck this one could get almost as famous as Kennedy's "Ask not..." line!!!!






[oh wait, maybe it would be better for Biden to deliver this. He's more comfortable with Plagiarism]
11.8.2008 8:42am
lecturerrich:
I teach at a University and the students are required to take a IT and Society (Ethics) course which requires 25 hours of community service. Many find it "hard" to put in that number of hours over the course of a term. 100 over a year? Most of my students work at least part time, especially during the summer.

Did not Hitler and Stalin and others require the young to "serve" for the good of the country?
I am most likely wrong but this sounds like something that Bill Ayers back in the 60's wanted to do when they took over the country. Does any one remember that also?
11.8.2008 8:42am
djh (mail):
Could this be a modest beginning to bringing about the world of Heinlein in "Starship Troopers" where, in order to vote, you had to have served in the military?
I would be interested in the comments from all those libertarian lawyers out there.
11.8.2008 8:44am
pdxbob:
I would think that unions - and the NEA in particular - would welcome this change. This NEA Today article on the Maryland service learning program mentions the increased funding need to support professional development and supervision, for example.

The article also has an interesting mention of three failed lawsuits brought against the Maryland program:


At least three districts have been involved in high-profile lawsuits over service requirements, including one in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where three students sued the school board for violating the constitutional prohibition on slavery. The students lost.
11.8.2008 9:09am
just me (mail):
First the Federal government mandating that my 12 year old do 50 hours of community service is a problem. I actually have more of an issue that this requirement is for middle schoolers than high schoolers, because it turns into a 50 hour requirement for me as well-since I have to haul my 12 year old to wherever her service is to be completed, and I will be staying with her, because no way am I leaving my kid there at that age. Not to mention I live in a very small rural town. If 700 or so kids are looking for 50 hours of community service-they are going to run out of jobs. Also, there are a lot of types of service that just flat out aren't appropriate for young kids.

Secondly-this really shouldn't be something the Federal government should put its hands into. If a local school board wants to require community service, let them decide for themselves, and set the standard for what hours are reasonable for that community.

And last-just who is going to determine what is or isn't acceptable volunteerism for the purpose of the community service requirement. Does church work count? What if that church work involved several hours of evangelism oriented volunteer work? What about volunteering to be a tech person or usher at a community play? I think this is where it becomes difficult-just what is community service and who gets to decide.

I also am not so sure requiring community service provides a sense of community-my guess is that for most kids it provides a sense of resentfulness for being made to do it. Forced charity isn't charity.

That said I am not completely opposed to community service requirements provided the program-from the number of required hours to what is deemed acceptable service-be made at the local level.
11.8.2008 9:22am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I suppose the voluncrats, the folks in charge, will be doing reports on the kids.
Will those be part of your permanent file? Will employers be allowed to look at them, or will they be sealed until you say something about the government? Thinking of Joe the Plumber and a couple of Obama's opponents.

But, anyway, has anybody seen Oren?
11.8.2008 9:25am
DiverDan (mail):
I just can't get over how delicious the irony is that our first African-American President would be the one to ignore the 13th Amendment. While I'm sure there is a huge part of the Obama constituency that is completely indifferent to (or even quite happy about) "interpreting" the Second Amendment into a meaningless right, I would certainly hope that is not the case for the 13th Amendment.
11.8.2008 9:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
When my kids were in high school, I offered to pull some weeds out of cracks in the high school tennis court. I called the assistant principle about it.
I couldn't do it in daylight, because the union would consider it taking bread from the mouths of the working man.
I couldn't use weed killer because if a tennis ball hit the crack, and a kid picked up the tennis ball and put it in his mouth....
I couldn't use brine or gasoline because the stuff would get into the water table.
If I used a weed whacker, I would have to wear steel-toed boots, shin guards and a full face mask, and do it after the janitors had gone home, say after midnight.
Only a certified weed chemical guy could put the chemicals on, and the school's certified guy was too busy.
I could, though, pop for Chemlawn to do it.
Yeah, I can see this is going to be great.
I also see news reports of entire schools mutinying.
11.8.2008 9:37am
JosephSlater (mail):
Nifonged:

Don't know if you're still reading this (I was called away last night by my 5 year old son, to whom reading "Encylopedia Brown" was truly mandatory service, albeit one I enjoyed). Just wanted to say I appreciate the civility. I guess we don't disagree much, at least as to the substance of the proposal. If it turns out the plan is to jail folks who don't participate, dress them in brown shirts and have them engage in political activities, etc., I promise I will oppose it.
11.8.2008 9:49am
Alexia:
I hoped that this blatant revocation of just a little more of our freedom would awaken the nutroots up, but since a big government nanny state is their ultimate goal, this just adds fuel to their fire.

This entire plan was available on Obama's campaign site before the election. It's too bad that none of the other candidates running for office thought to mention it then.

After seeing criticism about how crazy it might be to compare this to the Hitler Youth, I read up on the origins of the Hitler Youth. I am now more disturbed than ever.

I agree with those folks who say that this requirement is common for private school graduation. "Private" being the key word. The bitter and sarcastic in my would point out that my figurative son is in military school, and as such is required to carry a weapon.

Sadly, this issue has been decided again and again in the courts. I am not a blogger, but Mr Volokh was kind enough to steer me to a site that pointed me to Immediato vs Rye Neck School District, which decided that mandatory community service was ok in public schools. The courts also cite other cases where forced citizen labor is a-ok with them.

My layman interpretation is that as long as the force isn't to benefit an individual, as in the mowing the lawns of other people, then it is ok to make us work for free.

Hard to reconcile this that this is the same political faction that doesn't believe that people should work for their welfare money.
11.8.2008 9:50am
Buckland (mail):

I'm curious: How would unions react to this? I take it this means somewhat fewer jobs and less overtime for their members, especially since many government organizations of the sort in which these community servants will serve are unionized workplaces.


I think you have the calculations wrong. Not only will these jobs not take union jobs, they will create a number. Each institution will be required to have a volunteer coordinator, a supervisor for each 7 or so kids, a person to report the glorious progress of the revolution, etc. This will be a boon to unions, especially in schools and government.
11.8.2008 9:53am
richard cabeza:
Fucking wingnuts. The shirts are brown because they're composed of 95% post-consumer waste. You'll use any excuse to distract the true volk from their lightbringer.
11.8.2008 10:13am
Dick King:
You can still look at the old version for a little while.

-dk
11.8.2008 10:20am
Dick King:

Calculated Risk:
The basic flaw in Volokh's point is his assumption that the amount of work that could be productively done is FIXED. That isn't the case.



For us to wonder whether the unions will get upset over this we only have to assume that unions believe the lump-of-labor theory, not that it's true.

In the policies they support, notably protectionism, unions act as if they believe that theory.

-dk
11.8.2008 10:29am
vmark1:
Prisons have to be careful they don't step on any union toes when doing any community work...(Garbage pick up on highways, lawn work, any cleanup that can be done by a union workers...) Talks cheap...
11.8.2008 10:46am
Dick King:
There is at least one service project that home schoolers could do, where the work would further a goal of the federal government, and where there is little or no problem with politicization. The task is to search for micron-sized grains of interstellar dust that are believed to have gotten caught in a spacecraft designed to intercept them with about a square meter of aerogel.

-dk
11.8.2008 10:48am
TomHynes (mail):
Two part short essay question:

A. How much of the $4,000 goes to the student, and how much to the university? Neatly label your supply and demand curves.

B. Suppose the rule was: "Universities will receive a $4,000 grant for every full time student who completes 100 hours of community service." How does this change your answer to "A" above?
11.8.2008 10:58am
The General:
it will only be "voluntary" until it is apparent that there aren't enough "volunteers." Then volunteering will become mandatory. We all will be indentured servants to the state. Thanks, liberals.
11.8.2008 11:10am
Harry:
My daughter just graduated from high school in June. She participated in the IB program which includes required community service, part of the Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) portion of the degree. It was very broadly defined, and she completed it using volunteer work at church, Girl Scout projects, and other volunteer programs in which our family already participated.

I've often wondered about the call for volunteers to do things that could have been done by either union employees, or other contractors. For example, why was there no outcry about NetDay?
11.8.2008 11:11am
PDXLawyer (mail):
I really don't see too much union backlash here. For middle school and high school students, I'd expect that the requirement for adult supervisors and administrators would exceed the adult labor displaced. This isn't really an objection to most proponents of the program, though, because the principle objective is to train the character of the kids, rather than to paint buildings, mow lawns, or whatever.

As to college students, it seems likely that there would be *some* net positive real work accomplished, so union objections are a potential problem. But, of course, that depends on how the additional labor is used. If it is under the control of administrators who are sympathetic to union members, they can probably find something that the union members wouldn't object to. Stories like RA's above come from the fact that schools aren't run by janitors, so the principal/janitor relationship is truly adversarial. Usually the principal/teacher relationship is less so.
11.8.2008 11:19am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
PDX
"train the character of the kids"
You find that acceptable?

I recall the questions of teaching morality. Whose morality will we teach? Patriotism. What is patriotism and who gets to define it? Implication being that we shouldn't try...to teach it differently than the ed school lib version.

Now it's character. I await similar questions. No, I don't. Can't hold my breath that long.
11.8.2008 11:26am
Calculated Risk:

it will only be "voluntary" until it is apparent that there aren't enough "volunteers." Then volunteering will become mandatory. We all will be indentured servants to the state. Thanks, liberals.


More hyperventilation. This is actually funny.

Anyway, so much for slippery slope arguments. The problem with such argument is not that they are never applicable, but that they are simply abused way too much.

Case in point.
11.8.2008 11:38am
Calculated Risk:

I recall the questions of teaching morality. Whose morality will we teach? Patriotism. What is patriotism and who gets to define it? Implication being that we shouldn't try...to teach it differently than the ed school lib version.

Now it's character. I await similar questions. No, I don't. Can't hold my breath that long.


You know, the nihilism exhibited by libertarians really makes them more akin to postmodernists than anything else.

Maybe there should be a postmodernist-libertarian alliance instead of a conservative-libertarian alliance... Because libertarians seem to have much more in common with the nihilistic views of postmodernists than they have with either liberals or conservatives, both of whom believe in a moral order (even while having a different vision of it). Libertarians in contrast seem to deny any basic moral order.

Russell Kirk, a conservative said it well:


Conservatives have no intention of compromising with socialists; but even such an alliance, ridiculous though it would be, is more nearly conceivable than the coalition of conservatives and libertarians. The socialists at least declare the existence of some sort of moral order; the libertarians are quite bottomless.


Yes indeed. What shall we teach our children about morality. According to Richard Aubrey, apparently the answer is: Nothing.

Welcome to a world without moral order -- the libertarian postmodernist utopia.
11.8.2008 11:48am
David Warner:
CalculatedRisk,

"Because libertarians seem to have much more in common with the nihilistic views of postmodernists than they have with either liberals or conservatives, both of whom believe in a moral order (even while having a different vision of it). Libertarians in contrast seem to deny any basic moral order."

Not really, but libertarians do have a problem in that they tend to portray themselves this way. Small government implies larger something else. What is that something else? Libertarians would benefit from focusing on that more in selling their ideals.

As for yours, CR, I take it that the problem you have with the mouth-breathing Christer hordes slavering to impose their religion on the rest of us poor trembling souls is not then so much the imposition as it is the particular religion imposed?
11.8.2008 12:22pm
John S.:
I went to a private high school, and was required to complete 120 hours of service Senior year to graduate. I did it by filling and delivering boxes of food for Focus Hope to home-bound elderly who would die without the support, and by reading books to cancer patients at Children's Hospital. Neither of these activities, which are typical for public service, take away jobs from anyone. There are millions upon millions of hours of good deeds like these that can be performed without impacting anyone's job, while improving the life of those in need.

As an interesting aside, just about everyone ended up appreciating doing it. The example of a student doing 400 hours when only 100 was required is not an outlier. Often, people who start helping others through a mandate learn how rewarding it is, and continue the practice without compulsion.

If you wish to help other people, it's amazing how much you can do by skipping two hours of video games per week. From someone who worked through college while full time in a very challenging engineering program: finding two hours a week to volunteer is not a problem for anyone.

I find it hard to believe that people here are criticizing the value of spending time comforting a child who knows they are going to die.
11.8.2008 12:28pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I went to a private high school, and was required to complete 120 hours of service Senior year to graduate. I did it by filling and delivering boxes of food for Focus Hope to home-bound elderly who would die without the support, and by reading books to cancer patients at Children's Hospital. Neither of these activities, which are typical for public service, take away jobs from anyone. There are millions upon millions of hours of good deeds like these that can be performed without impacting anyone's job, while improving the life of those in need.

As an interesting aside, just about everyone ended up appreciating doing it. The example of a student doing 400 hours when only 100 was required is not an outlier. Often, people who start helping others through a mandate learn how rewarding it is, and continue the practice without compulsion.

If you wish to help other people, it's amazing how much you can do by skipping two hours of video games per week. From someone who worked through college while full time in a very challenging engineering program: finding two hours a week to volunteer is not a problem for anyone.

I find it hard to believe that people here are criticizing the value of spending time comforting a child who knows they are going to die.


You're missing the entire point. So, good for you, and leave everybody else alone.
11.8.2008 12:42pm
Calculated Risk:
David Warner,

My position is that we in fact do need to teach children something about ethics and morality. However, clearly, having the government try to force a particular religion on them would be unconstitutional.
11.8.2008 12:46pm
Smokey:
It's not "volunteering" when it's mandatory.

Mandatory = forced.

Forced = involuntary servitude.

What's so hard to understand about that?
11.8.2008 12:46pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
To Eugene's original point:

A lot is going to depend on the nature of the work. If its something that people have been or might conceivably be paid to do, then yes, there probably will be labor/union opposition.

It's not a question I've followed closely, you understand, but occasionally there are controversies big enough to notice. Then-NYC Mayor Giuliani had tremendous trouble over his "workfare" scheme a decade or so back because of fears that the "workfare" recipients would be doing the sort of work, for sub-minimal wages, that City workers and others "ought" to be doing for better pay.

A closer parallel might be the ongoing tussle over what work on the CA Park System may be done by unpaid volunteers, and what really ought to be done by State employees. This is a big deal, because there's tons of work to be done — stuff like picking up litter, maintaining foot and bike paths, clearing creek beds, ripping out invasive non-native plants, &c. — and a lot of it traditionally has been done by volunteers. But with CA now completely stripped of cash, public-employee unions are evidently worried that even more will go over to the volunteer sector, and stay there even when/if the state's finances improve.

A couple of people here have suggested that kids might work on the upkeep of their own schools, as they do in Japan. That, I think, will certainly not fly; unions aren't going to budge on school janitorial services, even where the actual state of the school suggests that whoever has been allegedly performing the work ought to be fired immediately.

I do understand the principle: If it is work that society needs done, then "society" ought to be paying someone to do it, rather than conscripting voteless citizens who have no choice in the matter. That said, it's difficult to think of enough work for millions of kids if it has to be (1) something that actually needs doing and (2) something that neither the state nor anyone else ought to pay to have done. Not to mention (3) possible to kids, (4) easy to transport them to and from; &c. I'll be interested to see what the Obama team actually comes up with.
11.8.2008 1:09pm
zippypinhead:
Reg wrote:
VinceP: Does that make BHO a Chickendove?
Perfect! We have a winner of this thread!


In fact, if I weren't such a libertarian, I'd run out right now and trademark "chickendove" so I could collect outrageously large royalties from all the pundits for the next 4 years... but I've been told that taking advantage of a governmentally-conferred monopoly would be wrong (even without the First Amendment overlay). Especially a monopoly on such a perfect description!
11.8.2008 1:58pm
Eli Rabett (www):
11.8.2008 2:23pm
Max:
Tedious.
11.8.2008 3:01pm
richard cabeza:
Not really, but libertarians do have a problem in that they tend to portray themselves this way. Small government implies larger something else. What is that something else?


For you? Whatever you want.

(To be pragmatic: whatever you want to the extent it doesn't involve coercian of another party, the definition of which requires debate, vigilance, property rights, and self-defense.)
11.8.2008 3:05pm
Avatar (mail):
I certainly did more than 100 hours a year of community service when I was in high school. Between building bridges with the Boy Scouts, getting a taste for law in Teen Court, and a whole load of school activities, it kept me pretty busy. (On the other hand, I was a freak who did virtually no homework. An average student would be much more pressed for time...)

The real problem with "mandatory volunteerism" isn't the kid who goes home and hops on his X-box for six hours. It's the kid who's actually doing something productive in his or her spare time, but gets no exception for that. Is the kid a writer or a pianist? Coding in Linux? Maybe the kid just has a whole ton of little brothers and sisters, and only one parent, and if the kid's off picking up litter, a babysitter has to come in? What if the kid's doing farm work (or even something like raising an animal with the FFA, competition horses, something like that?) What about the football player who also practices with a part-time theater and runs track in the off-season?

As has been noted, that isn't so much of a big deal for kids who don't do anything but waste time. The kids it hits hardest are the ones who've taken on responsibilities on their own.

Nobody's suggesting taking time away from the instructional day to do this volunteer work. That means that schooling is obviously more important, right? Why not just devote the extra time to education, if "the kids have it free anyway"? I'll tell you, the teachers' unions won't object to that!
11.8.2008 3:05pm
Sassenach (mail):
Work will set you free.

Goals=mandatory. Just ask any government employee whose office failed to make the donation goal for the Combined Federal Campaign. I've seen division chiefs take cash out of their own pockets and make donations in the names of their subordinates in order to avoid the consequences of missing the "goal" for "voluntary" donations.
11.8.2008 5:38pm
Joel Freedom (mail):
A specified number of hours of "community service" is a sentence given for crimes, such as marijuana use. As such, there's already an infrastructure available for expansion to all juveniles.
11.8.2008 6:13pm
JeanE (mail):
Setting aside my objections to mandatory "volunteer" work, the logistics of this are troubling. I have two kids who are both in high school now. They participate in a variety of community service projects through scouts and church, but it would be challenging to keep track of exactly how many hours they spend on these projects. Do volunteer scout leaders now have to spend time keeping records of the scout's service hours for the federal governement?

When the scout troop builds owl houses for a wildlife rescue group or clears a nature trail at a retirement center, will that fulfill part of the community service project for the students? What about a student who makes and sells craft items to raise money for a charitable organization? Can she count the time she spends at home making crafts as part of her hours, or does it only count if she does the work under the supervision of an organization that can certify service hours?

Exactly how will they require students to do this work? Will they make it a graduation requirement, or a requirement for college admission? What will happen to students who, for whatever reason, are not able to meet the requirement?

Community service is a great thing, but forced labor is something else entirely.
11.8.2008 6:24pm
Calculated Risk:

You're missing the entire point. So, good for you, and leave everybody else alone.


He wasn't missing the point at all. Your just an idiot.
11.8.2008 7:04pm
Stuart M. (mail):
"Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free."

This virtually guarantees that most private colleges will raise tuition by at least $4000 and that most public colleges either will raise tuition, see their state funding cut or both. Hasn't it dawned on anyone yet that all the programs to help people pay for college have ended up making college more expensive by removing some market pricing discipline, particularly on the supply side? Telling the universities that there's a ready pool of money available virtually guarantees that they'll do what they can to capture it.
11.8.2008 7:15pm
EvilDave (mail):
The point of this is that "You are property of the state. The state may dictate how you spend your time."
11.8.2008 7:37pm
David Warner:
CalculatedRisk,

"My position is that we in fact do need to teach children something about ethics and morality. However, clearly, having the government try to force a particular religion on them would be unconstitutional."

I agree on both counts. It follows that the "we" in your first sentence clearly cannot refer to your "the government" in the second. Which I believe is problematic for your argument.
11.8.2008 9:38pm
Calculated Risk:
David Warner,

Let me be more clear. Students need to be taught ethics and morality in public schools by government employees.

You know, as is currently the case and as has always been the case and as will always be the case.

The government need not be and should not be and is not neutral when it comes to matters of ethics and morality.
11.8.2008 10:09pm
wanumba (mail):
Schools ALREADY demand hours of "Community Service," which is NOT the same as VOLUNTEERING. The National Honor Society is now demanding hours of "community service" to be eligible for induction into NHS. THANKS JERKS! The kids who have worked hard for leadership, good grades and keeping their noses clean now are required to add busywork. They are DROPPING OUT of NHS. It's not a recognition of hard work well done, it's another empty burden. WHo needs it? The REALITY of today without starting up this new imposition is worthless busywork for kids who are already overburdened with teachers who blow away classroom time and blithely assign hours of homework, plus "community service" requirements which usually end up as go-fer work for teachers like photocopying or picking up trash around the school campus. Kids are working longer hours for NOTHING, no advancement. Kids spend more time struggling with confusing and disorganized lessons, and are more ignorant, because it's all "process" not facts.
COmmunity service, like the new school architecture is associated with prisons. It's a legal term for alternative to incarceration. Schools go into "lock-down" more than the local prisons do. Students are driven around to work an hour at a shelter once a month. WHat does that develop? Nothing. It is not the long-term commitment that develops skilss, competence and relationships.
Students already HATE the community service that is shoved down their throats because the talk sounds all noble, but the reality is crap, spirit and mind- dulling crap.
America has had the finest tradition of volunteering in the world - fire departments, ambulances, libraries ... tons of real jobs that truly promote a community. This "community service" actually is in conflict with that tradition, by deverting people from real work, and crushing creativity and spirits. It's drudge slavery, nothing else. Big Brother pushing you around. Kids aren't stupid. They know when parents dump them on schools, they know when teachers don't bother to teach them, they know they are being dragged around for nothing, just ticking off hours for "community service." Do not blame the kids for being apathetic when adults have failed their duty to them. Now adults want to crush them further with more worthless obligations in the name of "building character." There is absolutely no value - in fact there is a value - NEGATIVE.
The education system in America has already become just a form of prison. That is a FACT. A big hole in which to pour money and warehouse kids.
11.8.2008 10:53pm
Metoo:
I like volunteering. Volunteering is good. It should be encouraged. IT SHOULD NOT BE REQUIRED - Even as a prerequisite to getting back your parent's tax money for school.
11.8.2008 11:43pm
John D (mail):
How will the Unions react?

Simply by requiring that the students be subject to Union rules while volunteering. Absolutely NO performance above the minimum required will be allowed. A Union member will be assigned to insure the rules are followed.

That way they'll be impossible to distinguish from normal Union members.
11.9.2008 2:58am
Kev (mail) (www):
Ann Althouse said it best in a post a few months back:
I think children are already forced to work when they are sent to school. School is work. Respect that work. Let them know that it is work, and it's their job. And when they are done, let them play. Let them have their free time. Don't appropriate any more of their time. How dare you!
I couldn't agree more.
11.9.2008 3:22am
Tom Perkins (mail):

Students need to be taught ethics and morality in public schools by government employees.


What morality and ethics a child should be taught are the sole and full responsibility of the parents/guardians, and the government is limited to describing in public schools the putative mechanism for its legitimacy, and for basic information of the laws.


You know, as is currently the case and as has always been the case and as will always be the case.


As has only been the case for about 130 years, has had increasingly bad results the longer teachers have been in left-leaning unions, and will not continue in its current form once (presumably Republican legislators) make schooling vouchers the mechanism by which mandatory schooling is publicly supported.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.9.2008 7:20am
David Warner:
Tom,

"presumably Republican legislators"

Your presumption is unsupported by reality. It has been affluent Republican suburbanites who have blocked school choice. Disestablishing the present K-12 church known as Public Education will require a grand Madisonian compromise along the lines of the one found in the Bill of Rights vis-a-vis traditional religious institutions.

Universal Right (positive, in this case) + no prejudice in funding (i.e. it follows the student/family choice, not the institution)
11.9.2008 9:47am
John S. (mail):

Setting aside my objections to mandatory "volunteer" work, the logistics of this are troubling. I have two kids who are both in high school now. They participate in a variety of community service projects through scouts and church, but it would be challenging to keep track of exactly how many hours they spend on these projects. Do volunteer scout leaders now have to spend time keeping records of the scout's service hours for the federal governement?


JeanE, this is a great point. The government could undoubtedly turn this into a bureaucratic nightmare. But I think it's workable if it's nationally mandated but locally administered. Let each school decide how to accredit the hours; my school simply had a half sheet of paper that first got signed by an administrator saying the proposed was acceptable, an honor statement the student signed saying they actually did the work, and a signature from the sponsor. Then you did as many hours as you wanted and the sponsor would sign for. This avoids the problem of acceptable/not acceptable work, and leaves the judgement in the hands of a local school official. Sure, there is the minor potential for small scale abuse and the isolated sponsor who signs when no real work was performed, but overall it can be a workable and low-maintenance system.

Whether the government is capable of implementing a workable system is a completely reasonable question.
11.9.2008 10:50am
John S. (mail):

They are DROPPING OUT of NHS.


Wanumba, I strongly question if you have real examples of students who truly deserve to be in NHS dropping out for this reason. To quote the NHS mission statement from www.HNS.us:

"The National Honor Society (NHS) is the nation’s premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students. More than just an honor roll, NHS serves to honor those students who demonstrate excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character."

Those students who drop out of NHS because they "hate" community service are exactly the types of personalities who don't fit the NHS mission statement, and don't deserve the honor associated with membership. It's not only about good grades. It's about recognizing students for academic AND civic excellence.


It's not a recognition of hard work well done, it's another empty burden. WHo needs it? The REALITY of today without starting up this new imposition is worthless busywork for kids who are already overburdened with teachers who blow away classroom time and blithely assign hours of homework, plus "community service" requirements which usually end up as go-fer work for teachers like photocopying or picking up trash around the school campus.


To me, this sounds like a juxtaposition of two problems. First, a local problem with you school's organization that you should probably start to address by voting in a more competent school board.

Second, NHS encourages students to find their own worthwhile service projects. In truth, finding worthwhile service is not difficult; call the local hospital, soup kitchen, animal shelter, or even your church (if one is religiously inclined.) There is no reason for a student to be asking their teachers for projects in the first place, unless they lack the leadership and self-initiative qualities that NHS is looking to reward.

As a broader statement, these sort of statements reek of the general attitude of promoting lax school standards in this country. If you think High School in the US is truly hard, you should take a look at what is required of our global competitors. Adding service requirements for graduation would be a strong step to making us more globally competitive, not less.
11.9.2008 11:10am
veteran:
Mandatory volunteerism is very interesting. It's one reason why people that join the military don't make careers of the military.
The thing that I notice is that the amount of organization and supervision required to implement and execute the program will probably devolve into micro management. My experience with micro management is that it eventually erodes moral to the point that sabotage, in one form or another, takes hold.

I could be wrong, after all, the Germans were very successful during the 30's and 40's and if they hadn't starting exterminating people no telling how long the world would have let them go on.
11.9.2008 11:17am
John S. (mail):
Another point on the reasonableness of the government mandating service.

Community service is really a virtue, but it's tough to get people to try it; once they do, many discover it is rewarding and continue. There is a very significant potential to improve our county if more people just gave service a try.

The question under consideration can be posed: is high school the correct place to mandate students to learn the benefits of community service?

I would say that math and reading are also valuable skills, which are tough to get people to learn on their own. Is it inappropriate that a high school dictate that it's students must be able to read and compute at particular levels to graduate? Isn't the point of school really to teach skills that wouldn't be acquired otherwise?
11.9.2008 11:27am
Tom Perkins (mail):

Your presumption is unsupported by reality. It has been affluent Republican suburbanites who have blocked school choice.


Your assertion is denied by the very great effort generated by the teacher's unions and Democratic Party generally in their opposition to school vouchers. Additionally, when parent's object, it is commonly the cause that school vouchers pay dimes on the dollar to the per child expenditure of the public schools.

Parity, to which there is no honest objection, will eliminate the opposition you mention.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
11.9.2008 12:11pm
Calculated Risk:

What morality and ethics a child should be taught are the sole and full responsibility of the parents/guardians


So, if your father is a pimp and your mother is a crack dealer, your just screwed?

Your idea doesn't work for people with parents/guardians lacking proper ethics and morality themselves.

Not only that, it is entirely anti-historical. Ethics and morality have always been taught in the schools, is currently taught in the schools, and will continue to be taught in the schools. And that is as it should be.

As far as the school vouchers idea -- I am all for it -- assuming adequate funding. Yet another good idea from Milton Friedman. The man deserves credit. But regardless, those who remain in the public schools still would need to be taught ethics and morality.
11.9.2008 1:29pm
Metoo:

those who remain in the public schools still would need to be taught ethics and morality


Whose view of ethics and morality? Its obvious that people don't necessarily agree on these. That's the rub.

This is why I really like vouches and school choice. Parents then have the option of moving kids from schools that they believe are failing kids in one way or another.

Free to Choose.
11.9.2008 1:48pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Tom Perkins wrote:

What morality and ethics a child should be taught are the sole and full responsibility of the parents/guardians, and the government is limited to describing in public schools the putative mechanism for its legitimacy, and for basic information of the laws.


I am sympathetic to this view, but don't think one can or should go this far. If one does, it would seem reasonable to ban Aristotle's work "Ethics" from high school libraries on the basis that the state shouldn't be paying for kids to read what anyone else thought about the subject. Such a view would also largely make advanced placement classes dealing with systematic philosophy impossible since ethics is one of the major areas there.

I think I would draw the line differently:

1) Schools can and should teach good socialized behavior. Students learn how to interact with other students and schools should be able to make and enforce such rules even though they are inherently based on a system of ethics. Furthermore, if one student is caught stealing from another, I think it is reasonable to tell the student that what they did wasn't right in addition to normal punishment routines. However, this mandate should be limited to how to get along with others in a public environment.

2) Schools can and should make viewpoints on ethics available. If teaching systematic ethics in a philosophy class, the school is going to be presenting a number of viewpoints. The goal though is not to get the students to accept these viewpoints uncritically but rather to think about them critically. There is no reason why this should be seen as infringing on parental rights.

3) Civics classes are also important and largely fall under a penumbra of the two ideas listed above. They should be scoped to discuss socialized aspects in a public environment (law traditions, how our government is organized, etc) along with viewpoints on various matters (ideally, conflicting viewpoints).

I don't think that it is the role of the schools to indoctrinate ethics and morality in kids beyond a simple role of how to get along with others in a public environment. However, this does involve some ethics instruction whether this is overt or otherwise, and it is foolish to think that schools could get along without it.
11.9.2008 1:51pm
wanumba (mail):
Responding:
We have three kids in NHS and all their friends are NHS and when this requirement hit, they ALL said, "What's the point? Why are we busting ourselves just to get MORE work?" Parents are stunned, "NHS is supposed to be recognition for accomplishments, like we had when we got it, not MORE WORK." They are already working hard! Half of those kids are trying to early graduate, and work jobs after school to pay for their college. They don't do the community service hours - tough - they are out of NHS. And this is ON TOP OF regular school "community service" hours. And all "community service" is at the teachers' whims, serving their pet projects, not what is useful for the talents and development of the student.
Anyone now dare suggest kids are just being lazy if they object? The schools are already oppressing kids by dumping work they should be doing in class onto homework. That's 7 hours of class, followed by three-four hours of homework, and where is time for sports or theatre or work or volunteering? Who realizes that this means working until midnight and 1 am for kids who are trying to keep their grades up? Now let's add TWO hours of travel time for every game our kids play in sports - four hours round trip per game to be on a team. Something has to give. This is screwing the good kids, they drop from exhaustion, they give up and say they don't care naymore. There is no requirement for sports to graduate, but there is already now for "community service." Fifty hours of photocopying lazy teachers' worksheets becomes more valuable than learning the discipline of sports, teams, hard work, sacrifice. The slackers don't even bother and still get advanced. Perverse incentives. With all the community services requirements, why are local volunteering organizations begging for help? Because the schools are too lazy to make the connections, it's just control of kids for more hours of the day.
Because for the lazy teachers,who hand out papers and then sit at their computers while students figure out what to do, "community service" is just one more burden on them so they reduce it to the least effort FOR THEM possible - go-fer busy-work. Worse, teachers use this as a way to further control other people, a form of classroom tyranny - "You are stuck. I control your degree." It's everything you'd expect from protected bureaucrats already. Hey! We're progressive! Let's make it worse!

So, we have plenty of boots on the ground feedback on the reality of the failed US school system and how this REALLY plays out between the kids and the schools. Kids aren't dropping out of school for no inexplicable reason. They hate it and they're right. It isn't education, it's oppression. By adding these extra hours, children have less personal time to pursue hobbies, quiet time for reflection, rest, family, all sorts of things that help develop them to be healthy, well-rounded people.
To argue that kids SHOULD do government-mandated "community service," it PRESUMES they aren't ALREADY doing something important. What arrogance!
It's all noble sounding,all the right words and soothing theory, but it's a fraud. Involuntary servitude -it just makes servants for teachers. Where's the push for actual academics in the schools? Our kids are sitting in high school classes right now with classmates who have never been trained to take notes. As in they can hardly hold a pencil in their hands,much less write down a concept with it. It's jaw-dropping shocking. Ten years of fill-in-the-blanks and multiple-choice and solid middle and upper middle class kids cannot write to save their lives. They can't find Guatemala on the map, how could they, they've never even heard the name, much less know it's a place. Guatemalan kids, despite the lack of funds, can read and write better than our kids because they aren't rich enough yet to wander off the solid foundational pillars of an education - reading, writing and arithmetic to fool around with fluff and nonsense. Lazy US teachers argue computers will do all that for them. Yeah, until the power cuts out. Then what? And the power WILL cut, we've been PROMISED that.
So, before shoving this down the throats of children, why not demand to try it out first on adults who loftily promote it? See how they like being arbitrarily tasked to be a grunt to some petty overlord, stressing them after 40 hours of work, commuting, child raising, shopping, taking care of grandma, any recreation or maybe even after the hours required for a community college course needed to rise to a higher pay grade? The screams would start 4,3,2... But "it'll build character for the kids..."
11.9.2008 3:36pm
Calculated Risk:

Whose view of ethics and morality? Its obvious that people don't necessarily agree on these. That's the rub.


Not everyone believes you should be punished if you lie to the police. Its still against the law. Not everyone believes that you should have to respect property rights. They are still prosecuted for theft. Not everyone thinks that prostitution should be illegal. They will still be criminally prosecuted.

Like it or not, part of living in society means that value systems that not everyone is going to agree with must be adopted.

End of story.

This libertarian idea that we can all have our own morality and ethics or that all views on morality and ethics are equally valid is nonsense.

What morality and ethics should we teach our children? Short of religious indoctrination and within limits, we should teach our children the morality and ethics that the majority in a local community feel should be taught.

The answer is not the nihilistic libertarian answer. We can't all agree on everything, so we should teach them nothing. And besides, all views on morality are equally valid.
11.9.2008 6:29pm
Metoo:

This libertarian idea that we can all have our own morality and ethics or that all views on morality and ethics are equally valid is nonsense.

You don't have to believe that we can all have our own morality to admit that people disagree on a number of moral issues, which means that teaching 'morality' in schools is a difficult issue.
11.9.2008 6:32pm
Calculated Risk:

I don't think that it is the role of the schools to indoctrinate ethics and morality in kids beyond a simple role of how to get along with others in a public environment.


This itself is a position on ethics and a sort of ethical indoctrination.

By not teaching about ethics and morality, you are sending a message about how important that subject is. You are also advancing a postmodernist view that all views on ethics and morality are equally valid.

This isn't "neutral."

You simply cannot avoid these issues, no matter how hard you try.

Again, any instruction on this subject should obviously fall short of anything religious. But, it is quite clear that ethics and morality need to be taught in school. Perhaps even above and beyond all other subjects.
11.9.2008 6:33pm
Calculated Risk:

You don't have to believe that we can all have our own morality to admit that people disagree on a number of moral issues, which means that teaching 'morality' in schools is a difficult issue.


I don't deny it is a difficult issue. However, I believe like other difficult issues, it should be resolved through the democratic process.
11.9.2008 6:35pm
wanumba (mail):
Bah!
Ethics and morailty are taught by parents.
Schools were set up to teach reading, writing and arthimetic, necessary skills needed to be able to function well in society.
US Schools have dumped the three pillars that all other studies, science, history, geography, philosophy, art, music EVERYTHING are based on.
Too many parents have absorbed the 1960s me-me-me progressive mantra that children are a burden on parents, women's self-fulfillment, the planet, whatever so they dump the kids without care on schools which the Left uses to indoctrinate into progressive mind-sets, as in children are property of the state, not the family, tools to be used to further the desires of the State. The longer the school day, the better it is for parents to allow them to do what they want. Schools oblige as babysitters, babysitting is easier than actually teaching. Unhappy children get Ritilin to drug them into submission. Good students are always "smart" bad students are always "stupid," never does teaching a child a skill and making sure he or she learns it enters the conversation anymore. The entire education structure pretends that transferring knowledge isn't possible - children are just "gifted" in "different ways." Or not gifted as the case may be. They are "poor" or "disadvantaged" to explain no learning after ten years.
Children used to be wealth, and raising chidlren an honorable and worthwhile responsibily of life.
11.9.2008 10:21pm
Calculated Risk:

Schools were set up to teach reading, writing and arthimetic, necessary skills needed to be able to function well in society.


Actually, the first thing schools were set up to do was teach children to read the Bible.

Now, I think that particular goal is now unconstitutional since the First Amendment has been incorporated against the states. However, it does illustrate the original origins of schooling in the teaching of morality and ethics.

Your conception of the historical function of schooling is false and entirely without historical support.
11.9.2008 11:48pm
David Warner:
Interestingly enough, the first education law in the colonies set up a basic test and fined the parents if their children couldn't pass it. Now that would certainly change the incentive structure.

TP,

Do some research on the demographics of school choice opposition. Of course the bonehead unions are against, but their political power on this question is tenuous with Obama in the White House. Whatever Annenberg was, it wasn't union-friendly.
11.10.2008 1:54am
Timothy Scriven (mail):
I highly doubt that the labour will be mandatory.

1- It's a PR disaster among the relevant age group; the very same age group without whom Obama would not have won.
2- 13th ammendment arguments would be made. Whether these arguments would be valid I don't know, they would have public impact though.

A payed, voluntary scheme with a tax credit doesn't sound like a bad idea at all though. The community gets service ( in ways that won't upset the unions I'm sure.) the students get dough and college tax credit and the people get a warm glow at the thought that the young'uns are gaining valuable life experience or whatever.

Thus I think Obama probably has in mind a voluntary program, surely he's savvy enough for that. The stuff that's been released is ambigious sure, but given that Obama seems to NOT be a blundering idiot I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
11.10.2008 2:39am
mary stewart:

A payed paid (fixed it for you), voluntary scheme with a tax credit doesn't sound like a bad idea at all though.

I'll take money from your parents and only give it back to you if you do what I say. Not coercion?


The community gets service ( in ways that won't upset the unions I'm sure.) the students get dough and college tax credit and the people get a warm glow at the thought that the young'uns are gaining valuable life experience or whatever.

The valuable life experience is gained from VOLUNTEERING. You won't likely get as much out of it if you are forced to do something you don't want to do. Also, many of my friends whose kids' schools already require this say there is much cheating that occurs. You also assume there is enough "good and noble" work to go around. Many kids will do meaningless things and will be more cynical as a result.

And what about he poorer kids who don't have access to as much 'safe' volunteering as middle and upper class kids? My friend who teaches in a school with poorer kids worries that you'll have 11-12 yr olds put in places where there is not enough good supervision, leading to dangerous situations for them.
11.10.2008 1:25pm
ForMeItWasEasy:
This sentence reads like "spend here, so you can save."

'....fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free."....'

Since when is giving someone 4K of taxpayer (that is you and me) money "completely free?"

Above and beyond that, I have thought about this much over many years. As a retired military professional, the concept of the draft is a boon and a bane. I think mostly a bane. Do I think it is a good thing for young people to do public service? Well, of course I do or I wouldn't have spent the best years of my life doing that. I think it would help young people to realize that they "own" the problems and the cures. "ownership" is an important concept, no matter what you are talking about.

BUT..... make no mistake, this sounds like D R A F T! Whether paid or not, any involuntary national or local service (other than for punishment) is as much a draft as the Vietnam era draft. I think he is treading on extremely thin ice here.

Oh, and for the record, I know that a military draft is a terrible idea under all circumstances, bar none. If the young people don't volunteer for the military when it is obvious they are so badly needed, then they don't deserve to live in a free country and won't be if they were *that* badly needed...... their country and its freedoms will be gone. They should stick that in their collective hash pipe and smoke on it for a few minutes :) :)
11.10.2008 2:27pm
Dakota (mail):
Calculated Risk,

Aside from ideological points, how would you feel if the Bush administration was in charge of "voluntary" service? I often remind my liberal (and conservative, but less so) friends that any government program initiated will inevitably fall into the hands of the other party, and someone you disagree with at any turn.

Practically speaking Obama will be in and out of office but the next president might have this "service" requirement at their disposal to leverage against the next generation. What if this program included Double payment for Jr. Military service, credit for religious proselytizing. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you would be all geeked up at someone getting 4 grand to attend Oral Roberts by volunteering at Westboro Baptist Church.
11.10.2008 4:55pm
wanumba (mail):
Now after all the ivory tower chit chat and erudite blah blah of people who don't actually have kids in school who are already required to perform the dispicably useless community service requirements for graduation ... back to reality. The SCHOOLS require it or NO DIPLOMA. Obama and Co. can do all the rhetorical dances they want, pretending they aren't making it really mandatory. Any shill who says otherwise is just that, a shill. This isn't hypothetical, it's going on right now. If anyone didn't know that, get up to speed or get out of the way.
We are already are DOING it and a bunch of out of touch people think it's just being discussed. Obama just wants to EXPAND it.
Our schools can't teach reading OR writing OR math and they are going to locate and devise and supervise "community service?" A high school of three thousand kids and they ALL have a "community service" requirement? That's three thousand jobs to supervise. Or not. Lying, cheating and so forth will prevail, teaching people to dodge and disregard laws - a great lesson to learn in a nation established on Rule of Law. Cheating already exists as lazy teachers put three hours down for 1/2 hour of kids emptying their wastebasket, and NOT for the kid's sake, but because the teacher gets points for high hour totals for the kids under her supervision. Our kid got community service hours for data keying in ALL the community service hours for each student in the school for the teacher who was supposed to be doing it and got instuctions on padding the numbers. Yeah, THAT's the character-building experience! Ideology prevails. Teachers hauled kids by the busload out of class to go rally for illegal immigration rights and gave them all "community service" hours. Guarantee: a kid, using the same precedent going to a pro-life march would be marked, "absent without excuse."

How does this new requirement for "community service "for people of ALL AGES..." tie in with the Rangel draft bill:
H.R. 4752 109th Congress:
"To provide for the common defense by requiring all persons in the United States, including women, between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."

The last version of the bill was only 18-26, it's now 18-42 and Obama is now talking "ALL AGES." Who's gonna drive grannie to her community service hours required by the state? How many hours does a mother with children and grannie to care for have to put in to the state, too? But, "it's for the children." Start there because people froth all about "ethics" and "morals", then expand it.

NO BODY is going to be exempt from forced labor of some kind. This has nothing to do with building character or work ethic or anything of the sort for the children, it's totalitarian drudge control, and an eviceration of families and the free market.
11.10.2008 6:53pm
wanumba (mail):
Not going to debate any of this unless the debater actually has kids in school and is dealing with this.
An infallibility card will be required to be considered a valid debater, right? Got kids in community service? No? Too bad, your opinion then is bunk, cause you don't know what's going on.

Folks, it's a travesty how much adults in this country have ignored their responsibility to raise their children. They are giving their children to the State via the schools, of their own free will, so the State will raise them to be tools of the State.
Gads, even the Soviet citizens were forced to do this, but we are exercising our liberty to impose servitude on those whom we should love the most.
11.10.2008 7:10pm
Calculated Risk:

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you would be all geeked up at someone getting 4 grand to attend Oral Roberts by volunteering at Westboro Baptist Church.


You indeed are going out on a limb.

I do not see any reason why volunteering at a Baptist Church could not be counted as valid volunteer service. As long as the service meets objective criteria (to avoid chores your do around the house anyway counting as "community service" for example) and is freely chosen (volunteering for the Baptist Church better not be the only available option) I do not see a problem.
11.10.2008 7:47pm