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‘Community Service and You: a filmstrip in seventeen parts.’

Does that bring back memories?

Katherine Miller of Vandy Right reacts to the news that the Fairfax County public school system will mandate 40 hours a semester of community service prior to graduation, starting next year:

Now, last week, I actually argued to someone that I was comfortable with individual schools rather than the federal government mandating students complete community service to graduate. Bu, after considering this more, I’m having a Come to Jesus moment: The government, and by extension the schools, need not be in the business of mandating community service. Let me break it down for you.

And she proceeds to do so. I’ll just give you her bullet points: Katherine explores each one more thoroughly.

  1. Volunteering is…voluntary.
  2. This is the parents’ responsibility.
  3. Remember how lame social or community education was?
  4. Teenagers lie.

#1 & #2 are fairly… well, they should be obvious arguments, but given the way that most people – including the ones running this country at the moment – seem to think that you can legislate people into civic awareness, perhaps they aren’t. So, let’s recap: people volunteer for things out of a sense of awareness – whether it’s awareness of the needs of others, or themselves (volunteerism as a path to self-improvement is a common theme in our culture). People fulfill an obligation to service out of a sense of accommodation. Doing it is easier than not doing it (and you’re going to get resentment either way). And while it’s necessary to sometimes motivate adolescents, the government shouldn’t be in that business. Parents should be. If the parents don’t want to be on the hook for the job, they shouldn’t have kids.

But it’s #3 & #4 that resonate – and I should have thought of either of those in the first place. It’s true: this is civics, and civics is not fun, thank God. Civics will never be fun. If it was fun, we wouldn’t have to nag, bribe, cajole, or threaten people into doing it in the first place. So when they get forced to do it… I believe that the term is “towering resentment.” To which I can only reply: blame the President. It’s his idea*.

And, lastly, I will go even further than Katherine Miller: set this program up, and the levels of forgery involved will be so high, and so prevalent, that it will be able to support the services of semi-professionals in the school body itself. No, I’m not joking. Remember high school? Remember the kids that could “touch up” your report card? The ones that could fill out your biology log books in five minutes? The ones that wrote college entrance essays? None of those kids took classes, you know: they just had a knack for document manipulation and a little social engineering, and their peers were happy to pay for the results. And if you think that the administrators are going to really care, well, that’s nice.

So, all in all, I do have to wonder if this program has been thought all the way through.

Moe Lane

*And before we hear about how this administration is going to motivate high school students to enthusiastically volunteer, I should note that this is the same administration that wasn’t able to motivate more than 214 thousand people out of 13 million to sign off on its budget proposal – and that’s charitably assuming that all of the 100 thousand signatures that came from street canvassing were on that legendary Obama List anyway. Or that they all represent people who actually exist.

Crossposted to Moe Lane.

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