Obama's "Call to Service"

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Did your School have a community service requirement?

High School - Yes
38
24%
High School - No
41
25%
High School - A sponsored, but voluntary, program of some kind
14
9%
College - Yes
2
1%
College - No
40
25%
College - A sponsored, but voluntary, program of some kind
26
16%
 
Total votes: 161

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:53 am UTC

Schools have a tendancy to try to mandate things that aren't school-related, and it doesn't make them school-related.

A conservative school board could mandate that any underage sex discovered will result in expulsion. It wouldn't turn sex into a school activity. In my hypothetical and the current case, the school is stretching far past it's own mandate, in this case making the case "Your servitude or your future".

The purple deus ex machina has spoken, so in another direction. The latest issue of Scientific American Mind has an article about drug addiction that I believe applies in this situation.

There were three groups of rats: One was fed addictive drugs in food and water. The next was given a button to push. The final group was injected with addictive drugs.

The only group to gain lasting addiction to the drug was the group with the button. The group that was fed it had mild addictive effects quickly overcome, and the group injected with addictive drugs didn't become addicted.

The key was CHOICE. Choosing to take the drugs, the rat formed the habits which became addiction. Choosing to press the button and being rewarded with a good feeling, the feedback loop of decision/reward was direct and powerful.

These people have no choice as to whether to volunteer or not. This opens the feedback loop, and this becomes a power-trip from some bureaucrat who thinks he or she can legislate morality and inject civic virtue.

I don't believe this is effective in instilling any values in a person, since they don't have a choice. That being the case, this is just cheap labour from a captive audience.
Last edited by SJ Zero on Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:56 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:55 am UTC

You know, it may not instill any values in the person, and that's fine, because as we've already discussed, there are other things to learn from community service than values.

Your other arguments didn't really seem to follow.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:04 am UTC

I believe I have mentioned the merits of experiencing menial labor already. For how many people is their first job in menial labor? Is that experience without merit? What about the people who never have a job doing menial labor? Does doing different types of menial labor account for nothing-- if you've done one menial labor job, you've learned all you can from menial labor?

Menial labor is a big part of our society. Kids should be exposed to it whether they end up there or not, if not because they might end up there.

If nothing else, it's clearly an effective deterrent. I think the plague would get a better reception with some of the naysayers here.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Spuddly » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:06 am UTC

I'm curious how this will affect unemployment. Adding millions of unpaid "employees" to the work force is bound to have some consequences.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Exotria » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:14 am UTC

Forced community service seems like it would result in shoddy work, which would decrease value in some situations. When papers are poorly filed, that causes problems in frantic offices, particularly medical ones. Obviously a higher-up can't be assigned to make sure the student does a good job, because then they could just have that worker do it, and they have the incentive of a payroll to do it right. Conscientious volunteers are going to try hard not to fuck up, whereas many forced ones will fool around, talk on their phones, disrespect the authority figures, and generally do other things that some high school stereotypes do. If volunteerism is going to anger people and in fact decrease overall value, then it would seem to be a poor idea.

And as stated above, choice is what makes life satisfying. Going to church, for instance, only holds real value if the one attending chose to do it. Instead, there are frequently pews filled with dissatisfied children who decide that once they're away from their parents they'll never return, and will instead have a strong distaste for religion. Or maybe that's just me. Really, do we need to push kids away from volunteering by pulling them too close? Turning things into chores makes it very difficult to enjoy them.

And someone above said community service requires an open mind to be educated by it. Many high schoolers simple do not. Obviously some do, but a good portion of these folks probably would have done community service anyway.

When are they going to mandate something that gets kids to LIKE school?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:23 am UTC

I believe I have mentioned the merits of experiencing menial labor already. For how many people is their first job in menial labor? Is that experience without merit? What about the people who never have a job doing menial labor? Does doing different types of menial labor account for nothing-- if you've done one menial labor job, you've learned all you can from menial labor?

Menial labor is a big part of our society. Kids should be exposed to it whether they end up there or not, if not because they might end up there.

If nothing else, it's clearly an effective deterrent. I think the plague would get a better reception with some of the naysayers here.


Funny thing, that. Instead of being forced to work for free, maybe all those people whose first job is menial labour can just....you know...get a job? That way they'll get paid and we won't have to hold their future hostage.

I've done a few hundred hours of community service. That's not the problem. The problem is the way you're supporting waving people's future around like a carrot every time there's some social engineering experiment to be tried.

It's incredibly unethical to hold someone's future hostage because "oh, there's something you JUST HAVE to try first". Some people, like my brother, aren't going to be intimidated, and then some well-meaining idiot has unintentionally pulled the trigger. Well, now there's one more person without a high school diploma in the world. Congratulations on your social engineering success.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:38 am UTC

So what it all comes down to again is that you just don't think it has substantive academic merit. It does, it's already been explained many times, and I'm not going to argue against what seems to be a personal vendetta.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:44 am UTC

Funny, that's not what I said at all. I think you should read it again.

Also, keep it on topic. Nothing I've said indicates any sort of vendetta.

Edit: Unless this was all about the post above mine, which would make a lot more sense. It's pretty hard to have a personal vendetta after like 3 messages.
Last edited by SJ Zero on Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:00 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Griffin » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:59 am UTC

School isn't forced labour by any stretch of the imagination. For one thing, it's not labour. It's a service providing education. If you can read this message, odds are it's because of many hours basking in the glow of learning.


For one thing, it's not labour.


You've been to school. You need to know this isn't true.

You don't get a degree on what you've learned. If you got a degree based on what you've learned, I would have graduated a year earlier (having already learned most of what they were trying to teach outside of school) Sand a number of my classmates wouldn't have a degree at all. Schools grade you on the WORK you do, and guess what? Work = labour.

Some people, like my brother, aren't going to be intimidated, and then some well-meaining idiot has unintentionally pulled the trigger. Well, now there's one more person without a high school diploma in the world.


Yeah, well I objected to forced labour too, except I mostly object to the meaningless busywork sort, and refused to do quite a few assignments for that reason. If they couldn't explain the concrete value to me, I shouldn't have to do it, clearly, and no one ever did explain the concrete value of writing a ten page report on Huckleberry Finn. I read it, sure. I even understood it better than many of my classmates. But I wasn't going to spend five hours of busy work putting together a coherent report that would be seen once and then discarded. Of course, the school system, they also didn't actually care, and would have kept me from reaching my degree had I continued my protest beyond that couple of months.

So maybe your brother should have just sucked it up and done the community service. I have to wonder - does he act this way about all the work school mandates for him to get his degree, or is it just the stuff that might help improve the society he lives in?

Although I'm getting a little tired of trying to enforce a line where we don't outright insult each other, I will draw the line at insulting someone's brother. Stop it.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:02 am UTC

You're trying to say that it's just some kind of carrot on a string, social experiment, unpaid labor-- however you twist the words, what you're saying is that students shouldn't have to do it to graduate because...? If you're not saying it doesn't have academic merit, what are you saying? If it has academic merit, then you have to adequately defend why it shouldn't be an academic requirement.

It seems like all you're doing is finding the ugliest labels you can put on it without defining why having academic merit isn't enough. Let's forgo the appeals to emotion and stick to the pros and cons. I see that you've managed to make the same points behind different rhetoric. If I'm wrong, show me where.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:30 am UTC

I'm saying that regardless of academic merit, it's a use of power outside the scope of school's purpose, and thus using the diploma to try to squeeze in a scope change is at best a difficult ethical question and at worst flat-out unethical.

There are lots of things that fall under the wide umbrella we've cast of "have academic merit". You could justify them by looking at soft-skills, or life skills, or application of academic skills. The problem is, they're not the business of a school.

Frankly, even ignoring my main argument that it's unethical to hold someone's diploma hostage for something that is only tangentally related to high school, my experience is that schools need to be focusing on fundamentals more anyway. Make sure everyone who graduates can read, write, and do math at a Grade 12 level. Then we can start talking about expanding the scope of the institution to include quasi-trade experience.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:20 am UTC

it's a use of power outside the scope of school's purpose


Ok, this is not true. Education philosophy is a pretty broad subject on its own, but suffice it to say that this contention has books and books written about it, most of which would disagree with this assertion.

So at least we've established the root of this debate-- your philosophy of what education is supposed to do doesn't support this. Unfortunately for your argument, preparing students for work and to be good citizens are two of the most prominent tenants of almost every accepted model of educational philosophy. Community service, mandatory or not, invariable serves one if not both of these prongs.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Cynical Idealist » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:04 am UTC

Griffin wrote:Hey, while we're off topic with that, uh, I actually don't know how to do that and HAVE been wondering...

Anyways, now that I've spoken in defense of the idea -

I still think it's absolutely a terrible idea. For many of the same reasons No Child Left Behind was - I don't want the federal government mandating educational standards that should be left up to individual states and school systems, and I especially don't want them exerting their annoying fund withdrawal threats with reckless abandon. This is a great plan, and I would support it for my school district, but I would fight endlessly any implementation of it by the federal government.

Simply put, it's not their job, and they have better things to work on right now.

Thank you. I approve of community service requirements for school--my high school mandated 180 hours over the course of our time (there were specific details that I could include if necessary), and it was an excellent program for everyone involved--but the Federal government needs to stay out of it. Attaching funding to programs like this is just a bad idea. Qinwamascot brought up having to take four years of PE to graduate, but here's the thing: either a local government or the school decided on that. The federal government certainly doesn't mandate it (my HS required two semesters). Things outside of academics need to be handled locally, not at the national level. The U.S.A. is just too large and diverse for such a national requirement to make sense.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Vox Imperatoris » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:06 am UTC

First of all, even if this nonsense did have academic merit, the federal government has no business mandating the curriculum of every school in the nation. But it doesn't; even if you say it "builds character", government schools are not there to provide a moral education. That is what parents are for. (Nevermind the fact that forced labor does not build character.)

Obama's talk about giving back to the community and mandating that every American pitch in to serve the state scares me more than anything Bush ever did. It's pure nationalist collectivism (if you don't see where I'm coming from with the nationalist part, listen to his views about Pakistan or the Selective Service). Note that I'm not saying Obama as a whole is a socialist (no prominent American politician is), but this part of his ideas certainly is.

The government has no right to tell Americans that they have a legal duty to serve their communities nor to give up a single hour of their free time involuntarily to further the interests of the state. It's not an issue of whether it's 20 hours, 200 hours, or two years; there is no justification for it, period. Except arguably in a national or local emergency, no one (excluding criminals) can be forced to work without his permission. Cite.

And who is to decide what counts as serving a community? Does working to help your family count? Why not; because you're serving your own interests and not the interests of the collective whole? I also doubt that you would be so gung-ho about an Israeli-style system of mandatory military service for men and women. Why not? Many people agree that a period of military service builds discipline and respect that lasts the rest of one's life. Is that not a valuable trait to teach our children? It may well be, but it's not the government's role to force people to do it; just as it's not the government's role to enact mandatory community service.


By the way, my (private) school does require 20 hours of community service per year. I don't like it, but I choose to attend because the other benefits outweigh that negative.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby btarlinian » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:28 am UTC

Vox Imperatoris wrote:First of all, even if this nonsense did have academic merit, the federal government has no business mandating the curriculum of every school in the nation. But it doesn't; even if you say it "builds character", government schools are not there to provide a moral education. That is what parents are for. (Nevermind the fact that forced labor does not build character.)
...

Did you even read the rest of the thread? Every single point you present has been rebutted by Kachi and others. And the stuff about Obama and Pakistan is just offtopic.

By any reasonable standard, schools have a right to mandate actions which have academic merit. As explained earlier, community service has academic merit because it teaches students about their community and thereby enables them to be good citizens. (As far as I can see, no one has explicitly disagreed with this statement.)

Some people have also argued that requiring this on a federal level is wrong because the US is too diverse for it to work properly. In response to that I'd like to note that many of the federal educational mandates are very broadly worded. They almost never specify an implementation and often allow the states to come up with their own ways of satisfying these requirements. Nonetheless, I can see where those who argue against a *federal* mandate are coming from. But I still don't really understand why a school mandating community service is wrong/illegal.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Lucrece » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:48 am UTC

btarlinian wrote:
Vox Imperatoris wrote:First of all, even if this nonsense did have academic merit, the federal government has no business mandating the curriculum of every school in the nation. But it doesn't; even if you say it "builds character", government schools are not there to provide a moral education. That is what parents are for. (Nevermind the fact that forced labor does not build character.)
...

Did you even read the rest of the thread? Every single point you present has been rebutted by Kachi and others. And the stuff about Obama and Pakistan is just offtopic.

By any reasonable standard, schools have a right to mandate actions which have academic merit. As explained earlier, community service has academic merit because it teaches students about their community and thereby enables them to be good citizens. (As far as I can see, no one has explicitly disagreed with this statement.)

Some people have also argued that requiring this on a federal level is wrong because the US is too diverse for it to work properly. In response to that I'd like to note that many of the federal educational mandates are very broadly worded. They almost never specify an implementation and often allow the states to come up with their own ways of satisfying these requirements. Nonetheless, I can see where those who argue against a *federal* mandate are coming from. But I still don't really understand why a school mandating community service is wrong/illegal.


I disagree with the statement that it enables them to be good citizens. That it has academic merits, I can accept, but to suggest that community service is instrumental in building "good citizenship" (whatever that is) seems to be stretching it to me. Community service could as well enable students to be poor citizens, as some grudging being forced to serve others might actually develop a strong repulsion to lending assistance in future circumstances unless they are rewarded.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Cynical Idealist » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:53 am UTC

btarlinian wrote: But I still don't really understand why a school mandating community service is wrong/illegal.

It isn't. The issue comes from the federal government mandating that schools mandate community service to a particular level X. My high school had a wonderful community service program, that taught us a great deal--and wouldn't meet the standards of 50 hours/year for high schools. I think that if the program in question was to be changed to work like that, part of its effectiveness would be greatly reduced.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Vox Imperatoris » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:59 am UTC

I did read the rest of the thread.

Schools (well, public schools) have no business teaching students moral values. That is the responsibility of parents. Why should the government have the right to force people to care about their communities? Politicians can certainly, with their own time and money, encourage people to volunteer and donate to charitable causes, but they don't have the right to use force or denial of standard benefits to mandate community involvement. (A lot of this plays into the fact that I think the government should be removed from the education system entirely, with perhaps a voucher system issuing a standard amount to each student, but that's for another thread.)

What right does the government have to decide what counts as beneficial service to the community and what doesn't?

ETA: Lucrece, I would say that if it doesn't even teach students to be good citizens, then what academic merits could it possibly have?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Warlocke » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:38 am UTC

This makes me physically and literally sick to the stomach. Figure most school years are roughly 36 weeks (of actual school, not counting holidays). So for 25 of those weeks, 1 extra hour twice per week. 6x 8-hour Saturdays and 2 hours somewhere else. Starting in middle school... forcing what in most schools is already a top-heavy administrative body to hire still more non-teachers simply to plan, police, and track the community service programs. Or worse, force the already burdened teachers to take it on. Worse yet - which organizations do you think will step in to fill the "community service" gap and happily proselytize the entire time?

What will be next? Tax breaks for growing vegetables in our back yards? Think how much money the American worker can save the proletariat if we all pitch in and... wait... :roll:

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:03 am UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:Qinwamascot brought up having to take four years of PE to graduate, but here's the thing: either a local government or the school decided on that.

To be fair, this was a state requirement. And it's not a funding-based thing either; the school legally couldn't give me a diploma until I had 4 years of PE.

Vox Imperatoris wrote:I did read the rest of the thread.

Schools (well, public schools) have no business teaching students moral values. That is the responsibility of parents. Why should the government have the right to force people to care about their communities? Politicians can certainly, with their own time and money, encourage people to volunteer and donate to charitable causes, but they don't have the right to use force or denial of standard benefits to mandate community involvement. (A lot of this plays into the fact that I think the government should be removed from the education system entirely, with perhaps a voucher system issuing a standard amount to each student, but that's for another thread.)


Schools already do teach moral values. The government isn't forcing people to care; no one can do that. It's forcing them to work whether or not they care.

What right does the government have to decide what counts as beneficial service to the community and what doesn't?


The federal government isn't choosing what counts as community service. This is a decision that goes to the states. For the most part, the existing definitions of community service would be used. If you're objecting to these, that seems like a losing argument.

ETA: Lucrece, I would say that if it doesn't even teach students to be good citizens, then what academic merits could it possibly have?


Do 4 years of PE classes teach me to be physically active? Or do 4 years of health classes teach me to be healthy? No, but they do help the borderline cases. People who would be unlikely to do physical activity on their own, but may get interested in it. They have effects; just not in every case. Community service is the same. It's possible to do the community service and not learn anything, but some people will become interested in it. So in a sense it does teach to be good citizens.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Mane » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:03 am UTC

The problem with this thread is that we're stuck in this argument which goes like this.

Person A claims that this is "slavery" or "forced labor".
Person B points out that, in school, you have to do a great deal of work you may not want to do.
Person A claims that schoolwork, is not forced labor, because it's 'useful'.
Person B argues that community service IS useful.
Person A recons and says them meant useful in a 'educational sense'

Etc.

I ask, therefore, for Person A to 1) define Forced labor/slavery, 2) explain how it applies to mandatory community service.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:51 am UTC

That would be going against our new mod's wishes. Let's not test him. He seems to be losing his optimism and good will at a rapid pace.

Let's see, an entirely new argument...

Does anybody think it an odd idea to treat our children like petty criminals? Forcing them to do community service? Is the process for rehabilitating criminals the same as the process for teaching children? Part of the idea of making criminals do community service is to make up for their crimes. What crimes have students done to warrant this treatment?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Cynical Idealist » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:34 pm UTC

To be fair, this was a state requirement. And it's not a funding-based thing either; the school legally couldn't give me a diploma until I had 4 years of PE.

Ah, I'm sorry. I assumed it was required by your school district. I think even state-wide mandates on non-academic subjects are too broad, but its still better than a federal level requirement if only because its easier to influence your state government than it is to influence the federal government.


Malice wrote:Is the process for rehabilitating criminals the same as the process for teaching children?

That reminds me. Interesting fact: what I did for several hours of community service was, in fact, exactly what some juvenile criminals did as part of their sentences. Then I got through my four hours of jury duty and moved on to presenting cases (I did a lot of volunteering at a Teen Court program, and offenders had to do 1-4 sessions of jury duty for the program in addition to the community service and other portions of their sentence). So apparently, it is.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby cypherspace » Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:38 pm UTC

Malice wrote:Does anybody think it an odd idea to treat our children like petty criminals? Forcing them to do community service? Is the process for rehabilitating criminals the same as the process for teaching children? Part of the idea of making criminals do community service is to make up for their crimes. What crimes have students done to warrant this treatment?

Why don't you think of this the other way round, and think of it as treating petty criminals like children? Teaching them how to be good citizens because they didn't learn it as children?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby TheStranger » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:33 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:What, because menial tasks really help you to be a better citizen? I think they'd just make the majority of people bitter. It's used for criminals as a form of soft punishment and because it's free labor. Is community service intended as soft punishment with the additional benefit of free labor?


Forced community service is certainly intended as such (as well as a bit of Karma... making people who litter clean up garbage and such). To gain some benefit from community service you have to be in the right mindset... otherwise it is just an annoyance.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Mane » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:40 pm UTC

Malice wrote:Let's see, an entirely new argument...


But that's just the problem--this isn't a new argument, it's just a paraphrase of the same circle.

You need to explain why community service is in your mind punishment, you're the one that's claiming it's a whole host of things it's not

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby cypherspace » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:22 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:What, because menial tasks really help you to be a better citizen? I think they'd just make the majority of people bitter. It's used for criminals as a form of soft punishment and because it's free labor. Is community service intended as soft punishment with the additional benefit of free labor?

I don't care what people think about menial tasks or community service. That's been discussed plenty. I was pointing out a flaw in the logic. You can't assume that we're treating our children like criminals without also considering the reverse, that we're treating the criminals like kids.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby cephalopod9 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:44 pm UTC

(things got redundant around the middle of page 2, so I skipped to the end)

It all depends on how they plan to enforce it and what they mean by mandatory. Has there been any discussion of that so far?
I realize this relates to scary ideas like sharing*, and making oneself usefull, but I can't really say I think it's a bad idea.
Admittedly, I'd be something of a hypocrit to really advocate it since my high school was really lazy.
Furthermore, while I'd rather see more carrot and less stick, making comunity involvement an every day thing instead of something exceptional sounds good to me.

*I honestly do not understand why people find this so threatening, is it really so bad for a few people to be a little less richer than everyone so that lots of other people can feed themselves?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Lucrece » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:10 pm UTC

qinwamascot wrote:
Do 4 years of PE classes teach me to be physically active? Or do 4 years of health classes teach me to be healthy? No, but they do help the borderline cases. People who would be unlikely to do physical activity on their own, but may get interested in it. They have effects; just not in every case. Community service is the same. It's possible to do the community service and not learn anything, but some people will become interested in it. So in a sense it does teach to be good citizens.


You're mistaking "not learning" for "learning to dislike". People forced into PE may not learn anything, or they may develop a further hatred for PE; there are borderlines that are equally pushed out by these initiatives.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:37 pm UTC

Kachi wrote:
it's a use of power outside the scope of school's purpose


Ok, this is not true. Education philosophy is a pretty broad subject on its own, but suffice it to say that this contention has books and books written about it, most of which would disagree with this assertion.

So at least we've established the root of this debate-- your philosophy of what education is supposed to do doesn't support this. Unfortunately for your argument, preparing students for work and to be good citizens are two of the most prominent tenants of almost every accepted model of educational philosophy. Community service, mandatory or not, invariable serves one if not both of these prongs.



No, high school doesn't support this, and isn't supposed to do this. There are limited resources and limited time for high school students to learn fundamentals. If this wasn't the case, college wouldn't exist. We'd just spend 8 years teaching hard sciences after your 4 years are up, and 8 years teaching humanities, followed by 8 years of volunteering in Africa. We'd have some of the smartest people in existence.

Further, your case that it prepares students to be good citizens is simply untrue, if my analogy with the rats taking drugs is to be believed. You can't inject civic virtue into a person's mind. Your attempt at social engineering is destined to fail, at the cost of a few hours of some people's time, and a few futures destroyed when some people intrinsically realise that this is unjust and refuse to be used as free government-provided labour.

As for he case that it is preparing the students for work, you must first show me how unpaid labour for the school will prepare someone for work MORE than someone going out and making money actually doing a job? Will this extra experience be worth more than the hundreds of dollars the student never made because he was a government mandated slave with his future ransomed?

The concept of "use power wisely and frugally" apparently escapes those who can't understand why people would be against schemes like this. Power corrupts. That's exactly what we're seeing here, where someone with power over students thinks it's just to use that power for a ridiculous forced labour scheme, holding their future hostage, "Do 40 hours work for our associates or we're going to make sure you never get to college or get a job better than a gas station clerk!"

The worst part is, we're seeing cases where this abusive mindset expands. Suddenly you can't get a license without finishing high school. What's next? No working without a permit unless you graduate high school and add to the forced labour pool? We need to consider student's basic human rigts. STOP stealing money from them by irresponsibly running up government debts, STOP forcing them to work for free by waving their future around like a carrot.

If you're going to keep on with this stupid social engineering crap, on BOTH sides, whether it's telling girls not to use birth control and instead just don't have sex or forcing kids into unpaid labour, then it's time to implement a scale government. Implement a real justice system so students aren't subject to the whims of de facto kings. Implement a system so students have a say in what ridiculous social engineering experiments they're to take part in. If you're going to control every aspect of their lives while in school, far beyond the scope of teaching the subjects they are to learn, then you have an obligation to give power back, as you have taken it wrongfully from them in the first place.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby clintonius » Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:10 pm UTC

Meteorswarm, you do make a good point that even this seemingly small amount of money can be a very real hit for some individuals and families. What if the program were to offer exemptions/credit for students who elected to take a job rather than perform the service? I'm guessing that this sort of proposal will go through a large critical filter before anyone attempts to enact it, and I could see the exemption or credit system being a reasonable guard to put in place.

SJ Zero, the study you presented regarding the rats is not to be believed. It's an interesting analogy, but you're taking it beyond the realm of analogy to accepted fact, and you really can't take an experiment done on rats concerning addiction and apply it to human behavior regarding service work. I think both you/others arguing that community service is ineffective and those on the side arguing that it is effective are basing your beliefs more on opinion or anecdotal evidence than fact. Here's a paper I found concerning the effect of community service on students. That paper directly refutes the notion that service has no relation to schoolwork. It cites studies that make quite the opposite point:
The Paper wrote:Clark, Croddy, Hayes, and Philips (1997) found that community service involvement provides a place to apply knowledge and make real world connection. Parker-Gwin and Mabry (1998) found that community services experiences gave opportunities for critical reflection on the connection between political knowledge and the experience. Niemi, Hepburn, and Chapman (2000) found that sustained involvement by high school students in community service activities positively impacted individual levels of political knowledge. The ability to make real world connections through community service experience seems to improve the likelihood that individual students will choose to select political information for retention

That paper hints at another point that seems to have been overlooked in this thread: community service activities can be specially selected for their relevance to educational curricula. Spending half a day cleaning up a local park certainly can meaningless drudgery if it's done without the proper framework. If it's done in the midst of a unit on pollution or environmental science, it could help solidify academic information in students' minds, particularly if the service is followed by reflection and integration of the experience into subsequent coursework.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:04 am UTC

Mane wrote:
Malice wrote:Let's see, an entirely new argument...


But that's just the problem--this isn't a new argument, it's just a paraphrase of the same circle.

You need to explain why community service is in your mind punishment, you're the one that's claiming it's a whole host of things it's not


Community service is punishment because we assign as such during the sentencing phase of some criminal trials. I'm not inventing the idea.

On the idea of granting exceptions, even this is problematic, because it assumes that kids without a concrete alternative (a job, or sports, or whatever) have the ability to use up their free time. When, in fact, that time might be very valuable in terms of getting homework done, and maintaining sanity. Adding a community service burden might end up harming their ability to focus on other, more important school-related activities.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Dream » Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:57 am UTC

Malice wrote:Community service is punishment because we assign as such during the sentencing phase of some criminal trials. I'm not inventing the idea.

No, you're not inventing it. But you are stretching the truth. Medical treatment can be prescribed by criminal sentencing too. Is that punishment? I think the involvement of community service is principally about rehabilitation, by virtue of its supposedly improving effect on the individual concerned, which is the same for the prospective student. In some ways, for some criminals, it could also be seen as a from of pillory. It is in some ways about literally repaying a debt to society. It is not punishment just because it is part of the sentencing. It is also not punishment just because the criminals perceive it to be such, as that would make punishment of school work of all kinds.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:Let's consider what the costs to the students of this policy. Assume that it does not detract from classroom time, and is instead an additional burden on the students. 50 hours of community service, at the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour costs that student $327.5 purely in lost time. 200 hours is, of course $1310. Many state minimum wages are substantially higher, and students may find employers willing to offer more. I found several manual-labor jobs in my area (Central NJ, not a poor area, but plenty of poor people) offering $8 an hour or more. To someone in a job like that, those 50 hours would be $400, the 200 hours $1600. This is a very real loss to those students and their families. If a family is struggling to get by as it is, and needs their children to work, chances are that those hundreds of dollars aren't going to be easy to recoup. While community service would provide some degree of benefit to these families, it is fundamentally unlikely to provide hundreds of dollars of service, especially of the kind of essential service that would save these families money. Even if a cleaner park is "worth" $300 dollars to a family, it's a luxury - a struggling family would do without, and forcing them to pay for it, with their time that could be used to earn money, isn't fair.

Not to mention the non-monetary costs of academic opportunities lost. A student learning electrical engineering or another technical subject on his own could potentially invent something very valuable; an artist, musician or writer could likewise create something highly valuable, but forced community service limits their freedom of action and costs them opportunities like those.

Time is valuable. Extremely valuable, in fact. Taking away time has very real costs, and acting like it doesn't is foolish. I think that to justify community service, every hour spent must yield at least that minimum wage in value back to the student. High school does this - graduating dramatically raises your potential earnings. How does community service do this?

And finally, I remain unconvinced that community service can teach anything. Please do not confuse me refusing to argue something that we're clearly not progressing on with conceding a point.


So what is the lost value of going to school every day? Certainly much higher than that.

While you do have a point that having a high school diploma is helpful for future income, you're comparing different things. Community service would be a requirement of getting a diploma, so you should compare it to other requirements. Since you live in Central NJ, where I went to High School, you probably had to take 4 years of Physical Education, which I'll assume is 135 hours per year. That's (by your own math) $3537, which is quite a lot. Compare your end potential value to someone who never took 4 years of PE. It's basically exactly the same. In fact, the same is true for most classes. What's valuable isn't the work you put into a diploma. It's the diploma itself.

So your argument really doesn't hold. If we want to help poor people, then first we should get rid of PE classes so they'll have an extra hour to do work.

Alternatively, let's compare two people's potential earnings if this is adopted. One person doesn't do community service, doesn't graduate, and doesn't get the increased income. The other does the community service and gets a higher potential from their diploma. So in reality, community service will help increase your potential earnings!
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:31 pm UTC

Frankly, I do think PE has no place in schools either. It's more social engineering, a waste of time and taxpayer money. Simple statistics show that it simply doesn't work to create a more fit populace. Further, many students would prefer not to be subjected to it. Gym class never taught me anything and didn't work to increase my athletic fundamentals. Therefore, it seems meaningless. By contrast, extra-curricular activities I chose to do became self-reinforcing; I chose to play hockey, I had fun, so next time I had to choose whether to play hockey or not, I'd associate the decision to play hockey with fun. Similarly, I didn't take up distance cycling because of any school cycling program, I took it up because I chose to try it, thought it was awesome, and next time the decision came up I chose to do it more because it's awesome.

Most pre-boomers didn't have the benefit of a high school education, and tend to be fit individuals. Today, generations imbued with years of PE classes are the fattest Americans in history.

clintonius, the paragraph you've quoted shows that the control group who did community service will have greater predilection towards politics, which isn't the issue here. Greater interest in politics isn't a net benefit in my view. Further, the example doesn't seem to deal with the fact that people will go out in the world and do work without a high school forcing them to do so for free.

My drug experiment analogy works fairly well in my view, because the key element in decision/reward is making a decision. The brain uses a very evolutionary process of neuron path life or death. By taking the decision out of student's hands, you're trying to inject student with civic virtue, just like the rat in the study. Barred from deciding whether to do it or not, the evolution is open circuited.

In practice, the community service won't be well-selected, or it would already be part of a class and called a 'field trip'. It will be a make-work project or other menial task some bureaucrat thinks is useful. 40 hours of wasted time so some bureaucrat can check a box on their social engineering credentials.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:28 am UTC

Would you then say that all classes should be optional? I know I certainly didn't learn anything from quite a few of my classes. I'd be better off right now if I had spent more time at work and less time in school, but that doesn't mean I should be allowed to skip school whenever I feel like it. Although I basically did anyway :P

I suppose if you advocate a totally voluntary school, then community service seems to be forcing work, but if not you run into a slippery slope of what's acceptable work. Which means either everything is acceptable for the school to require, or nothing is.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby btarlinian » Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:31 am UTC

SJ Zero wrote:In practice, the community service won't be well-selected, or it would already be part of a class and called a 'field trip'. It will be a make-work project or other menial task some bureaucrat thinks is useful. 40 hours of wasted time so some bureaucrat can check a box on their social engineering credentials.


How many times does this need to be said? In practice, bureaucrats don't select what you do as community service, the student does, out of what is typically a wide variety of opportunities.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby clintonius » Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:31 am UTC

@meteor: the issue of who would and wouldn't get an exemption is a very difficult one. It's tempting to answer with the obvious "those extracurricular activities are optional, whereas the service isn't (or wouldn't be)," but that brushes off the important point that extracurricular activities are vitally important to many students. While reading through an earlier part of this thread I encountered the idea that students should be granted for extracurriculars that served the community via entertainment, like marching band. Should the same apply to sports? Many towns across the country organize their autumn friday nights around the football games.

The idea of generally mandating that students do something is essentially where I think our ideas are headed: counting jobs, sports, other extracurriculars, etc, as all being under the umbrella of "community service." I'm not sure how closely that fits with the Obama administration's wishes, but I think it's much more feasible.

@ SJ Zero and qinwamascot, Let's not turn this into a debate about PE and other "meaningless" classes/school mandates, because the fact is, PE required and that's not likely to change. SJ Zero, I do see the point you're bringing up with comparing forced physical education classes with optional activities. I think a key difference here is that community service opportunities are often not as readily apparent, and they're also not often perceived as being "fun." How the proposed legislation intends to change that, I don't know.

Your use of the word "predilection" is correct in the context of your paragraph, which tells me you misunderstood the portion of the paper I quoted rather than the word itself. Nowhere does it claim that students became more interested in politics; it states that service activities gave students the opportunity to reflect on, and caused them to retain greater amounts of, political knowledge. The notion that students can retain more information if they engage in community service is directly related to the topic at hand. The notion that students "will go out in the world and do work without a high school forcing them to do so for free" is less related, because the odds are slim of that work being related to their curriculum in such a way that it causes them to retain more information.

My problem with the rat analogy is precisely that: it's for rats. As I said above, when you take it beyond the level of analogy and claim that it proves your point here, you need to demonstrate with evidence that it applies to humans in the same way. I'm quite sure our decision-making processes are a good deal more advanced than those of the animals used in the study.

btarlinian makes an excellent point that community service is often chosen by the individual. Perhaps sometimes it will be akin to a field trip or other practice already in existence, and if that's the case, great. Maybe that demonstrates that the school was doing something right, and the further mandate shouldn't be a hassle.

Note that I'm not advocating for or against this proposal. I just want us to have a reasoned discussion about the pros and cons.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:56 am UTC

qinwamascot wrote:While you do have a point that having a high school diploma is helpful for future income, you're comparing different things. Community service would be a requirement of getting a diploma, so you should compare it to other requirements. Since you live in Central NJ, where I went to High School, you probably had to take 4 years of Physical Education, which I'll assume is 135 hours per year. That's (by your own math) $3537, which is quite a lot. Compare your end potential value to someone who never took 4 years of PE. It's basically exactly the same. In fact, the same is true for most classes. What's valuable isn't the work you put into a diploma. It's the diploma itself.


On the other hand, the statement (or resume line) "I have a high school diploma" is only useful or respected by potential employers because of the work that goes into it. I know when I hire someone with a diploma that they have a basic understanding of math, reading, writing, history, and science, because I know that all of those things are required in order to graduate. Any scholastic requirement must be evaluated based on whether or not it provides more value under that concept. Physical education probably doesn't. Arguably, neither does community service. In fact, you'd find that employers made the same distinction that they do now--both applicants A and B have high school diplomas, meaning they did the mandatory service, but A also volunteered another hundred hours at a soup kitchen. That says more about A than B's diploma says about B. Accomplishing a make-work requirement teaches little and proves even less.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby lowbart » Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:35 am UTC

Please read the thread before posting. Those point had been covered sufficiently and I have told the thread to stop rehashing them.

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