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 qinwamascot » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:05 am UTC

honestly, that kind of complaining isn't convincing at all. I was able to take a full course load consisting of only AP courses in my senior year, take classes at a local college as well, and be active in 12 clubs, of which I had leadership roles in 5 (3 of which I was president in). I also did Boy Scouts and played in a local orchestra and took lessons, and still found the time to get over 200 hours without much trouble. If you can't manage even 50 or 100 hours, then cut back on clubs. What would you do if your grades were failing? You'd cut back on extracurriculars to get more time to study. It's the same thing here.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:24 am UTC

Well, aren't you special. However, working 20-30 hours a week is a lot more time consuming and stressful than dicking around as a president of a high school club.

Kachi wrote:
doesn't this still come down to how the federal government is not the best organization to implement this?


See, here's the thing. If they don't do it, then most state and local governments will not. The reality of the situation is not ideal. In most places, it's a question of will the federal government implement it, or will it not be implemented at all? And most agree that the better of those two alternatives is that the federal government do it.

Also, another plus that I neglected to mention before is the social aspect-- working with other people. This is something most students don't get enough of, and it's not an easy fix, because most students hate group projects, and the level of effort that it requires for a teacher to articulate a well-designed group project is a little obscene.


I think the fact that many will not implement this of their own accord is a good enough sign of how it will ultimately not work out well, as a school really has little interest on caring about fulfilling a federal mandate with very loose restrictions. Speaking from experience, a lot of schools will just tell their students to submit a signed sheet documenting their hours and not give two shits about whether those hours were actually performed or not; it takes time and money for a school to check over the vailidity of community service claimed to have occured, and even more time and money to create a good overall program for its students to participate in, not to mention the administration would have to care deeply about what they are doing for it to have any real effect. A mandate can't force people to care, and even if it did somehow manage to get people to put in hours the result would be widespread resentment, the exact opposite of what you hope people garner from such service.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:34 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:Well, aren't you special. However, working 20-30 hours a week is a lot more time consuming and stressful than dicking around as a president of a high school club.


Having worked an 18 hour job during my junior year, I can say that this is not the case in my experience. But regardless, you're ignoring my point. Kendo_Bunny's claim was that students are too busy with extracurriculars, so my point is that you can drop some of those.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:36 am UTC

Kendo's first example was a poor family who needed to work for money, and throughout his post referred back to working. If you're just referring to extra-cirriculars' point that he brought up, then it's a bit of a strawman.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:45 am UTC

I wasn't trying to refute the case of the
hypothetical student. This student is poor- the first in her family to go to college. She is paying her own way by working full time, as well as having a full time class load. Where is she supposed to find 100 free hours?

I was trying to refute the
honors students are already stretched to the breaking point with all the extracurriculars they have to do


It's not strawman, because that implies that I'm arguing against the whole post, but only focusing on one particular part. Rather, I'm only arguing against that part. I somewhat agree that if a poor person doesn't have time to do this with working, supporting their family, studying etc. then we should give them some kind of a break.

Also, I may be wrong, but I thought Kendo_Bunny was female by the name and writing style. Is this correct?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:54 am UTC

Fair enough. However, I think once you start trying to set up special condidtions to satisfy various income levels, the plan's already failed in my mind; having the schools tell specific students that they're too poor to have to do the community service requirement will not make for easy peace at many high schools.

I suppose this is a discussion more for the linguistics thread.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:04 am UTC

I wouldn't make it purely based on income level; rather I'd have an application process to have the requirement waived. Anyone who can provide a good reason, be it economic necessity, family emergency, etc. could get it waived or reduced. Extracurricular activities, though, would not be seen as a good reason. I'd agree that having it solely based on income level wouldn't be a great policy. I realize this is somewhat different from what will probably actually happen though.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:19 am UTC

Well, I think this takes us back to the "one size doesn't fit all" thing- how do you create a comprehensive law on the federal level that allows schools enough flexibility to handle things on a case by case situation without completely gutting the law's intended effect?

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Intercept » Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:34 am UTC

The fed isn't overstepping their boundaries. If the school can't sustain itself off of the state's and district's money, and they need the fed's money, then the fed can decide under what conditions to give it.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby EdgarJPublius » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:00 am UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:You're ignoring how diverse the activities that students pursue on their own are. I knew plenty of people who were involved in all of these things. That doesn't mean they should be mandatory. Community service would force students to only pursue interests that can be applied to others. Like an obscure instrument? Too bad, nobody wants to listen to bagpipe concerts. Like building mildly dangerous electrical toys? Oh well, they're really not safe enough to give to others. Enjoy studying literature? Good luck applying that in a way that helps other people. And since these kids are forced to spend time in activities they don't want to do, they can't follow their own interests, possibly dissuading them from a career that might otherwise be very promising.


This argument can be applied right back to classes in general. Many students, if left to their own devices, would probably end up learning things that will benefit them in seeking and maintaining a job, does that mean that school shouldn't be mandatory?
Just because some students will, on their own, gain as much, if not more useful experience than they would in a class or in required community service, does not mean that class or required community service are without benefits.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Clumpy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:26 am UTC

Y'know, maybe I'm taking the wrong tack on this issue. Maybe the point of government is to make sure that we do the right thing, and punish us if we don't (by withholding funding at first, then graduating to more punitive measures when we get used to mandatory federal labor). After all, being forced to do the right thing is the way you learn and grow as a person, right?

I'd like to propose the following federal mandates in the name of Making Everything Perfect Forever(TM):

* Mandatory exercises and daily study (enforced, of course, by one-way screens in every room of our homes).

* A mandatory minimum percentage of "cultural" books and media in every home (paid for through taxes, enforceable by mandatory reading comprehension tests to make sure people are reading them).

* Enforcement of a minimum weekly expenditure on healthy food items such as produce and multivitamins, along with a cap on junk foods and sodas. What's the downside to good health?

After all, when government limits our freedom for positive outcomes, everybody wins!

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby ++$_ » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:37 am UTC

Clumpy wrote:<snip>
That's quite a thick coating of Teflon you're applying to that slope there. Be careful: people could fall and hurt themselves.

The proper analogy here is to other classes in school. As far as I'm concerned, one required school activity should be compared to another required school activity.

The purpose of community service in education is pretty darn clear to me; it's to educate students about the society we live in. I also know that it's boring and pointless, sort of like US history classes. So I think it's actually a pretty good fit into a high school curriculum.

That said, I'm not sure this makes sense to me. In an inner city high school, most kids may come from families way below the poverty line. They should be receiving the support of the community, not giving it. I think that people who have a job while in school should be exempt from the requirement, at least.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby ++$_ » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:57 am UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:
++$_ wrote:The purpose of community service in education is pretty darn clear to me; it's to educate students about the society we live in. I also know that it's boring and pointless, sort of like US history classes. So I think it's actually a pretty good fit into a high school curriculum.


No, it's not. When you write a paper on the US constitution or what have you, it clearly and unambiguously aims to further your understanding of society in a direct manner. You licking envelopes for some local politician or picking up trash, while it may teach you something, does so in a roundabout, fuzzy, really-not-at-all certain way. Sure, you can offer anecdotal evidence of "I learned so much from talking to old people" or what have you, but community service is in an entirely different league than classes. You don't learn by picking up garbage. If you do learn, it's from your other interactions, but then why not mandate hanging out with people? Oh right, because it's ridiculous.

Don't get me wrong, I think that volunteerism is great, but only when actually volunteering. If you're not doing it out of your own choice, it's forced labor.
Actually, I did pick up garbage, and I learned something. I learned that there's a shitload of garbage out there. I learned that even in the relatively environmentally-conscious area where I live, there are still fucktards who litter. I learned about the impact that humanity has on the world. I learned a bit about how homeless people survive. EDIT: Oh, yeah. I learned that I do not want to pick up trash for a living.

Could I have learned about these things by writing a paper on them? I suppose I could have. It would have taken a lot longer than it took me to pick up the trash, and it would have been less effective. Another benefit of writing a paper is that (supposedly) it would help me develop writing skills -- I say "supposedly" because I know that most of the time, one learns basically nothing about writing from a writing assignment. A benefit of actually picking up the trash, though, is that there is less trash.

And I still don't see how homework isn't "forced labor" under your definition. Yes, it's supposed to help me learn. Maybe it does. But that doesn't matter. If the government forced you to dig a ditch and then fill it in, I'm guessing that you'd be outraged and say it was forced labor. Even though it only benefits you, by making you physically stronger.

Is it only forced labor because it's physical? Otherwise, I honestly don't see a qualitative difference between schoolwork (exercise for the mind, mandated by your school in response to government requirements) and digging useless ditches (exercise for the body, mandated by your school in response to hypothetical government requirements).

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby cerbie » Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:39 am UTC

qinwamascot wrote:In addition, you always can be home schooled or go to a private school. If you choose to go to public school, it's your school's right to decide whether or not you've met their requirements.
Since when did they start allowing that kind of choice?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:22 am UTC

++$_ wrote:Actually, I did pick up garbage, and I learned something. I learned that there's a shitload of garbage out there. I learned that even in the relatively environmentally-conscious area where I live, there are still fucktards who litter. I learned about the impact that humanity has on the world. I learned a bit about how homeless people survive. EDIT: Oh, yeah. I learned that I do not want to pick up trash for a living.


Are any of those things actually necessary? Are they things you had to go out and pick up trash in order to learn? I know all of those things, but I've never volunteered to clean up a park or anything. I just picked them up, either by seeing trash on the highway, or reading books, or whatever. Life experiences.

Also, learning you don't want to do something for a living, by doing it, is about the most useless activity I could imagine. Were you previously planning on picking up trash for a living? Were you carefully honing your resume toward that particular vocation? If so, wouldn't you have just started that job, worked it a day, said "I hate this," and quit?

And I still don't see how homework isn't "forced labor" under your definition. Yes, it's supposed to help me learn. Maybe it does. But that doesn't matter. If the government forced you to dig a ditch and then fill it in, I'm guessing that you'd be outraged and say it was forced labor. Even though it only benefits you, by making you physically stronger.

Is it only forced labor because it's physical? Otherwise, I honestly don't see a qualitative difference between schoolwork (exercise for the mind, mandated by your school in response to government requirements) and digging useless ditches (exercise for the body, mandated by your school in response to hypothetical government requirements).


It's this: "A benefit of actually picking up the trash, though, is that there is less trash." Forced labor that benefits somebody else is wrong. Digging a ditch is different; it's no different than being told to lift weights in gym class (as my high school mandated). If the government says "We need some ditches over there. Go work for us for free, or we won't give you a diploma," then we have a problem.
It's not the physicality, it's the effect. It's who benefits. I shouldn't be forced to help somebody do something. You want to force me to better myself? Fine. But if your goal, or even part of your goal is, "I wish there was less trash... but I don't want to pay anybody to pick it up," then that's wrong.
So you're right--there's no qualitative difference between schoolwork and digging useless ditches. There IS a qualitative difference between schoolwork and digging useful ditches.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby ++$_ » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:18 am UTC

Okay, I see. So basically, it's okay to force people to do work that's useless to society, but not work that's useful? Maybe we can resolve this whole problem by giving students the option to dig useless ditches instead of doing community service, if they so choose.

Despite the sarcastic tone of that last sentence, I actually see the argument. I just don't agree with the premise that the reason forced labor is bad is that someone else derives a benefit from it. I think forced labor is bad because it's, well, forced.

For example, if I get drafted and sent to Iraq, I'll be mad as hell. But I think I'd be even more angry if the government said, "In order to build character, you are required to go to boot camp, and then enter a very realistic Iraq War Simulator. Everything will be exactly the same as if you were in a real war, except it isn't real. So you're not actually doing anything for the country. Oh, by the way? The ammunition in the Iraq War Simulator is live. Have fun."

I guess the reason I don't think of community service as forced labor is that there are a huge variety of options to choose from, and it really doesn't take that much time, and presumably it would be integrated into the school curriculum (so the school would help you find a place to do it and to fit it into your schedule). On the other hand, under the draft you are forced to basically postpone your life to do the job the government has decided you will do. Community service isn't like that.
Malice wrote:Are any of those things actually necessary? Are they things you had to go out and pick up trash in order to learn? I know all of those things, but I've never volunteered to clean up a park or anything. I just picked them up, either by seeing trash on the highway, or reading books, or whatever. Life experiences.

Also, learning you don't want to do something for a living, by doing it, is about the most useless activity I could imagine. Were you previously planning on picking up trash for a living? Were you carefully honing your resume toward that particular vocation? If so, wouldn't you have just started that job, worked it a day, said "I hate this," and quit?
Maybe I should have put that differently. Here's an analogy: I know that there's a war going on in Iraq. I know that people are being killed there, that there's an uneasy sort of stability in place right now, that there are still tensions. I know that American soldiers are coping with all kinds of stress there. But I don't really know what that all means, because I've never been to Iraq and I've never been a soldier overseas. Now, being a soldier overseas takes a lot more investment than a day of community service. But if one of the goals of my education was to have a good knowledge of war, then it wouldn't be enough to read about it in books. Similarly, I think one of the goals of American education, rightly or wrongly, is to train children to be good citizens. It's hard to do that, I think, without being a citizen. Of course, citizenship is a big-tent topic, and you can only really get to know a few little corners at a time, but community service is one way to do that.

I don't think it's the only way. As I've already said, I think community service should be just one option. Getting a job also teaches you how to be a citizen -- at least you learn how to show up on time -- and teaches you some other useful skills as well. So does canvassing for Obama (or McCain). Maybe even digging useless ditches teaches that.

As for your second paragraph: I pretty much knew what my career was going to look like at that point. But if I hadn't, I certainly would have had a little extra incentive not to "slack off."

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:28 am UTC

I think the fact that many will not implement this of their own accord is a good enough sign of how it will ultimately not work out well, as a school really has little interest on caring about fulfilling a federal mandate with very loose restrictions. Speaking from experience, a lot of schools will just tell their students to submit a signed sheet documenting their hours and not give two shits about whether those hours were actually performed or not; it takes time and money for a school to check over the vailidity of community service claimed to have occured, and even more time and money to create a good overall program for its students to participate in, not to mention the administration would have to care deeply about what they are doing for it to have any real effect. A mandate can't force people to care, and even if it did somehow manage to get people to put in hours the result would be widespread resentment, the exact opposite of what you hope people garner from such service.


No, take it from someone has known many school administrators. The reason they don't do it is not that they don't care, not in the least little bit. Most of them don't do it because the they have so much already on their plates with disciplinary and assessment concerns, community service just never really crosses their mind. Most of them would be very receptive and supportive of it, especially if it were a part of their job. And they would also make a sincere effort to make sure that the experience was implemented in a meaningful and rewarding way.

Pretty much anyone who works as a teacher or administrator cares about kids, or they would go find other work. What students frequently interpret as an apathetic teacher is in reality just the teacher's idea of tough love. I'm not saying that that's entirely justified, just that very few people stay in education if they don't value the idea of doing good for students.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:00 am UTC

++$_ wrote:Okay, I see. So basically, it's okay to force people to do work that's useless to society, but not work that's useful? Maybe we can resolve this whole problem by giving students the option to dig useless ditches instead of doing community service, if they so choose.

Despite the sarcastic tone of that last sentence, I actually see the argument. I just don't agree with the premise that the reason forced labor is bad is that someone else derives a benefit from it. I think forced labor is bad because it's, well, forced.


It's okay to force people to do work for their own good--wait, let me turn that around. It's not automatically wrong to force people to do work for their own good. For example, I wouldn't support forcing kids to memorize the dictionary, because that's unnecessarily harsh; but my reasons for not supporting it wouldn't include "it's forced labor". But I'd support forcing kids to, say, read Moby Dick, because that's not a big deal, and it'll teach them English just as well.
It IS automatically wrong to force people to do work if part or all of the result is somebody else's benefit. Using students as slave labor isn't right.

For example, if I get drafted and sent to Iraq, I'll be mad as hell. But I think I'd be even more angry if the government said, "In order to build character, you are required to go to boot camp, and then enter a very realistic Iraq War Simulator. Everything will be exactly the same as if you were in a real war, except it isn't real. So you're not actually doing anything for the country. Oh, by the way? The ammunition in the Iraq War Simulator is live. Have fun."


This is an example of something I'd be opposed to, not because it's forced, but because of what they're having you do. Ie., you don't need to get shot at in order to build character.

I guess the reason I don't think of community service as forced labor is that there are a huge variety of options to choose from, and it really doesn't take that much time, and presumably it would be integrated into the school curriculum (so the school would help you find a place to do it and to fit it into your schedule). On the other hand, under the draft you are forced to basically postpone your life to do the job the government has decided you will do. Community service isn't like that.


Those aren't reasons to think "It's not forced labor." Those are reasons to think, "Yeah, it's forced labor, but I don't really mind."

Similarly, I think one of the goals of American education, rightly or wrongly, is to train children to be good citizens. It's hard to do that, I think, without being a citizen. Of course, citizenship is a big-tent topic, and you can only really get to know a few little corners at a time, but community service is one way to do that.


I don't know that mandating community service is actually going to do that well. You only get out of it what you put it into it, and I can't see many people putting worthwhile energy into something they're being forced to do.

I don't think it's the only way. As I've already said, I think community service should be just one option. Getting a job also teaches you how to be a citizen -- at least you learn how to show up on time -- and teaches you some other useful skills as well. So does canvassing for Obama (or McCain). Maybe even digging useless ditches teaches that.


But why should we force people to do any of those things?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:14 am UTC

I can't see many people putting worthwhile energy into something they're being forced to do.


The entire American education system seems to disagree with this.

Getting kids to step out of their comfort zone and do things that they don't think they want to do is part of a teacher's job.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby ++$_ » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:17 am UTC

Malice wrote:It's okay to force people to do work for their own good--wait, let me turn that around. It's not automatically wrong to force people to do work for their own good. For example, I wouldn't support forcing kids to memorize the dictionary, because that's unnecessarily harsh; but my reasons for not supporting it wouldn't include "it's forced labor". But I'd support forcing kids to, say, read Moby Dick, because that's not a big deal, and it'll teach them English just as well.
It IS automatically wrong to force people to do work if part or all of the result is somebody else's benefit. Using students as slave labor isn't right.
I still don't see why this is the measure of how immoral the forced labor is. Going back to the example of the draft, if I got drafted, I would be mad as hell, as I've already said. But what's going through my head is not: "Damn it, how dare they force me to do this stuff for the benefit of the country!" What's going through my head is: "Damn it, how dare they tell me that I can't embark on the career I wanted to embark on!" It's the loss of freedom that's at issue, not who the beneficiaries are of the lost freedom. In fact, if there are no beneficiaries, that's even worse, because then it's just a waste. This was the point of the Iraq War Simulator example, but I guess it didn't come across.
Those aren't reasons to think "It's not forced labor." Those are reasons to think, "Yeah, it's forced labor, but I don't really mind."
Well, we're all engaged in forced labor, because if we don't work, then we don't eat. The reason that's not actually forced labor is because we have choices.
Malice wrote:This is an example of something I'd be opposed to, not because it's forced, but because of what they're having you do. Ie., you don't need to get shot at in order to build character.
So you wouldn't be opposed to it if they didn't shoot at you? I think I still would be.
Malice wrote:I don't know that mandating community service is actually going to do that well. You only get out of it what you put it into it, and I can't see many people putting worthwhile energy into something they're being forced to do.
Well, I sure didn't want to do community service while I was in school, but in the end I got something out of it despite that.
Malice wrote:But why should we force people to do any of those things?
That's really the central question, isn't it? I guess I don't understand why we force people to attend school at all. It's not something they want to do, so they blow it off and don't learn anything. And we don't really do it "for their own good," as you seem to be suggesting. That's why I, personally, go to school, but it's not why society mandates school. We mandate schooling because we want to turn every person into a productive worker and citizen. It's so that we can get them to do work for us.

Despite all of this, I'm not against mandatory schooling. And I'm not against mandatory community service either, for basically the same reasons. And because I do think that education for citizenship is an important goal. Maybe you don't, in which case I understand that you'd be opposed to any kind of service-based education as something that shouldn't be taught in schools.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kendo_Bunny » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:19 am UTC

I am a girl- and actually, my own extracurriculars did some aspects of community service. However, seeing as I'm religious and it was a religious club, I don't know if it would count. Caroling at old folks homes and fasting to raise money for starving children doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would pass under this law. Then there's also the fact that a lot of colleges love seeing extracurriculars- I know that's why my stepsister was doing so many. 'I did mandatory service' doesn't look half so good as 'I did a butt-load of other things beyond my mandatory service!'.

I suppose my point is that students with obsessive tendencies, or students who are working extra hard for scholarships or trying to get into the most prestigious schools will also be hurt by this. For that matter, what is the state going to do with mentally ill students? My own family in high school consisted of an OCD anorexic, a Borderline Personality with ADD, and myself, a severely bullied bulimic. I'm sure my family is an exceptional case, but yeah. What are young agoraphobes supposed to do? What about severe depression? Victims of sexual trauma who are not ready to share their victimization story? Heck, what are young parents supposed to do? There's so much stigma in this country about having a mental illness, and I can't see attaining special permissions based on same really helping anyone. It's basically just saying 'Bully me! Judge me! I'm crazy!' or 'I'm a victim!'. Add to that the stigma about being working poor, or being a teen parent. Of course, you can make exceptions for every special case, but then you'd end up with people making up stories to get out of it or forcing stories out of people who are not ready to tell them.

This is the major problem with blanket sweeping. The poor students who are working full-time to support themselves or their families are screwed. The students with young children who do not have a completely supportive family are screwed. Mentally ill students are screwed. Students who are trying to go above and beyond are screwed. I really see this as only encouraging the drop-out rate, especially among the first three groups.


This also pre-supposes that middle schoolers can get to 50 hours of community service...

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:20 am UTC

++$_ wrote:I still don't see why this is the measure of how immoral the forced labor is. Going back to the example of the draft, if I got drafted, I would be mad as hell, as I've already said. But what's going through my head is not: "Damn it, how dare they force me to do this stuff for the benefit of the country!" What's going through my head is: "Damn it, how dare they tell me that I can't embark on the career I wanted to embark on!" It's the loss of freedom that's at issue, not who the beneficiaries are of the lost freedom. In fact, if there are no beneficiaries, that's even worse, because then it's just a waste. This was the point of the Iraq War Simulator example, but I guess it didn't come across.


I'm trying to argue around the idea of school. I like school, I'm glad that school is mandatory, and how do I reconcile that with my opposition to forced community service? Ah, the difference must be that forcing people to do community service is like using them. School is good because society benefits from having an educated populace, and the populace benefits from being educated. Community service has the community benefiting from a pool of free labor. "Look at how lovely our community is. Our homeless are fed, our parks are clean, and our services are staffed. And to think, it all it took was forcing our children to do our work for us."

Community service is worthwhile. If somebody wants to volunteer their time and energy, I'm all for it. I think schools should help kids to be able to do that. But I'm against my government telling me "go get an unpaid part-time job." It's this idea that I'm being used.

I don't like the draft, either. In some instances, it's justified; but I would be equally incensed at being forced to go fight a war in Iraq I didn't ask for or want.

Those aren't reasons to think "It's not forced labor." Those are reasons to think, "Yeah, it's forced labor, but I don't really mind."


Well, we're all engaged in forced labor, because if we don't work, then we don't eat. The reason that's not actually forced labor is because we have choices.


That's not true at all. There are alternatives to working that still involve eating. Friendships. Charity. Hunting. Scavenging.
And it's different because it's a function of life, not the government. Nobody's actually forcing me to get a job; it's just that I feel like eating, and that is how you get food in this world.

Malice wrote:This is an example of something I'd be opposed to, not because it's forced, but because of what they're having you do. Ie., you don't need to get shot at in order to build character.
So you wouldn't be opposed to it if they didn't shoot at you? I think I still would be.


That was just the most extreme portion. Yes, I would still be opposed to putting children through a war simulation.

Despite all of this, I'm not against mandatory schooling. And I'm not against mandatory community service either, for basically the same reasons. And because I do think that education for citizenship is an important goal. Maybe you don't, in which case I understand that you'd be opposed to any kind of service-based education as something that shouldn't be taught in schools.


I think education for citizenship is an important goal. Given the moral costs, I don't think the educational value of community service is worth mandating.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:33 pm UTC

They've implemented this in Ontario.

I think mandating community service is just another example of the way kids are pushed around by the system. If the state forces an adult who has not been convicted of a felony to work for free, it's slavery. If the state forces a student to work for free, it's suddenly good and just and holy.

If you've got the grades and all your credits, you should get your high school diploma. Forcing every student to complete hours of mundane busywork in the name of civic virtue will actually turn people with something to offer off of community service.

I've been called upon to help my community in the past, and I've heeded the call, donating my time and unique skills to make the world a better place. After my brother wasn't allowed to graduate because he didn't have the prerequisite slavery hours completed, I'm not so sure I'd do so again. Why volunteer while thousands are forced into volunteer work? Hell, by volunteering, maybe I'm denying some kid his or her high school diploma?

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Dazmilar » Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:20 pm UTC

So at the end of the year, do you have a test for your community service class? One that measures how much your character has increased over the year? Is there such a test for objectively measuring "character"? Is it possible to go through a year of community service and not develop any character? Even the most subjective classes in middle school or high school have some objective standards by which you can be graded. Art classes don't necessarily teach you "art appreciation" or "artistic expression," you're learning specific techniques. You can objectively determine whether someone is getting better with an instrument in a music class. You can't determine their "love of music."

The only thing you can objectively determine after someone's completed 100 hours of picking up highway trash is how good they are at picking up highway trash. Unless we're teaching the children of family sitcoms, who after a half-hour episode can say, "Wow, I learned something. Stealing really is wrong!"

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby ++$_ » Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:34 pm UTC

Malice wrote:I'm trying to argue around the idea of school. I like school, I'm glad that school is mandatory, and how do I reconcile that with my opposition to forced community service? Ah, the difference must be that forcing people to do community service is like using them. School is good because society benefits from having an educated populace, and the populace benefits from being educated. Community service has the community benefiting from a pool of free labor. "Look at how lovely our community is. Our homeless are fed, our parks are clean, and our services are staffed. And to think, it all it took was forcing our children to do our work for us."
You're still not really addressing my argument. I'm arguing that the immorality of forced labor has nothing to do with who benefits from it and everything to do with the fact that it's forced. Actually, if anything, I think it's even worse if the forced labor has no benefit than if it does. You seem to think the opposite: forced labor is worse if it serves a useful purpose than if it's just a Sisyphean task like digging ditches and filling them in.

Also, it just occurred to me that we have mandatory community service for adults, called "jury duty." Yes, we pay people on jury duty. So maybe if we pay the kids everything is okay?
Dazmilar wrote:The only thing you can objectively determine after someone's completed 100 hours of picking up highway trash is how good they are at picking up highway trash.
I believe you meant to say, "The only thing I can think how to objectively determine is how good they are at picking up highway trash." As for your musical instrument proficiency examples, how would you propose to "objectively" determine whether someone's skills at a musical instrument have improved? I don't know of a way -- certainly there isn't one in use right now. Anyway, we don't teach people music so that they can become musicians; that would be ridiculous. So really, testing whether someone has improved at a musical instrument is analogous to testing whether they've improved at picking up highway trash: it misses the point just as much. Objective testing is a pipe dream.

I didn't ever have tests in my physical education classes. I know there are some such classes where you do get tests, but I've never heard of anyone failing physical education because they didn't improve over the course of the year. Testing is not the standard by which we determine whether something is appropriate for school or not.

Is it possible to go through a year of community service and not develop any character?
Of course. And it's also possible (and very common) to go through a year of math, pass the tests, and then not know how to do the math when I talk to you two days (or even two HOURS) later. Or to go through a year of English, pass the class, yet still be just as bad a writer as you were when you entered the class. So if community service isn't always effective, it has good company in so being. My gut feeling is that the success rate would be just about the same as it would be in other classes.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Mane » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:26 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:See above - community service doesn't actually teach anything tangible, and has no place in the educational system.

No, it doesn't teach you anything--at least not directly. Indirectly it looks good on university applications and later job applications, both of which will teach you something.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Clumpy » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:29 pm UTC

It will teach you the valuable life lesson that you'll always get farther from following processes and jumping through hoops than by furthering your understanding and experience.

Hey - sometimes adding a little Teflon to something by pointing out similar situations is the best way to see the logical extension of something. I'd rather fall a little now than plummet later.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby btarlinian » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:16 pm UTC

It seems that the main thrust of the arguments begin presented here go as follows.
Mandated community service is bad because it's forced labor.
But school is forced labor anyway.
Ah, but community service is forced labor that helps other people, therefore it's bad.

That seems to be an inane criterion on which to decide whether or not to force someone to carry out an action. We force children to take Math, English, etc. because they have a possibility of benefiting from those classes (They are not guaranteed any benefits.). Similarly, we can force them to do community service because they have a possibility of benefiting from it.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:26 pm 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.

However, at any rate students are getting crapped on at both ends. Right now they're forced to labour to get their diplomas or degrees, and later on they'll be forced to labour to pay down the debts being accrued to send paycheques to every adult in America.

I can see this totally killing the spirit of community service. I wouldn't do it again for a long long time if I was forced to pretend I gave a crap about some cause for 40 hours just to get a piece of paper I've already earned by rights of talent and effort.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:02 pm UTC

Personally I think that labor should be a requirement in school anyway, so you're not going to convince me that mandatory community service, even if it is involuntary labor, is a bad thing. I also don't buy that it will disenfranchise people from actual community service.

If nothing else at all, it's good to see how hard some people work for so little. All of the labor I've done has done nothing but make me appreciate the importance of education and giving back to the community even further.

Sure, you're not me, etc. I would have opposed this plan as a student too. I opposed a lot of things as a student, in high school and college. Many of them I continue to oppose as a teacher. Forcing children into learning experiences that are challenging is not one of them.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:08 pm UTC

If I can't appeal to your sense of laziness, then I'll appeal to your sense of fairness. Why the hell should someone not get the diploma or degree they've already earned academically because they aren't going to go work cleaning highways for a work-week?

My brother officially isn't a high school graduate because of this crap. He's got all the credits he needs, but they won't let him graduate without his mandatory indentured servitude. I don't think that's right. He worked for 4 years, he deserves that diploma.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Azrael » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:25 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:He worked for 4 years, he deserves that diploma.
Except *that* diploma requires 40 hours of community service. If he hasn't done them, then no he doesn't deserve *that* diploma.

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Oops

Postby Kachi » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:28 pm UTC

If I can't appeal to your sense of laziness, then I'll appeal to your sense of fairness. Why the hell should someone not get the diploma or degree they've already earned academically because they aren't going to go work cleaning highways for a work-week?

My brother officially isn't a high school graduate because of this crap. He's got all the credits he needs, but they won't let him graduate without his mandatory indentured servitude. I don't think that's right. He worked for 4 years, he deserves that diploma.


So you're saying that my sense of fairness should tell me that your brother should get a diploma even though he didn't fulfill a graduation requirement that everyone else who got a diploma fulfilled?

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:39 pm UTC

I didn't need to do it. You didn't need to do it. They've just recently tacked on some arbitrary time-sink, one that has nothing to do with any academic requirement.

When I went to high school, I had to complete the academic requirements, then I got a piece of paper. That's the way it's been for a long time. Suddenly a new generation has this slave labour latched onto it, and your 4 years of work are worthless if you refuse on principle? That's fair.
Last edited by SJ Zero on Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:43 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Azrael » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:40 pm UTC

Yes, I did. Look at the poll results, while you're at it.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:44 pm UTC

one that has nothing to do with any academic requirement.


By your own admission, neither of you have ever done it. How can you say that it has no academic merit?

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby SJ Zero » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:46 pm UTC

Because it's community service, not anything school related.

Would you like to go through all the things that aren't done at school one at a time, so we can examine the dubious academic merit of each?

Also by my own admission, I *HAVE* served the community. I just didn't need some useless bureaucrat forcing me to do it, and I would have greatly resented it if one had.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Azrael » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:49 pm UTC

At this point the circle has gone on long enough. Some think it has merit, others don't. And the argument just keeps coming back to the same rehash of personal opinion.

Any new arguments what so ever are encouraged (i.e. not discussing your opinion on the academic merit of community service, nor your opinion about whether or not community service is forced labor). Rehashing is not.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:20 am UTC

Because it's community service, not anything school related.


If the school mandates it, then it's school-related, or am I wrong?

Would you like to go through all the things that aren't done at school one at a time, so we can examine the dubious academic merit of each?


That's not the way a curriculum and standards are developed. If education professionals agree that community service has legitimate academic merit (and I can assure you that they will), then it can be added. As such, curricula have only grown over the years as more subjects and activities have been found to have defensible merit.

But I'll accept your invitation-- please, go through those things. Even household chores are accepted as having academic merit (and are taught in FACS courses), so I'd like to see how this list pans out.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Garm » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:52 am UTC

SJ Zero wrote:Because it's community service, not anything school related.

Would you like to go through all the things that aren't done at school one at a time, so we can examine the dubious academic merit of each?

Also by my own admission, I *HAVE* served the community. I just didn't need some useless bureaucrat forcing me to do it, and I would have greatly resented it if one had.


Community service is very educational, you just have to have an open mind. You seem to be saying that you can only get educated in the classroom. As Mark Twain said, "never let school get in the way of your education." My high school had a community service req and I happily fulfilled it several times over. I volunteered at a library and learned a lot about censorship. I also made friends that I still have 14 years later. Doing volunteer work like that teaches one about the importance of community. I honestly don't think it's an onerous requirement and looks good on college apps to boot.
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