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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Bubbles McCoy
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:29 pm UTC

One size doesn't fit every student in the United States. The amounts of service, the specific nature of the service, under what grounds it will be mandated, etc are complicated issues that cannot effectively be concentrated in two hands for the entire nation. In general, it's hard to put out mandates of such a nature because there will be unique cases and there is no concievable way of any objections to be raised in unique cases when the amount of people subject to these community service regulations number in the tens of millions. Personally I think a state government also would be too large, only within a district could these issues be dealt with effectively.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Griffin » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:31 pm UTC

Edit: Good job, Bubbles McCoy, of not only arguing the same thing I did but doing it more briefly and before me. :P

I don't see them to be "evil". Just wrong.

That's simply NOT the federal governments job. One of the greatest advantaged to having states in the first place is the variety that results, both systemic and resultant. It means experiments, things like this, can be conducted without hurting everybody if it goes wrong, and if it has results the people of a certain state WANT, they can then choose to adopt it.

Also, because people have a lot more of a say in local government than in federal government. Technically, I think this should be something pushed by individual school systems, not state governments either, but at least at the state level I'd have a chance to have a say in its specific implementation.

I'd feel the same way if the president felt like unilaterally passing laws without congress. It's not evil - but it's not allowed, either, for a damn good reason. He doesn't have that power, and shouldn't.

The feds have already turned what was a decent high school (mine) into, well... a factory for standardized test scores, inflated grades, and a gutted education system for those things that don't get federally tested. So a high school that was once renowned across the state for its amazing art and music programs is now the same as every other high school, with nothing spectacular about it except their willingness to sacrifice education for test grades (something shared by other high schools across the state).

Okay, thats honestly a bit of an exaggeration, I'm sure, but those things they were good at HAVE suffered thanks to all the new standardization. I don't like standardization. I don't like one-size-fits-all approaches to policy, because one size doesn't fit all.

And one-size-fits-all approaches seem to be the only thing the federal government is capable of doing.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

One size doesn't fit every student in the United States.


This is well known to teachers, administrators, and policy makers.

Generally when there are federal regulations imposed on schools, smaller government is given a great deal of power in choosing how it's implemented.

Even with NCLB and standardized testing, states could choose which tests to use and had a lot of say over how they were implemented.

Federal government gives the "what" but leaves a lot of the "how" to the state and local government.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Mane » Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:44 pm UTC

athelas wrote:I...um...wow. At this point I think I'm going to turn it over to Milton Friedman.

See, here's the thing, when I say:
Mane wrote:This uncontrolled individualism we see in western culture is absolutely killing us, it's killing our economy, it's killing our government, it's killing our culture, everything.

You do not try to prove to me that I am wrong by quoting a libertarian to me, a champion of individualism thought.

I really could care less what Mr. Free Man thinks the is government, he could think it to be a pink Kangaroo for all I care, but what he thinks it is, and what it is, in reality, can be very, very different things.

In the real world, the government is something more powerful then you, it's more powerful then any individual it governs, and you, as the citizen, are expected to do certain things for the government, such as pay taxes, or in this case, community service. The social contract holds that the government provides services, which is always "existing and protecting you from being run over by some other country", and you, in return, give up some rights or such not (such as some of your money, or time) to the government. End of story. The government does a shit lot of stuff for you, the least you can do is pay your taxes for example, or go out and pick up some trash; No one likes doing it, but it has to be done.

However, we're drifting off topic, in closing, there is NOTHING unreasonable about getting teenagers to go out and do some work for their community, especially given how little is being asked of them.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby DarkKnightJared » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:00 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:What's the difference between community service being mandated by the federal government, and community service being mandated by state/local governments? I'd like for people to expound on why they see federal mandates to be all evil, but mandates from smaller governments are acceptable.


I think the difference is that the federal government, espicially the executive branch, shouldn't have the power to instantly make such a policy. It's very similar, to me, of Bush's efforts to make sure a policy for warrentless wire-tapping happened.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby TheAmazingRando » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:15 am UTC

My high school had mandatory community service, but they also sponsored plenty of community service opportunities for students to participate in. I don't think it was a bad thing at all.

However, I don't think the government should mandate it. It seems like it could be hell for certain people who end up trapped in the gray area where the law is clear but their circumstances are extenuating. Let the school districts or individual schools decide. That way, if an exception needs to be made, the powers that be are much easier to reach.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Mo0man » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:32 am UTC

DarkKnightJared wrote:I think the difference is that the federal government, espicially the executive branch, shouldn't have the power to instantly make such a policy. It's very similar, to me, of Bush's efforts to make sure a policy for warrentless wire-tapping happened.

Being unamerican, I'm not entirely sure how much power the president really has over education. However, I can't help but wonder... how the hell is it at all similar to warrant-less wire-tapping? I mean, at worst, you can consider it an waste of your time, not an affront to privacy and to huge blow to the trust people have towards the government. Would it help if you considered it as homework that happens to take place outside, dealing with other people?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:56 am UTC

Mane wrote:I really could care less what Mr. Free Man thinks the is government, he could think it to be a pink Kangaroo for all I care, but what he thinks it is, and what it is, in reality, can be very, very different things.


In a democracy, it's not about what the government is; it's about what we think it should be. If you think that the current reality is always the best choice, why not just keep Bush around?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Sun Nov 09, 2008 4:09 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:One size doesn't fit every student in the United States. The amounts of service, the specific nature of the service, under what grounds it will be mandated, etc are complicated issues that cannot effectively be concentrated in two hands for the entire nation. In general, it's hard to put out mandates of such a nature because there will be unique cases and there is no concievable way of any objections to be raised in unique cases when the amount of people subject to these community service regulations number in the tens of millions. Personally I think a state government also would be too large, only within a district could these issues be dealt with effectively.


Of course one size doesn't fit all. Just like in math, not every student can be expected to learn calculus before they graduate. Likewise, not every student will be expected to do 500 hours per year, although some will. The federal government is setting a minimum. Just like everyone who graduates from high school is expected to at least take some English, Math, History, etc. If students want to do more, that's their choice.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby diamonds » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:31 am UTC

I am one of the biggest supporters, and believers, of private charity, community service, and the power of the people, but I am appalled at the support for this, like lemmings following each other right off the edge of the cliff.

This goes against all the principals of a free society that I can think of. People are supposed to be doing good things for their community on their own time, not because it was directed by the government, and certainly not because of large bureaucracy like the federal government!

One of the biggest issues here isn't that though, it that forced community service is simply unconstitutional (independent of what is or was proposed, we will have to see if this plan turns out to be mandatory volunteering). The government cannot force people into "involuntary servitude" without due process, and no clause gives the legislative or executive branches power to do this sort of thing. If people cannot realize that something like this is unconstitutional, then what sort of federal program would be unconstitutional (that the states could do, but federal government cannot)?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby logomachy » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:54 am UTC

diamonds wrote:The government cannot force people into "involuntary servitude" without due process, and no clause gives the legislative or executive branches power to do this sort of thing.


There is legislation mandating that children give up some 35 hours a week. Involuntarily. Explain to me how this is different, or explain to me why school is unconstitutional.

[edit]: please.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Sun Nov 09, 2008 6:13 am UTC

logomachy wrote:
diamonds wrote:The government cannot force people into "involuntary servitude" without due process, and no clause gives the legislative or executive branches power to do this sort of thing.


There is legislation mandating that children give up some 35 hours a week. Involuntarily. Explain to me how this is different, or explain to me why school is unconstitutional.


School isn't "servitude". School is a place that I have to show up to in order to learn and better myself. Volunteering is giving free labor to people (like charities) who can't afford to pay. Forced volunteering is forced free labor--ie., slavery. Which is unconstitutional.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:49 am UTC

Seriously? I mentioned that at the very beginning of the thread.

Community service is a valuable learning experience, teaching the value of work and charity.


Aside from teaching whatever specific lessons any number of varying types of community service might convey, any experience working, even in "menial labor" is a very valuable lesson in what it means to be a member of the proletariat.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Griffin » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:04 am UTC

That's the other problem I might have with this -

School isn't "servitude". School is a place that I have to show up to in order to learn and better myself. Volunteering is giving free labor to people (like charities) who can't afford to pay. Forced volunteering is forced free labor--ie., slavery. Which is unconstitutional.


Since when is schoolwork not labour, or are using a definition of labour that does not mean work? Because I don't know any other definitions.

I've seen some definitions that specify it must be productive - but I've had plenty of classes that require actual products from my work to, so... exactly what difference are you trying to point out?

Also, something I'd like to address from earlier in the thread,
In high school, I was active in the marching band and the jazz band, as well as a few clubs

I definitely think public concerts and such should count as community service. In fact, to expand from this, I think any community service plan that requires you to work for an organization is stupid, and to meet these requirements documenting your efforts and sufficient rationale for how it benefits the community should be good enough. Not all community service is picking up trash.

I think students should definitely be able to propose their own community service ideas and goals and work towards them alone or together.

I also think that rather than schools mandating "x community service hours" it might a lot better for classes the students are in to offer opportunities for filling those requirements, relative to the class.

Civics and history classes require hours dedicating time and effort to some democratic process - fundraising for the EFF, canvasing for a politician you support, hell maybe even participating in student government would meet this requirement.

Art classes could have students work on a public display in a park.

Music classes could have public performances.

All classes could offer tutoring options for better students to help out those who are struggling.

Its a bit harder to come up with ideas for other classes but I can still name a few after a bit of thinking for bio, physics, chem, comp sci, and english.

And remember that more than anything the community most central to a students life at school is their school community, and there's no reason this should be left - students organizing to help other students or improve the school should count as well.

Of course I'm still opposed to the government mandating the plan, but I don't see it as essentially against the fundamentals of what school is supposed to accomplish - turning kids into responsible, capable, and knowledgeable decision-making citizens.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:31 am UTC

Griffin wrote:That's the other problem I might have with this -

School isn't "servitude". School is a place that I have to show up to in order to learn and better myself. Volunteering is giving free labor to people (like charities) who can't afford to pay. Forced volunteering is forced free labor--ie., slavery. Which is unconstitutional.


Since when is schoolwork not labour, or are using a definition of labour that does not mean work? Because I don't know any other definitions.


Nobody benefits from my schoolwork except me, through doing it. Forcing me to work for somebody else for free is slavery. The same as if I invented an experiment that my science teacher published and profited from, or if I did a painting in art class and then my teacher sold it.

--

A practical argument against this proposal: if you must complete community service in order to graduate, this means the drop-out rate will rise. What's more important--improving the experience of those who graduate, or increasing the numbers of people who get out of high school at all? Ooo, I know, the kids can service their community by passing out food and clothes to their increasingly large teenage homeless population.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby logomachy » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:32 am UTC

Malice wrote:School isn't "servitude". School is a place that I have to show up to in order to learn and better myself. Volunteering is giving free labor to people (like charities) who can't afford to pay. Forced volunteering is forced free labor--ie., slavery. Which is unconstitutional.
It is in no way slavery. Slavery is humans as property. You're thinking of "involuntary servitude", as prohibited by the 13th amendment.

However, I fail to see the difference between being made to run a mile and being made to plant a tree. Or being made to learn calculus and being made to teach it. Or being made to paint a mural and... being made to paint a mural. Why is one "learning" and the other "servitude"?

Meteorswarm wrote:If we're going to be terse, explain to me how community service is educational, or how legislation affects the constitutionality of other legislation.
From what I've heard? It teaches people that they aren't the victims of their environments, but rather the stewards and craftsmen, that they oughtn't take the work of others for granted, that they are deeply connected with the people they interact with, that their daily lives depend on the efforts of people just like themselves, and that compassion isn't heroic, simply human. Among other things. Now, this is more work than sitting through Mrs. Pottler's class on The Great Gatsby, or learning about congruent triangles. But I'd say it's a lesson that'd improve the average person's life far more.

Legislation what? Nobody said anything about that.

Seriously, education is mentioned nowhere in the constitution. It should be a states' issue, or, better, a local issue.

Oh, it would absolutely need to give states, and in turn individual school districts a huge leash. As has been previously stated, one size won't fit all. But that's no reason against almost every school in america making community service a part of its curriculum.


EDIT:
Malice wrote:Nobody benefits from my schoolwork except me, through doing it. Forcing me to work for somebody else for free is slavery. The same as if I invented an experiment that my science teacher published and profited from, or if I did a painting in art class and then my teacher sold it.
...
A practical argument against this proposal: if you must complete community service in order to graduate, this means the drop-out rate will rise.
Nobody makes money from community service. Their lives just get a little bit better.

As to the second part, that is an assertion with little to no backing. Which is different from a "practical argument" in several ways.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:48 am UTC

Look, if it has academic merit, then you're not going to be able to argue that it's slavery, servitude, whatever. I'm telling you as a teacher that it has academic merit-- that the majority of teachers will see it that way, too.

You might not think it has academic merit, but that's hardly any different from your classmates that think that English or math have academic merit, and don't think they should have to do it. Community service, like any other subject, is something that you get out of it what you're willing to. When you go in with a learning-resistant attitude, you come out with nothing, like with any subject. I've seen some of the smartest kids learn nothing from great lessons simply because they have a poor attitude. We express this as a weakness in the affective domain-- we actually set up state standards centered around student attitudes because of the importance attitude has to the quality of learning.

The problem here from any educator's perspective worth their salt is not that students will be forced to do something that they don't want to, don't feel they should have to do... the problem is that the students have this attitude about community service in the first place. And the best way to teach someone to appreciate the value of community service is not through lecture or worksheets, but through experience.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:01 am UTC

logomachy wrote:
Malice wrote:Nobody benefits from my schoolwork except me, through doing it. Forcing me to work for somebody else for free is slavery. The same as if I invented an experiment that my science teacher published and profited from, or if I did a painting in art class and then my teacher sold it.

Nobody makes money from community service. Their lives just get a little bit better.


...through free labor. The gentleman who wrote above about volunteering at a hospital--he didn't just do busywork. He performed a task that the hospital otherwise would have had to pay someone to do. Or they would have had to make do without the benefit of that free labor.

If the government mandated that you had to make me an ice-cream float whenever I wanted one, you wouldn't like it. But why? I wouldn't be making money. My life would just be a little bit better. But it's still forced labor for somebody else's benefit.

If, on the other hand, I answered that rhetorical question incorrectly, you are free to make me an ice-cream float. I prefer vanilla, thanks.

...
A practical argument against this proposal: if you must complete community service in order to graduate, this means the drop-out rate will rise.


As to the second part, that is an assertion with little to no backing. Which is different from a "practical argument" in several ways.[/quote]

By "practical" I meant, "I oppose this on ideological grounds, but if you like, I can argue that the effects of its real-world application will be bad."
It's an assertion that doesn't need backing. If you increase the requirements for graduation, less people will graduate. It's common sense.

But if you want something more expansive, let me put it this way: this proposal has opportunity costs. Kids have a finite amount of time in their lives. Adding this requirement may mean they have to give something up. By mandating community service hours, you're saying that that is more important than whatever else they could be doing, like sports, band, an after-school job, etc. All of which also teach them things.

---

Edit:

Look, if it has academic merit, then you're not going to be able to argue that it's slavery, servitude, whatever. I'm telling you as a teacher that it has academic merit-- that the majority of teachers will see it that way, too.


I agree that it has academic merit. Does it necessarily have more academic merit than the alternatives? Does the academic merit outweigh the fact that you're forcing me to do work for somebody else? I'm sorry to come back to slavery, I know it's a bit hyperbolic, but it's a good example: saying "being forced to do community service isn't slavery, because you're learning!" is like saying "being forced to grow cotton isn't slavery, because you're exercising!"
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:05 am UTC

I'm going to say that depends heavily on implementation. I don't think any teachers, administrators, or politicians are going to support the idea of making it along the lines of forced labor, so it's simply not likely to happen that way. Obama himself is not going to be the one deciding exactly what kind of community service you do, and even if he were, he would not require 200 hours of intense manual labor as a graduation requirement.

Though it would be good exercise, demonstrate the alternatives to educated work, and foster an appreciation for those who aren't so blessed as to live in a first world country (as first class citizens) with social services as rights.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby 4=5 » Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:47 am UTC

I'm ok with the district mandating community service. If it's not working I can get them to change it. I am not ok with the federal government doing so. If it is not working out for me they won't be able to notice.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:52 am UTC

There's been a fair amount of talk about how this will "depend on the implementation," but doesn't this still come down to how the federal government is not the best organization to implement this? Perhaps it could give schools incredible amounts of leeway, but then the majority of schools probably will just not care as it takes extra effort to process this well, and the schools that do care are the one's that do this already. The specific implementations will be so incredibly varied that there is no way to actually make sure that the service actually means anything, and by enforcing such a measure top-down you just increase it's long term odds of failure; people are unlikely to grow warm to an idea that they're being forced to do. Really, the whole idea of forcing community service onto people comes across as rather outrageous to me, it will inherently cause resentment towards the activity despite how good in theory the activity may be (ever thought that a book would be a lot more entertaining without the school?).

Personally, I spent around 10 hours a week somewhere in high school for over two years without any particularly strong external force, it was largely out personal desire and should the school had made me do it would likely result in me constantly resenting having to do it. Hell, it's unlikely I would have necessarily ever done it since I didn't know a thing about said organization until a year into high school, under a mandatory system I likely would have been forced into a lesser program I would have loathed for all four years (and for the record, I did stop doing this senior year on account of my paying job and I sincerely doubt this would be an uncommon problem).

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Griffin » Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:14 am UTC

Does the academic merit outweigh the fact that you're forcing me to do work for somebody else? I'm sorry to come back to slavery, I know it's a bit hyperbolic, but it's a good example: saying "being forced to do community service isn't slavery, because you're learning!" is like saying "being forced to grow cotton isn't slavery, because you're exercising!"


Actually, I'd think it would be more along the lines of "if you're living in my house, you're going to do some chores. I don't care what you do, but you're going to help out a bit."

We are not talking about people consigned to a life as property. In no way is your slavery analogy apt. And it would be more akin to your teacher displaying your work in the hallways than your teacher taking it and selling it. Something which every one of my art teachers have done, and many require you select one work from the class for just that purpose.

I am failing to see why work is any more valuable when there is nothing gained by it.

Do you not support group projects either? Because, you know, having to work on a project in which other participants will benefit from your labours is obviously not fair!

Or the requirements in music classes for students to perform a couple of concerts because most teachers believe performance experience is vital to the proccess. After all, people might HEAR the music at the performance, and that's just not right! Why, you're essentially a slave!

Or my college requirement that I do intern work (likely unpaid) because work experience is so very vital to getting my job in the field. The school even offers a number of opportunities. This actually IS forced labour... except if I look hard enough, I can find something that counts that I can get paid for.

I would imagine community service would be the same way.

Of course, I'd suppose you'd be against programs like that, too.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:19 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:Actually, I'd think it would be more along the lines of "if you're living in my house, you're going to do some chores. I don't care what you do, but you're going to help out a bit."


Which is fine. If I can choose to leave your house. If education is required; and service is a required part of education; then there's no getting out of it.
(Before you say, "bwuh, so parents can't tell their kids to do chores? whaaat", that's obviously a different case than the government mandating it.)

We are not talking about people consigned to a life as property. In no way is your slavery analogy apt. And it would be more akin to your teacher displaying your work in the hallways than your teacher taking it and selling it.


That isn't apt, either, because nobody's getting money or services out of it.
The closest analogy I can think of is mandatory unpaid overtime at a job. Only it's a job you can't quit. I certainly don't approve of that.

I am failing to see why work is any more valuable when there is nothing gained by it.


That's not what I'm saying at all. At all. Community service is very valuable work, because somebody is getting the benefit. I would prefer not to be forced to give my valuable time and effort for someone else's profit/benefit. Force me to study calculus? Fine. It's for my own good. Force me to mow my neighbor's lawn? Fuck you and fuck him.

Do you not support group projects either? Because, you know, having to work on a project in which other participants will benefit from your labours is obviously not fair!


Group projects in which the labor is unequally shared--ie., I'm doing Bob's part because he's lazy--aren't good. Most group projects consist of everybody contributing their part to something by which they will all be graded--in other words, each benefits from their own labors. Nobody should be carrying the others, that's just not good education.

Or the requirements in music classes for students to perform a couple of concerts because most teachers believe performance experience is vital to the process. After all, people might HEAR the music at the performance, and that's just not right! Why, you're essentially a slave!


Such things are generally able to be substituted, or simply ignored, without a significant grade penalty.

There's a significant difference between "This will give you practical experience in what you're learning," and "Go out and get an unpaid job. It'll teach you how much unpaid jobs suck."

Or my college requirement that I do intern work (likely unpaid) because work experience is so very vital to getting my job in the field. The school even offers a number of opportunities. This actually IS forced labour... except if I look hard enough, I can find something that counts that I can get paid for.

I would imagine community service would be the same way.


Of course, you chose to attend that particular college and take that particular degree, taking the internship requirement into account. If community service is federally mandated across the country, that won't be an option for high schoolers.

As for getting paid, doesn't that defeat the purpose of "volunteering"?

Of course, I'd suppose you'd be against programs like that, too.


I generally prefer more freedom to less, yes. Particularly in college, where people should have learned to do things that are in their own best interests, like internships. I like that my school gives me opportunities and assistance in that area; I also like that they don't mandate it.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby studyinserendipity » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:03 pm UTC

I also find charity and working for the 'greater good' an honorable cause, and am also struggling after reading this thread with how I feel it should be put in place and controlled. Currently, I believe it would work for the federal government to have some sort of citizenship standard (similar to the math, science, etc. standards already in place) that states what defines an informed citizen and offers suggestions as to how students could reach that status. Then local and state governments can mandate hours or similar projects according to 'best fit'. It's not a particularly clear idea yet, but it's my opinion so far.

How would people feel about students providing services for which they themselves have or are beneficiaries? For example, in my first grade class we work with kindergarteners once a week helping them with math-based activities. We're making them do work that teachers could be doing, but it becomes more meaningful for both parties if they are building and discussing knowledge together (also, if you're looking at Vygotsky's model of learning, social education is just as important as scaffolded learning). A few hours later, a fourth grade class comes down to our room and helps us with a reading-based activity. In this kind of exchange, all the students providing a service also benefit from a similar service. In high school, this could mean going down to the local elementary school after school a few days during the year to read a book, or being involved in student government or the music council, or helping to set up the district arts festival.
Also, if these kinds of experiences become part of a child's early education experience, then it becomes a natural part of education and they do not see it as 'extra work'. Even standardized testing is a routine experience for most students by now - I'm not advocating for it, just mentioning it as an example of something that seemed extremely above and beyond what I should be made to do when I was in high school, but now most students see it as a normal part of education. (I do have some misgivings about making the comparison, because I feel people will jump to "well, testing is bad, so we should work to get rid of it, couldn't forced labor be bad too?" Maybe foreign language requirements or physical education requirements are more apropos, but I do not know the history of their installation in the national education system to adequately defend such a comparison.) Community service, especially service that contributes to the immediate community of the child, can become an accepted practice in our nation's schools.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Indon » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:48 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:What's the difference between community service being mandated by the federal government, and community service being mandated by state/local governments? I'd like for people to expound on why they see federal mandates to be all evil, but mandates from smaller governments are acceptable.


Well, it wouldn't actually be a mandate. Constitutionally, education is the purview of lower levels of government - all the federal government can do is provide "incentives", that is to say, give schools money for complying. (But when all you have is a hammer...)

Honestly, if the amount of money given for compliance with this policy is relatively small, then I can't say I would mind. A lower amount of money would not encourage inclusion into the policy when it's not feasible, and would more function as an actual incentive rather than the Big Federal Hammer of Do What We Want And Get Money.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby logomachy » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

Malice wrote:...
That isn't apt, either, because nobody's getting money or services out of it.
The closest analogy I can think of is mandatory unpaid overtime at a job. Only it's a job you can't quit. I certainly don't approve of that.
...
I would prefer not to be forced to give my valuable time and effort for someone else's profit/benefit. Force me to study calculus? Fine. It's for my own good. Force me to mow my neighbor's lawn? Fuck you and fuck him.
...
"Go out and get an unpaid job. It'll teach you how much unpaid jobs suck."

You seem confused about what "community service" is.
Some things that count as community service include planting trees, painting a mural, tutoring kids, promoting tolerance of minority groups, learning CPR, and getting out the vote.

Some things that don't count as community service include working at burger king, mowing your neighbor's lawn, and mopping the local deli.

You might notice that the second group could realistically be described as unpaid jobs, mandatory overtime, or giving up your time for someone else's profit/benefit. I understand that you would have a problem with those, but that's not what anyone is discussing. You benefit directly from the quality your community. You benefit directly from the experience of enhancing it.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Malice » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:56 pm UTC

Allow me to be facile for a bit. I don't want to do any of those things. I especially don't want to have to do any of those things. I'm thankful that I live in America where I have the god-given right to be a selfish prick if I feel like it. I don't want the government forcing me or anybody else to be a "good person" if we don't want to be.

In exchange, I fully expect and accept that my walk will have neither trees nor paintings, my kids will not have free student tutors, no friendly passerby gets to practice their rudimentary CPR skills on me when I happen to have a heart attack, and people will vote with or without being prodded with sticks.

If I do decide that I want to do those things, I will do them of my own accord. I'm not an uncharitable person, and I have ideas along those lines I'd like to eventually put into practice. But I will resist being forced to do them, and if forced, I will make every attempt to be a grump and learning nothing and paint badly and break people's ribs during practice and plant trees upside down. Yes, maybe forced community service is better for everyone involved. But I value my freedom more. Maybe that's irrational. But that's how I feel.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:59 pm UTC

I support the idea of mandatory community service in public schools. In my mind, community service is an extremely valuable life experience of the sort public schools don't really provide but definitely should. And really, 50/100 hours... not that much, back in Boy Scouts I probably did 100-200 hours yearly with out even having to go out of my way, I'd love to have the opportunity to do that much again.


On the other hand however, I feel that there are many more problems with the current American School system that should be addressed before we put any sort of focus on community service initiatives.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Clumpy » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:00 pm UTC

Whether or not the societal effects of mandatory community service would be positive, I have to seriously question any administration that thinks that they can impose it at the federal level, even if they're funneling tax dollars from people without the service requirement.

Will we go from serving leaders governed by self-righteous American exceptionalism in the guise of God to leaders who think that they can get people to do the right thing by pushing them around? The carrot or the stick, it's the same.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Intercept » Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:51 pm UTC

You know what I just realized Malice? Your argument is essentially the same as rich people against the progressive tax rate. Just out of curiousity, are you are you also against that?

I'm for mandatory community service (even though I do none myself...), but I don't know that if I want the federal government mandating it. If they do, I would want it to very light. Not a crippling amount of funding difference or something like 20 hours. Or letting the districts decide by a student to student basis with a minimum of 5 to 20 hours. It could be done acceptably by the feds, but I'm not sure that will be the case. On the other hand, if their one bad educational policy is "too much community service" then I sure as hell can't complain.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kachi » Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:14 pm UTC

I think it needs to be made very clear that the federal government cannot and never will mandate anything in education aside from legislating student rights. Schools get federal funding if they meet the requirements. If they don't want to meet those requirements, it's fine. They just won't get the federal funding. States have refused federal funding in the past. If you don't want your state to implement this, then I suggest you start writing letters to your representatives like a good citizen should.

This is only somewhat similar in design to NCLB, only with drastically less potential to be completely fucked. If you're going to complain about the federal government getting all up in state and local education affairs, NCLB is what you should be rallied against.

Having said that...

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.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby TheStranger » Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:38 pm UTC

Intercept wrote:You know what I just realized Malice? Your argument is essentially the same as rich people against the progressive tax rate. Just out of curiosity, are you are you also against that?


The difference is that the dollar you pay in taxes goes into things that will conceivably be of a direct impact to yourself (pay for roads, police, army, etc). It's a bid different from spending an hour down at the local animal shelter feeding stray dogs.

The idea of the Federal Government mandating time like that is rather unsettling to me. What will qualify as community service? Can helping out at a church qualify? Is that a violation of church / state separation? Could working for a political party qualify? What about fringe political groups?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Azrael » Sun Nov 09, 2008 11:45 pm UTC

I'm going to abuse my power here a bit and add a poll to the thread asking if your high school [or equivalent] has [or had] a community service requirement. Mine did, and I believe *most* schools in MA do as well. Most of the questions that are raised here as being impractical or problematic have already been solved, at the state level, and I'm curious how widespread they are.

This should also piggy back on the point from a couple posts ago that the Federal government *probably* won't be mandating the specifics, leaving those to each state.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Intercept » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:03 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:
Intercept wrote:You know what I just realized Malice? Your argument is essentially the same as rich people against the progressive tax rate. Just out of curiosity, are you are you also against that?


The difference is that the dollar you pay in taxes goes into things that will conceivably be of a direct impact to yourself (pay for roads, police, army, etc). It's a bid different from spending an hour down at the local animal shelter feeding stray dogs.

The idea of the Federal Government mandating time like that is rather unsettling to me. What will qualify as community service? Can helping out at a church qualify? Is that a violation of church / state separation? Could working for a political party qualify? What about fringe political groups?


I'm going to disagree with you there somewhat. The government supplies you with an education. This is an investment for both of you. You will likely make more money later, and as such, so will they off of taxes. The point being, they are providing you with a service. If everyone in high school does community service, the benefits will reach you somehow eventually. It is perfectly acceptable for them to raise graduation requirements. They are providing you with a service that will aid you throughout your whole life, in reality, asking nothing in return (except the tax dollars of your parents, that are distributed to things mostly not education related.) Are you really going to complain that they don't have a right to ask for a relatively small portion of your time in exchange?
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby qinwamascot » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:05 am UTC

Calling it involuntary servitude is, on a practical level, incorrect. Until you are 18, your parents can legally make you do community service or whatever, so people under 18 really can't complain. Their parents are consenting to it by using the public school system instead of an alternative. And once that person is an adult, he/she can leave the school. So it's always voluntary. At the worst, you can choose to not get a HS diploma instead of doing the work.

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It seems I wasn't articulate enough when I posted earlier.

My problem with mandatory community service as opposed to other sorts of classes is that the benefits of community service are far from concrete. It is clear what the purpose of a class in a specific subject is intended to teach, and you do work towards learning that goal, for yourself. That's fine. Let's look at the mandatory classes from my alma mater, for example.

4 years of English - This teaches you, at the most basic level, to communicate and read more effectively. Clear, and valuable. Higher levels are more literature-oriented, but the basic classes are not.
3 years of Science - Teaches you how the world works. There are a variety of science classes to suit peoples' interests and ability levels, but concrete, qualitative and quantitative understanding of the world is taught in each.
3 years of Mathematics - Clearly teaches mathematical abilities. Very valuable from everything from balancing a checkbook to making predictions to understanding interest.
2 years of a foreign language - Teaches people to communicate with others, as well as ancillary benefits in multiculturalism, etc.
A year of a computer course - Teaches students to deal with technology. While this may seem unnecessary in today's world, believe it or not, even in rich towns there are people who cannot afford internet access or a computer.
A year of some form of fine art - Teaches students to express themselves in art, which many students wouldn't consider otherwise


All of these requirements have a clear purpose, and all the work done in those classes is directly towards that purpose. While you can learn things from community service, it is indirect, and it doesn't make sense to mandate doing something that only leads to ancillary benefits. Which is exactly my point, the goal of a school is to teach, community service only teaches as a side effect.

Why should the government tell me that community service will teach me more than my own discretionary use of my time? I learned a lot through my extracurriculars, and through independent studying on my own. I would not have learned a lot by licking envelopes for some local politician or what have you. Time is finite, if you force community service outside the classroom, you are removing kids' abilities to do other things, and to pursue their own interests. You are essentially pigeonholing them into community service when they would likely be served better by other activities. The ones that are interested in volunteering are already doing so, while those that think they wouldn't get much out of it are doing something else.

I really don't think that mandatory community service would help kids to learn anything. Sure, it sounds good, but it neglects the diversity in kids' interests, and that they might be doing things more constructive or useful than simply providing free menial labor.


--
As an aside, providing hours for concerts would only be a trivial amount of time. The actual time spent performing is probably only a hundredth of the time spend preparing for the concert. I was seriously involved in concert band/orchestra, but I only performed in four concerts a year, for maybe an hour of play time in each. However, the time I spent in those classes and out of them preparing for the concerts is tremendous. If you don't count that time, there's essentially no point to counting concerts. If you do count it, musicians would blow the hour requirement out of the water in no time.


Personally, I don't recognize art as knowledge. It's something that someone thought was interesting. My four years of music in no way helped my life, nor do I see any way they will in the future. I took them because I wanted to, not because of what I would learn. In the same way, you don't recognize the knowledge of how to serve a community as at all beneficial to your life. However, I fail to see how that implies that it's useless. What you see as useful knowledge is quite irrelevant, just as what I see it as is. Rather, it's what society as a whole believes, and that is in general that community service is useful.

As for music, it depends on how into it you get. People at my school's marching band, in general, performed 3-5 hours per week. My orchestra had around 1 concert a month of about 2 hours. It's clearly possible to meet the requirements with only music. Whether this counts as service is somewhat debatable, because what music is is a debatable topic, but that's somewhat irrelevant.

Also, you're sort of ignoring how diverse community service opportunities are. Sure, there's cleaning up the side of a highway, but here's a few examples of what my friends did: EMT service, fire department volunteering, habitat for humanity, various other charities, helping a human rights group, tutoring people in most subjects, playing music, painting a (rather nice) mural, and helping teach a computer literacy class. I question that people dedicated enough can't find opportunities in something that interests them.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby cspirou » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:39 am UTC

This is quite similar to what other countries do in regard to the military. I know in Germany every able bodied male must complete 2 years of military service. If you choose to be a conscientious objector then you must do some sort of community service instead. So community service is a substitute for military service. I see no issue with this.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby TheStranger » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:39 am UTC

Intercept wrote:I'm going to disagree with you there somewhat. The government supplies you with an education.


Your education is supplied by the taxpayers (yourself and your parents included). It is the state government that manages it, and the fed who supplies some (not all) of the funding. You are going to pay back that debt, through the decades of taxes that follow.

This is an investment for both of you. You will likely make more money later, and as such, so will they off of taxes. The point being, they are providing you with a service.


Which you repay through property taxes (a major source of school funding). I'm not quite clear on what further service is required of an individual.

Are you really going to complain that they don't have a right to ask for a relatively small portion of your time in exchange?


I have a problem with the Federal Government mandating it (seems like the Fed overstepping it's Constitutional limits).
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby EdgarJPublius » Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:55 am UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:It seems I wasn't articulate enough when I posted earlier.

My problem with mandatory community service as opposed to other sorts of classes is that the benefits of community service are far from concrete. It is clear what the purpose of a class in a specific subject is intended to teach, and you do work towards learning that goal, for yourself. That's fine.


No... The purpose of a class in a specific subject (any class in any subject) is intended to prepare students for working and otherwise bettering/supporting society. if Classes had to do that in a direct and straight forward manner you'd be better off with a trade school and apprenticeship programs. Instead of that, We as a culture have decided wisely that to more effectively better and support society, We need things like culture, interpersonal skills, etc. etc. (what might be somewhat nebulously called 'character') all sort of through back ways and side attacks such as the classroom structure, projects and what not.
Community service would just be another method of imbuing students with character, would be a sort of 'direct approach' to it even.
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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Dazmilar » Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:46 am UTC

Intercept wrote:The government supplies you with an education.


TheStranger wrote:Your education is supplied by the taxpayers (yourself and your parents included). It is the state government that manages it, and the fed who supplies some (not all) of the funding. You are going to pay back that debt, through the decades of taxes that follow.


Or, if rights begin with individuals, as they do in the U.S.A., then the individual has a right to an education, which the government provides. Sounds a bit better than being "supplied" an education by the government. You get an education regardless of whether or not the government is going to see a dime on its investment. Education with Mandatory Community Service seems odd because then the government is forcing you to spend time doing something in order to obtain that which the government already owes you. If you disagree that in the USA there's an individual right to an education that the government must provide, there are a few cases where the parents of special needs children sued the government for failure to provide said kids with an education.

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Re: Obama's "Call to Service"

Postby Kendo_Bunny » Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:56 am UTC

I'd say it's a lovely idea in theory, but not so good in practice. It is pre-supposing that all of us have that kind of time on our hands. Let's have a 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?

Honestly, this is just going to end up screwing the poor. Those who are putting themselves through school have enough to do. Also, honors students are already stretched to the breaking point with all the extracurriculars they have to do, plus trying to stay at the head of the class despite ridiculous amounts of homework.

I've seen this first-hand. My stepsister was taking a full advanced diploma load, plus being active in four clubs and two honor societies. She pulled at least three all-nighters a week, and skipped meals rather than take any time away from studying. Then she was slapped with 60 hours of community service to get her diploma, after the first day of which, she finally collapsed from a combination of nervous exhaustion and malnutrition.

I could use myself as an example too. I've worked steadily since age 15, always been in at least two clubs, and tried to be active in my church, as well as trying to focus on my own writing. Add to this recovering from bulimia, four chronic medical conditions, two surgeries, and struggling to regain my metabolism and my immune system, both of which were shattered. It's lovely that you have 100 extra hours a year, but what extra time I have, I'd rather try to de-stress a little. Oh, and did I mention that I'm taking more than full-time courses? I take between 2 and 6 extra credit hours each semester, which adds up to a lot of homework.


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