Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Universal National Service

Finished reading Sabato's A More Perfect Constitution today. (A very interesting read for a wonky scholar like me. The writing is fluid but doesn't soar.) In Chapter 5, Sabato advocates the formation of a near mandatory Universal National Service, two years of public service for young people. The idea is to get our yutes to join the military, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, something. Unless they opted for the military, they'd only get minimum wage or so but they would also get a great experience, some job training, friends for life, and a sense of civic responsibility.

I find the proposal interesting for two reasons. For starters, I suggested the same thing a few years ago in my ill-fated book ms., "America Down: The Failure of U.S. Higher Education ..." In that ms., I suggest that putting 18 to 22 year olds out in the real world instead of the college classroom would benefit everyone. They could sow their wild oats and earn some dough for college, so work, sex, and drugs don't distract them from their studies when they get to college at age 22 or 23. Secondly, Sabato claims that "the benefits that will accrue as a result of Universal National Service will far outweight the annual price tag for the federal Treasury" (173). He doesn't really demonstrate that in any rigorous way but the idea is fascinating ... with a slight nudge, our wayward youth could be put to work to help pay off the national debt instead of increasing it by wasting the massive educational subsidies we lavish upon them at frat parties and football games. ... Hey, I'm allowed to dream aren't I?

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