From Change.gov comes what appears to be a rather innocuous plan until you carefully read the words:
“The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.”
By the way the site reworded this section to the following:
The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
You’ll notice the first version had words like require when talking about service. Sure it sounds good, community service and all that. I did that myself in grade school and high school, but it was because I chose to do so. I don’t like the notion of requiring “volunteers”. The Soviet Union tried such programs and they failed miserably. That and this comment made by Obama that received little coverage:
“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve
the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a
civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as
strong, just as well-funded,” he said.
That I don’t mind so much. Wary and skeptical? Yes. But it’s this part that concerns me most is this somewhat contradictory statement:
“I believe we can reconfigure our civilian national-security force. We
still have a national security apparatus on the civilian side, in the
way the State Department is structured and USAID, that harkens back to
the Cold War,” Obama said.
“We need to be able to deploy teams that combine agricultural
specialists and engineers and linguists and cultural specialists who
are prepared to go into some of the most dangerous areas alongside our
military,” he said.
What’s this crazy talk about Cold War and needing what’s supposed to be a civilian national security force outside of the military (or established police forces and emergency reaction teams) and meant for objectives inside the United States to go into “dangerous areas”. If it’s a civilian national security force as large as the military presumably to help protect America then what is with the comments about then working alongside the military in dangerous areas inside the United States? It certainly doesn’t sound like a group intended to help with natural disasters as the already standing Guard and Reserve do.
That’s why I get suspicious about all these “Corps” Obama and Co. want put into place. It all seems a little suspicious when taken in context with the so called “Obama Youth Brigade” and the rewrite of the page to apparently make it more palatable to those who objected to the forceful wording of the original. (No I don’t think Obama plans any nazi style Youth Brigades, but there are always some wackos on both sides coming up with such ideas in the name of patriotism and service.) All told, it’s too eerily like the nutters that made up the so called Christian Coalition and Moral Majority.
And the $4,000 tax credit for college education? Pft. That won’t help those choosing education paths that require long hours of study and projects and/or have their own requirements for sort of community service like engineers, doctors, nurses, and so on. That’s not even mentioning the cost involved in those education paths.
While I agree volunteerism is a good thing, it can’t be mandated as it then becomes worthless and meaningless. For it to become government mandated as the original post implied is concerning, regardless of whether it was changed later or not as it raises serious question. What type of service? Where? When? And Who for? What if there is no program you feel is appropriate to volunteer for? Or worst of all, what if such programs become political as some programs have already become? Government mandated volunteerism has rarely ended well in recent history.