UPDATE: The Senate version of the bill is receiving far more attention. Senator Kennedy is making a trip back up for the debate. NPR had this story this morning, featuring one of the AmeriCorps projects (and a Cornellian). And the NYTimes has this story. (Keywords also make a big difference in searching. Yesterday I could not find this NYTimes story about the House version discussed below.)
Isn’t that an oxymoron? “Mandatory volunteer”? I have no idea what I clicked or from where (was it a link in facebook?) but when I sat back down at my desk I noticed this story from “WorldNetDaily” open in Firefox. “House adopts plan for ‘volunteer’ corps.” As far as I can tell this is a very right website which would explain all the quotation marks. I think they are trying to tell us something.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a plan to set up a new “volunteer corps” and consider whether “a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people” should be developed.
The legislation also refers to “uniforms” that would be worn by the “volunteers” and the “need” for a “public service academy, a 4-year institution” to “focus on training” future “public sector leaders.” The training, apparently, would occur at “campuses.”
A quick reading of the bill seems to indicated that the “mandatory volunteer” tag comes from the commentary not the bill. The bill refers to the possibility of “all individuals in the United States” participating, but not requiring it. WND clearly sees this as the thin edge of a Socialist wedge. They cite a Canadian commentator who says, “It becomes forced labor and like the practice of another era, presses American citizens of all ages and creeds, unknowingly into military service.” And another commentator who says, “This is the equivalent of brown shirts.” Given that this bill (1) doesn’t call for any such thing (primarily in that service would not be compulsory) and (2) is not likely to pass, such comments seem more than a bit hyperbolic.
About 18 months ago I put up this post arguing that we should have a form of compulsory civil service. At the end of my post I asked if Senators McCain or Obama would like to pick up my proposal. It looks like Obama, to some extent, has. I will be interested to see what develops. I still believe there would be great benefits for individuals and our country, even more so in our current economic climate.