Monday, March 29, 2004

Rights and Reason: Involuntary Servitude

John Kerry wants to make every high school student in America a volunteer. (Hat tip: Skip Oliva)

On September 11th, 2001, America experienced the most terrible and deadly attack in its history. John Kerry believes we need to think big and do better and get more young Americans serving the nation.

As part of his 100 day plan to change America, John Kerry will propose a comprehensive service plan that includes requiring mandatory service for high school students and four years of college tuition in exchange for two years of national service.

As President, John Kerry will ensure that every high school student in America does community service as a requirement for graduation. John Kerry understands that young people have many obligations and recognizes that a service requirement should not be onerous or unrealistic for students to meet. Maryland and numerous school districts around the country already have such a requirement and have had great results. Knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship - including the duty to serve your community - are as important to American adults as knowing how to read and do math. Combined with a curriculum that teaches students about democracy, citizenship and civic participation, this high school service requirement will be a rite of passage for every young person in the country. States would design service programs that meet their community and educational needs. John Kerry does not believe in unfunded mandates. No state would be obligated to implement a service requirement if the federal government does not live up to its obligation to fund the program. [John Kerry for President - A New Era of National Service and An Army of New Patriots]
In essence, Kerry proposes a new Declaration for America--life, liberty, and the duty to serve your community.

Yet in reality, there is no such duty to the community. Each individual is a sovereign, independent being. No person has an un-chosen duty to live his life for the sake of another. A high school diploma is a mark of having met basic educational standards, yet by forcing mandatory volunteerism into the curriculum, Kerry's proposal would turn it into the mark of servitude.

Will Kerry force his proposal upon private and home school students? Will students who refuse to be turned into serfs be compelled to serve nevertheless? And why is the language of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution ignored? If forcing every high school student to perform a mandatory service requirement is not involuntary servitude, what is?

I went to Philadelphia to protest Bill Clinton and Colin Powell's national service summit in 1997. I suspect that we may soon have to dust off our protest signs and stand up against mandatory service yet again.

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