I think America should have compulsory service (military/humanitarian) for all 18 year olds, male and female.
Germany and many other democratic countries have compulsory service, though many only require men to serve, which I think is ridiculous.
I’d like to see our country require every 18 year old to serve one year in either a branch of the military or in civil service, with the latter including teaching in an underprivileged area, road construction, aid to seniors, etc.
No one would be exempt, period. No deferrals, no buying your way out of it, no nothing. Everyone could — and IMHO should — help our country in some way.
College would then (optionally) start at age 19 for most folks.
In exchange for a very modest housing/food coverage, the government — and our country — would get new roads built, more English-proficient youngsters (via bilingual ed assistance), more cared-for seniors, and so on.
Also, our military would likely contain a higher percentage of more-educated and upper-class youth.
Another nice side benefit would be that kids would enter college with some additional real-life experience and perhaps a bit more maturity, not to mention an appreciation for the likely-easier student life.
And lastly, I sincerely believe this requirement would add to civic pride and bring meaning to citizenship beyond merely taxation obligations and oft-ignored voting rights.
I don’t have any illusions that this would ever happen in America. In the aggregate we’re too individualistic at the expense of caring about our community and we’re too, well, damn selfish.
But I can dream.
What do you think about this idea of compulsory service?
And have any of you actually lived in countries that already require such ‘giving’ back to the State?
[ I posted the note above in the ‘kitchen sink’ (anything goes) topic of a national swing dance board (“Yehoodi”). Read the ensuing (vigorous!) debate here. Feel free to add your own thoughts either (or both!) in the comments section on this blog, or directly at Yehoodi if you wish. ]