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.
Presumably, the penalty for being a 20-year-old who doesn’t want to spend two hours a week picking up trash would be not graduating. The penalty for dodging Emanuel’s program, only Rahm knows. I remember this subject coming up now and again in poli sci classes and my leftish professor arguing that a peacetime draft would violate the right of privacy sketched out in cases like Roe as an infringement of one’s physical autonomy. If The One pushes ahead with this, it’ll be fun watching conservatives suddenly trying to coopt that right and liberals just as suddenly trying to narrow it. (On which side, do you suppose, will the ACLU come down?) Alternatively, you could skip the right of privacy and try a First Amendment argument: If the state can’t compel students to say the pledge of allegiance, arguably it can’t make them go clean parks, either. That case would turn on the distinction between speech and conduct; given the current composition of the Court, refuseniks would stand at least a shot of winning.
It bears noting that Maverick’s also always been famously gung ho for kids doing some form of national service — “There should be more focus on meeting national goals and on making short-term service, both civilian and military, a rite of passage for young Americans,” he wrote in the Washington Monthly(!) in 2001 — but he’s been careful, at least lately, to say that it should be volunteer-only. Exit question: Won’t a lot of conservatives, especially older ones, dig this idea? Keeps kids busy and out of trouble, teaches spoiled teens responsibility, etc.
Update: Let’s not go nuts, please.