Hard times in America renew the call for mandatory national service

The structural change that I keep coming back to — one that would at least create shared experience and, possibly, some shared values — is mandatory national service. We should seriously consider whatever has the potential to bring us together as a nation. The coronavirus has caused a cataclysmic shake-up of school, work, family and community that has brought out the best in some people, while exacerbating political distrust and isolation. We need something to help us rethink how we relate to each other.

Requiring every young person to perform one year of national service makes sense on many levels. The traditional arguments made on behalf of compulsory national service are still valid. It builds a sense of shared purpose, instills a sense of individual commitment, develops responsibility and exposes one to folks unlike oneself. Those are good things, for both the individual and for society. Delaying college or entry into the job market by a year or two will help coddled adolescents to mature.