One of Senator Obama's new initiatives is for all U.S. middle and high school students to perform 50 compulsory "volunteer" hours each year, and that amount goes double for college students.
Obama intends to enforce this plan by withholding federal funding from schools who do not demand community service of their students.
I have always found this idea infuriating. Schools are not doing an adequate job teaching far too many students, yet they -- and now Senator Obama -- too often want to stick their noses into my parenting choices. It's my business whether or not my children perform community service outside school hours, not Senator Obama's.
(Along these lines, I'm also heartily opposed to schools assigning summer homework and reading. Their summer break is family time, not school time.)
Reading about Senator Obama's plan sent me rummaging through my archives for a letter I sent to the junior high school principal a few years ago. (Our oldest child is the only one to have attended our local public junior high.) The school had created a Distinguished Scholar Award for its best students, with the catch being that the students had to report their extracurricular service activities to the school in order to receive the Scholarship award. What I wrote then applies to how I feel about Senator Obama's plan.
I wrote that our daughter "more than meets the community service requirements through Girl Scout and church activities. However, I am extremely uncomfortable being asked to report this to the school in order for her academic and citizenship successes to be recognized in a special way.
"My feeling is that the school’s job is to teach, not encourage community service. Constantly expanding a school’s 'mission' drains focus and resources away from what the school should be working on... Our daughter's job is to focus on her schoolwork and be a good citizen on campus. It is not the school’s job to be inquiring into her private life and what she does to serve the community through her church, Girl Scouts, or anywhere else.
"Frankly, this is not a Distinguished Scholar Award, it’s a Community Service Award..."
We did not participate in the program, despite our daughter being one of the school's top students. I suppose it was no surprise to the principal that I became a homeschooler...
Senator Obama doesn't even want to make such participation optional, he plans to use governmental power to force children and teens into "service." So much for American freedom.
As Jim Geraghty reminds us, this plan is an illustration of Michelle Obama's disturbing promise: "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."
More from Paul Mirengoff at Power Line.
Add to this Obama's plans to give his acceptance speech rock star style, at a stadium -- no doubt filled with screaming, fainting fans -- and I'm more than a little creeped out.
Update: "Serve or Flunk" at Joanne Jacobs.