Dec 02 2008

On compulsory service

Category: education,higher education,societyharmonicminer @ 1:39 am

That brilliant observer of society, Thomas Sowell, on “service” requirements.  The whole thing, as usual, is worth reading, but this part stands out to me:

The most fundamental question is: What in the world qualifies teachers and members of college admissions committees to define what is good for society as a whole, or even for the students on whom they impose their arbitrary notions?

What expertise do they have that justifies overriding other people’s freedom? What do their arbitrary impositions show, except that fools rush in where angels fear to tread?

What lessons do students get from this, except submission to arbitrary power?

Supposedly students are to get a sense of compassion or noblesse oblige from serving others. But this all depends on who defines compassion. In practice, it means forcing students to undergo a propaganda experience to make them receptive to the left’s vision of the world.

I am sure those who favor “community service” requirements would understand the principle behind the objections to this if high school military exercises were required.

Indeed, many of those who promote compulsory “community service” activities are bitterly opposed to even voluntary military training in high schools or colleges, though many other people regard military training as more of a contribution to society than feeding people who refuse to work.

In other words, people on the left want the right to impose their idea of what is good for society on others– a right that they vehemently deny to those whose idea of what is good for society differs from their own.

The essence of bigotry is refusing to others the rights that you demand for yourself. Such bigotry is inherently incompatible with freedom, even though many on the left would be shocked to be considered opposed to freedom.

As with many such issues, it’s what you call it that matters. If instead of service, we substituted “compulsory performance of duties other people think someone should do”, we’d be in better shape on this one.

Is it any less “service” to participate in the creation of a useful product that society would not have as much of without your efforts? I don’t think so.

Those who think serving in soup kitchens is more laudable than growing wheat tend to be people who think motives matter more than results, and for whom only certain results are acceptable.

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