Because some high school students are so stressed out by the time they graduate and are ready for college…
Because some want to get to college mainly for its freedom and partying…
Because some are coming from homes of plenty with excessive feelings of entitlement…
Because it is a good thing for society, and young people themselves, to give back…
Because you can get so much more from collegiate study when you’ve seen something of the world-and especially when you’ve served in some significant way…
Because some students have come from families and/or communities that have experience extreme trauma…
Because some youth are lost and don’t have a clue…
“Going crazy in Phoenix” wrote to Dear Abby (19July10):
I am 20, and my life seems to be going nowhere. I graduated from high school two years ago and have put off going to college. I am obese and have no willpower to exercise to get healthy. I’m constantly thinking about the past. In high school I had few friends, none of whom keep in touch with me.
How different his or her life might be if he’d been able to get into a program where friends were made, possible depression dealt with, and exercise and service to others made fulfilling.
Many parents are reluctant to consider what’s often called a “gap year.” When Jim Wismer (The Boston Globe, 19Jul10:A1,9) heard his son was considering postponing entry to Olin College of Engineering (RI), he reacted:
I’m a pretty traditional guy, and the idea of a gap year kind of knocked by socks off. That whole concept didn’t sit with me very well. The first thing I worried about was the mental atrophy.
But his son Matt filled up the summer and following year with significant activities: a business conference, a church mission trip, and an engineering internship. Matt’s father became convinced it was a good idea.
(This interim time) is going to force him to stand up as an adult in the world without the protection of school. I think he’ll be a better student for it.
will be argued that not all students should, or would profit, from a year or two break between high school and college. This article is suggesting we take the confusing patch-work of governmental, non-profit and for-profit programs and organize them into a mandated service to national good for all. The options for individuals would be to serve an 18-month period-either before, during, or after college, or, for school dropouts, as soon as possible before they turn twenty-one.
There would be many options for national service: the military, city or job corps, overseas teaching or service, and many others.
Further, we argue for an integration of such a comprehensive program with our over-loaded and dysfunction criminal justice system, which has proved itself incapable of reducing crime despite astronomical spending. This should be seen theoretically in terms of restorative justice and the several truly effective programs such as the Waverly Regional Youth Center in Missouri (Missouri Division of Youth Services), which demonstrate effective rehabilitation of high risk felons at half the cost of present juvenile prisons.
We believe a national commitment to mandatory youth service learning and opportunities to serve represent the best interest of youth and society at large. So much of our current society-digital, consumerist, hedonistic, over-loaded media entertainment, pushing virtual relationships and communication-works against healthy maturity, work ethic and social skills. This proposal serves, we believe, as a possible antidote.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. What is your initial reaction to this article and proposal? What clear, specific reasons would you give for your reponse?
2. Are you aware of the doubling and quadrupling of counseling services, amount of students on medications and suicide attempts in our colleges and universities today? Do such facts enter into this discussion?
3. Do you know the drop-out rates in our inner-city schools, and the relationship of dropping out to entry into gangs and crime? Might there be a better option for such teenagers?
4. Are you aware of how many industrialized nations require national service?
1. Many experts have noted the lack of rites of passage in society today-our “vanishing markers,” as David Elkind put it. Those who have served in the military or volunteered for domestic or overseas service speak of how they “grew up” and matured through the experience. Such experiences are not to replace, but complement faith-based ventures for those so committed.
2. If well run, service programs (begun with service learning) provide for healing, community, hard work and fulfillment which human beings need and crave at some level of their being.
3. Sensitive professors and keen observers are noting a lack of social skills among those who have grown up in a digital age. The use of such technology is, or would be, limited in all these programs-demanding face to face relationships and communication.