Sunday, January 25, 2009

National service plans get quick attention from conservative columnist

Morton Kondracke has an op-ed on the front page of the “Voices” section of the Sunday Jan. 25, 2009 Washington Times, “National service time has come,” link here.

Running the political range from Senator Edward Kennedy to Orin Hatch, there has developed a proposal to expand Americorps from 75000 to 250000 citizens a year. Right now it pays a small stipend of $12500 a year (a decent salary when I started working in 1970) and a $4700 scholarship. Given the economy, there may be many more young people not starting college for several years, until in there 20s.

Some Republicans, Kondracke says, may fear that Obama will convert service volunteers into a political following.

But the administration has enlisted Colin Powell (a Republican) to try to convey the idea that service is a moral obligation ("karma") for every able American, starting with the "national day of service" on Martin Luther King Day last Monday. Obama will use the Internet in a way that recalls FDR's use of radio and fireside chats.

An expansion of national service also helps argue for ending “don’t ask don’t tell” for gays in the military. Conditions of forced intimacy can occur in many service situations, especially overseas in the Peace Corps.

Yesterday CNN was reporting a lot on the “Obama Effect.” When African American kids take standardized tests on days where Barack Obama was prominent in the news, they did as well as white kids on certain standardized tests. But on other days, they gave in to the fear of showing up peers (a kind of perverse “reverse socialization”).

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