the Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act

Last night, the president spoke strongly and explicitly in favor of the Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act, which would expand the number of slots for paid national and community service and increase the quality of those positions. I have blogged in support of that legislation, and my post evolved into an article entitled “The Case for Service” in Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly (PDF). Basically, I see service as experiential education that builds job skills, increases young adults’ odds of attending college, and teaches them civic skills so that they can address problems in their communities. The “service” dimension is important educationally because many (although probably not all) young people learn better when they have opportunities to contribute. AmeriCorps and related programs are also extremely important for equity. The more advantaged half of the young population that attends college receives educational opportunities subsidized by the public. But those who do not continue formal education beyond high school find that almost all government-funded educational programs have age limits of 18 or 21. Working-class youth are basically subsidizing their more advantaged peers’ learning opportunities with their tax dollars. Service programs such as YouthBuild, Public Allies, City Year, and the National Civilian Community Corps (among others) help to right this imbalance by offering opportunities to young adults who may not be on the college track.