Wednesday, June 24, 2009

United We Serve

"Service is key to achieving national priorities," said Michele Obama at a meeting in a California school, launching the United We Serve Program. At first, it sounds good, doesn't it? These things usually do. I had to stop and think a minute. What national priorities would those be, exactly? Whose service, and what kind of service?

The California school where Mrs. Obama was speaking is the same one where she has helped plant a garden. Children at the school will work the garden, then have a vegetable stand to sell the produce. The money they make goes to the school. At first, that sounds fine, too, doesn't it?

Here's the thing, though. In 28 years of teaching, I had many a bake sale, candy sale, wrapping paper sale, cotton candy sale, even a stuffed animal sale. Two years, we made quilts to raffle. Every single one of them was instigated and worked by students for a particular goal the students had. Sometimes it was to benefit a charity students had picked, such as saving seals or adopting a sick porpoise. Sometimes it was to fund a field trip they wanted to take, or a play they wanted to see. Two years, we raised money on the reservation to take trips to Albuquerque, to see the big city. The quilts were for the benefit of the National Wildlife Fund.

All of these things were student-powered, student-motivated projects. In our schools, students sold items to earn money for the student council to do everything from buying playground equipment to buying books for the library. Again, the students conducted the business, and the students benefitted from their efforts.

It may very well be that the students will benefit from the money earned by selling vegetables, too. It wasn't reported what the school would use the money to do. However, here's the big difference. The children didn't think of this, didn't plan for it, didn't create the idea. It was imposed from the outside. It was generated as a plan from our federal government because, "Service is key to achieving national priorities."

I wonder if a generation of students brought up to believe that to serve the state in this way, to let the state dictate what their "service" is, and how much and for what purpose, will be easier to persuade toward socialism. Then what will the following generation be brought up to believe? That the word "I" is a dirty word? That the state run life is desirable? That the common good is the only important thing, and individual efforts and desires are unlawful? Oh, you've read that book, too?

If you haven't, try it out. It's Anthem, by Ayn Rand. If you can find a copy.

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