Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thomas Sowell on "Community Service": Forcing Students To Undergo a Propoganda Experience

There are high schools across the country from which you cannot graduate, and colleges where your application for admission will not be accepted, unless you have engaged in activities arbitrarily defined as "community service."

The arrogance of commandeering young people's time, instead of leaving them and their parents free to decide for themselves how to use that time, is exceeded only by the arrogance of imposing your own notions as to what is or is not a service to the community.

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 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.

~Thomas Sowell

23 Comments:

At 12/02/2008 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sowell makes a great point today that fits into what one may consider in the concept of “fairness”.

We cannot objectively define fairness as it applies to outcomes because we do not know all the histories of individuals being compared. And since this conclusion of “fairness” can only be subjectively assessed, then any single or group decider is imposing one opinion for others. Such imposition is dictatorial.



Sowell’s best comment is when he suggests that military training is as much a “community service” as is feeding vagrants. He asks:

“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? “

This is important because the do-gooders now think they are in charge. And they are the greatest tyrants of all.



Frederick Douglass wrote about freedom from slavery to decide life’s simplest matters. His understanding of freedom would be confounding to today’s liberals. Douglass said: “I didn't know I was a slave until I found out I couldn't do the things I wanted”.

 
At 12/02/2008 10:28 AM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Woa, woa, WOA! STOP THE PRESSES!

The college admission boards at a private university is a private body not acting under coercion from the government. Is it possible that Thomas Sowell is criticizing the actions of a player in a free market environment. I mean say what you will about our educational system, but private universities are for the most part truly private and free to do what they want. And in fact, from my experience the community service requirement is usually imposed by private schools.

So, is Sowell criticizing the actions of the free market post-secondary education system?? And if yes, is it not possible that corporations can establish standards which are wrong and counterproductive?

As many free market ideologues would tell me, "If you don't like the products/prices, don't shop there". Well, if you don't like the admissions policy, don't apply there!

I am just playing devil's advocate here and I have nothing against a community service requirement. But this is an example of how "group think" can cause even a truly free market system to do irrational things.

 
At 12/02/2008 10:35 AM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Actually, this really does touch upon a very important point. One of the criticisms conservatives often throw at the media and the universities is that they are liberally biased. This maybe true, but that's besides the point.

The point is that in our country the media and our post-secondary education system are for the most part private. So, conservatives are in effect criticizing the results of truly free market systems. Yet, when liberals complain to them about the effects of other free market systems, they call you a socialist.

Well, so are all the supposed conservatives by that logic.

 
At 12/02/2008 10:37 AM, Anonymous Adam said...

I only wish I knew how important things like community service were in my college applications. You hit the nail on the head though - there is a very real difference between a college educating a student and a college creating a 'good' member of society.

This has always been an issue and both Aristotle (talking about the purpose of education and government) and Plato/Socrates (talking about what it means for somebody to be a 'good' member of society) discussed it.

For children/parents, just do the community service and don't do anything odd. For schools, be clear about which side of the coin you are on - education or creating good citizens. Those two things aren't entirely mutually exclusive, but emphasising one does extract a penalty from the other.

 
At 12/02/2008 11:05 AM, Blogger 1 said...

"The college admission boards at a private university is a private body not acting under coercion from the government"...

Ahhh mach, having some problems with reading simple English?

Where does it say, 'private' anywhere in Sowell's commentary?

"So, is Sowell criticizing the actions of the free market post-secondary education system??"...

Again is English a real stumbling block for you?

What's, 'free market' about the government run madrassas financed with extorted tax dollars?

Hey mach, are you familiar with the U.S. Constitution, specifically the AMENDMENT XIII?

 
At 12/02/2008 11:24 AM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

1,

There are private secondary schools and post-secondary schools free of ANY coercion or guidelines from the government that require community service. Sometimes these are some of the prestigious educational institutions that are attended by the richest of the rich and don't require a dime of public financing.

And again, (as I try my best to play the role of a free market idealogue), if you don't like the policies of these schools, DON'T GO THERE! No one is forcing you.

Also, read my example of the media. These are free market institutions that not only don't need any public financing but generate boatloads of profits and yet conservatives criticize them resulting product and suggest that something is wrong with the media.

I ask, who is the socialist??

 
At 12/02/2008 11:44 AM, Blogger RebelRenegade said...

Getting a job is community service IMO. In fact, going to school and learning is community service.

 
At 12/02/2008 11:50 AM, Blogger 1 said...

mach says: "There are private secondary schools and post-secondary schools free of ANY coercion or guidelines from the government that require community service"...

No doubt... What does that have to do with Sowell's commentary?

"Also, read my example of the media"...

I'm assuming you meant this line here: "The point is that in our country the media and our post-secondary education system are for the most part private"...

Since when are the more private post-secondary schools versus state/taxpayer financed colleges?

Today there are about 1,600 private, non-profit higher education institutions in the US, representing an estimated 3.4 million students...

You've got something credible to back that line up, right?

Regarding the media, no problems...

The shareholders are the ones to make a decision about those outfits...

None the less Sowell made NO mention of private schools...

Thomas Sowell knows better than that...

 
At 12/02/2008 11:58 AM, Blogger Domino said...

So the underlying assumption here is that most community service has a "liberal-bias," or that there will be some conspiracy to ensure that only left leaning organizations represent an acceptable form of community service? I'm sure that between the NRA, the Salvation Army, the various smaller faith-based charities, and the Chamber of Commerce there will be plenty of propaganda for everyone. Even if there is a shortage of conservative charities I'm sure the market will quickly remedy the situation.

 
At 12/02/2008 4:26 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Why not let the market handle this? Students who aren't into the whole community service thing (or lazy like me) can pick a school that does not require it.

 
At 12/02/2008 5:27 PM, Blogger @sethstorm said...

For the record, I didn't perform any volunteer work to please university admissions - for similar reasons.

Why should one be forced to volunteer for university cash? At that point, it's not volunteering for the public good. It's merely prostituting oneself out for an admission or the wish to forgo debt.

Letting the market handle it though only has encouraged it.

 
At 12/02/2008 7:35 PM, Blogger Plamen said...

"The college admission boards at a private university is a private body not acting under coercion from the government."

Machiavelli999, wrong, as you are most likely well aware. Private colleges and universities get federal money, if they "toe the line" on a whole lot of regulations, and lose it if they do not. That puts a school that would not implement a government guideline at a (non-)competitive disadvantage for profoundly non-market reasons. The "if you do not like the product, do not shop there" argument is perfectly legitimate when there are no government subsidies involved. Your thinking is generally correct, but involves the fallacious assumption that when the government subsidizes a business/organization, no costs are imposed on their competitors.

 
At 12/03/2008 12:03 AM, Anonymous Annonymous 4:26 AM said...

As a teacher myself, education and good citizenship go hand in hand. It's not one or the other. The purpose of education is to make good citizens: citizens that contribute to society (particularly by becoming productive) and citizens that can serve in society (among other things).

Also, as a teacher, if I let my students (particularly the younger ones) do whatever they want, they would sleep, chat with friend and do nothing in general. Instead, I have to give incentives (grades) or disincentives (grades, punishments) for good behavior and doing classwork/homework. I do this because I know that as they get older and more mature, the 'rules' instituted earlier will become habits and desired actions. Is this free-market principles?

Obviously not. But few would argue this because children need to learn (or none of us would be writing or reading ANYTHING, much less a blog).

So the argument is not just "free market or no free market" its also "what things should be free and what things should be coerced". It seems to me that some things need to be coerced (such as making kids do schoolwork).

So why not community service? Part of the coercion of community service is to instill a habit of giving to people without the expectation of anything in return. Is this not a good value? Not to say that all or most actions should be done without the expectation of reward - otherwise nothing productive would happen.

It seems that, while the methods might be improved, at least the idea of community service is a noble one.

 
At 12/03/2008 12:51 AM, Anonymous paul76 said...

This is the type of thinking that will ensure conservatives never win an election again. Completely out of touch. Really disappoints me.

Sowell has two arguments here, the more apparent one being that it's "arrogant" of schools, public or private, to define what good citizenship is through coercing (or encouraging in the case of private) students to do community service. It's also a violation against personal freedom of the student and parent, says Sowell.

So, the state imposing values upon students equates to a propaganda experience. Does that apply to encouraging patriotism, saying the pledge of allegiance, requiring registration for the selective service? Is it arrogant or value-imposing of the state to suggest children even need a public or private K-12 education? Heck, what about required immunizations? Why are they oppressing the freedom of parents to do with their children as they please? Looks like we've got propaganda and freedom-stealing going on all over the place.

But fine, Sowell, you're a libertarian, you don't like the state imposing values on children, so even "good" virtues like caring for others gets thrown out with the ideological bathwater. I get that. Wiping a liberal state clean of moral claims to reach some sort of values-free neutrality seems more like a liberal task to me, but knock yourself out trying to get there.

It's his more implicit argument that really bothers me: community service apparently has a liberal bias. Apparently PRIVATE compassion and generosity should be tempered by an ideological commitment to incentivizing work. So don't go volunteer at a homeless shelter, that's harmful to our society, blasphemous to our sacred cow of individualistic capitalism. Housing market and unemployment rates be damned, those people just loooooove the prison-like lifestyle.

And to think youth today are volunteering at the highest rates in history. What is wrong with kids these days.

It's one thing to question the effectiveness of the welfare system, and I'll join you in that, I'll even bring my own statistics. But to generalize volunteering for private charity as helping to perpetuate vagrancy, Wow.

If we didn't have volunteering, maybe homeless people would finally conduct their own job training courses. At-risk youth would get over their father-less childhoods and instill character within themselves. Special needs people could finally stop leaching off of our hard work and put the whole autistic thing behind them. Drug addicts, ever so rational, would start tucking away a little savings to pay for their impending rehab bills.

Sowell and other conservatives who diligently preserve their ideologically-driven omniscience from ever being challenged by actual research need to get a reality check. And they desperately need to do it before the next election. Because a growing number of people out there have this crazy idea that helping people is a good thing.

 
At 12/03/2008 5:32 AM, Blogger Plamen said...

paul76, so why do you insist on calling it "volunteering" when it is not voluntary? Kinda frames the question, does it not?
Dr Sowell speaks not against volunteering, but against involuntary "volunteering". He has spoken for charity many times.
If you were a teen who worked a summer job, and saved some money to help keep your siblings in school, your impact would arguably be a lot more direct and focused than if you (a young person with little speaking skills and gravitas from experience) went down to a community center to talk to drug addicts. But you would be penalized for your choice when you applied to college.
Helping people is not a crazy idea, but presuming that YOU know how best to do it with other people's money and time is. Does the research you refer to have consulted show that a high-school kid can help a homeless person with job training (links, please)? Just listing vulnerable groups does not make a compelling case for commandeering charity to them.
One final, admittedly extreme, example, to illustrate how ridiculous it can get. If the above kid with the summer job donated his/her earnings to the state to "buy" the services of a trained social worker, that would still not qualify as community service for the purposes of the admission committees, I would guess.

 
At 12/03/2008 1:57 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"Letting the market handle it though only has encouraged it"...

What the heck is this bit of socialist logic all about sethstorm? In the market people get PAID for the goods they produce or the services they render...

This absolute NONSENSE about the so called, 'public good' is just socialist fairy tale crapola... How do you know what the supposed 'public good' is in the first place?

"For children/parents, just do the community service and don't do anything odd. For schools, be clear about which side of the coin you are on - education or creating good citizens"...

Why should people do the community service? The parents already paid taxes to have those services done by professionals Adam...

Are you too looking for that socialist nirvana?

BTW how can anyone be a 'good citizen' if that person isn't educated?

I would've thought this last election proved that big time...

"So, the state imposing values upon students equates to a propaganda experience. Does that apply to encouraging patriotism, saying the pledge of allegiance, requiring registration for the selective service? Is it arrogant or value-imposing of the state to suggest children even need a public or private K-12 education? Heck, what about required immunizations? Why are they oppressing the freedom of parents to do with their children as they please? Looks like we've got propaganda and freedom-stealing going on all over the place"...

That's exactly right, we have the very government we deserve...

When people aren't smart enough to realize that the federal government doesn't actually have the legal wherewithal to make demands on its citizens that its making today what will the federal government do? Make demands of course...

When people demand of the federal government what isn't in the Constitution why should the federal government not impose whole slew of attached strings to that help?

The same applies for the state and local level governments also...

The constitutents really do have a duty to understand the Constitution and what the difference between those who espouse socialism and those who espouse freedom is all about...

 
At 12/03/2008 6:03 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Woa, woa, WOA! STOP THE PRESSES!

"Whoa" is the usual spelling.

 
At 12/03/2008 6:10 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> So the underlying assumption here is that most community service has a "liberal-bias," or that there will be some conspiracy to ensure that only left leaning organizations represent an acceptable form of community service?

So, you're presuming that academia, which runs consistently to the 90% range on the population left-right axis (90% membership to the left) is going to equally choose neutral or "conservative" forms of community service?

So, tell us: What drugs are you on?

> I'm sure that between the NRA, the Salvation Army, the various smaller faith-based charities, and the Chamber of Commerce there will be plenty of propaganda for everyone.

Uh, and what do at least three of those have to do with likely community-service options offered to the average student?

Did you take a double dose of those drugs you're on, or what?

 
At 12/03/2008 6:12 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Even if there is a shortage of conservative charities I'm sure the market will quickly remedy the situation.

And, once again, what does this have to do with ANYTHING involved here?

Are you under the impression that the community service activities offered as a part of the curriculum is going to be at the student's choice, and not that of the administration and/or faculty?

 
At 12/03/2008 6:18 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> So why not community service?

This might be argued IF and only IF the students chose entirely what constituted "community service" from a large and widely varied set of options, most notably just about any activity for which donating money would constitute a tax-deductible charitable donation.

If such were the constraints, then it would essentially prevent it from being a propaganda exercise.

In fact, though, such things are rarely allowed, and instead one has to do things with a narrow range of activities, carefully tailored to take advantage of naivete of youth and general idealism unfettered by experience to warp their perceptions in certain leftist/liberal directions.

 
At 12/04/2008 8:11 AM, Blogger save_the_rustbelt said...

When I was young we used to help clean the school and help with various projects, because we appreciated what the taxpayers were doing for us..........

If I remember correctly Dr. Sowell spent much of his career either paid by the taxpayers or subsidized by the taxpayers.

He seems to blank on that bit of information.

 
At 12/06/2008 3:41 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> If I remember correctly Dr. Sowell spent much of his career either paid by the taxpayers or subsidized by the taxpayers.

So, an academic can't comment on economics? Or just can't comment negatively on the impact of government on economics?

Nice Catch-22 you have set up there.

So, what, you figure that, since you're not a mother, you can't criticize a bad mother? That, since you're not in politics, you can't criticize politicians? Since you don't have a brain, that you can't really criticize people who do?

Just thought you should see where your GIGO logic could take someone...

 
At 12/09/2008 12:00 AM, Anonymous Mika said...

It's always the right that condemns government social services and lauds the merits of private philanthropy. However, if we don't show the young anything about philanthropy, the necessity of it, and, allow them to experience the joys of engaging in it, it won't exist.

Research shows that if a person doesn't engage in any kind of community service or philanthropy when he is young, he rarely, if ever, engages in it as a mature adult. One hopes that everyone on the political continuum can at at least agree that is the adult world's responsibility to teach the young.

Finally, how can learning how to show compassion and help the less fortunate automatically be equated with "propaganda"? . . . It's a silly and paranoid apprehension.

 

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