Rationale And Design For A Social Service Draft

This article advocates for a national but state-administered social service draft, whereby youth between the ages of 16 and 21 would be participate in a variety of activities designed to develop personal skills and contribute to the social, economic and structural benefit of American society. Some hypothetical pros and cons of such a program are discussed along with rough-draft details on specific activities, rewards, rank hierarchies and placements.

PRECEDENT

The idea of a (nationalized) social service draft is not new. One of the more interesting versions was proposed by conservative William F. Buckley, which was addressed and critiqued in an article by Aaron Larson entitled The Draft, National Service and National Unity. (2013). Buckley referred to the “pulsation of consanguinity” inherent in such a program that could “unite the Laramie cowboy and the Greenwich Village Literateur” and… “ever so slightly elevate us from the trough of self-concern and self-devotion.” (1990)

Similar sentiments have been expressed by writer Michael Gerson, who envisioned a program, whereby, instead of giving 18 year olds a selective service number(as in military conscription), they’d be given information regarding the five branches of the armed forces along with the option of serving one year in a national service program, not mandated but “expected” (Larison, 2013)

The model here differs from both Buckley’s broad, patriotic vision and Gerson’s more detailed model. Here the rationale is more psychological/remunerative and drafting services geared more to improving concurrently, the skill levels, self-image, and pro-social mindset of the participants and the economic and social aspects of American life. In line with Larison’s criticism of a national service program, which he reasonably asserts could prove to be at the very least inconvenient and possibly aversive to the young draftees, this program is based on the notion that an effective social draft must be both rewarding to participants and beneficial to the nation. Prior to discussing programmatic details it might be helpful to consider some features of adolescent development.

RITES OF PASSAGE

There are several ways in which to view adolescence. One is as a hybrid developmental stage somewhere between a child and an adult, combining and/or confusing the need for independent decision making with the need for parental guidance. This view implies that guidance of an adolescent is an evolutionary process. With fingers crossed, parents, school personnel and society in general hope that just the right proportion of structure and latitude will not only help the teenager develop into a solid citizen but also ameliorate the stresses and strains on society often created by their awkward and at times antisocial behavior.