Community Service is Something You’re Sentenced To

Community Service is Something You “Dean Dad” argues against that old chestnut, a public service program whereby “graduating high school seniors will work for the government for a year or two in a sort of domestic peace corps arrangement, doing fine and worthy things while accruing voucher credits to be used for college tuition.”

In addition to being premised on an image of college students that hasn’t been true in decades, the impacts of delaying paid work on pensions, and the classist undertones of the suggestion, DD thinks the “service” itself isn’t so hot:

And there’s the sheer drudgery of much of the work. My recollection of high school — your mileage may vary — involves a lot of frustration, and a palpable eagerness to step up to the academic big leagues. Adding a year or two of soup-kitchen duty or trash pickup or helping old ladies across the street would be demotivating, to put it mildly. As the apocryphal saying goes, community service is something you’re sentenced to. Besides, the idea of interrupting your math sequence for a couple of years, then jumping right into calculus, strikes me as, well, nuts.

And, frankly, there are plenty of ways to serve your community once you’ve gone to school that are probably more productive.

Image: Diane Fernando via Google

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Education, Uncategorized, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Given a high crime rate I would say staying out of trouble serves as community service. Being a productive member of the economy and society serves us all as well. I don’t get why the old hippies always push this idea.

  2. sam says:

    Community Service is Something You’re Sentenced To

    When I was in the Marine Corps, I served with a kid who was given the choice of the Corps or jail by a judge. I suppose that’s a kind of sentencing.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    The reasonable question is how does one inculcate virtue in the young? Virtue is a habit and like other habits, grows through being exercised. If it’s not taught at home and it’s not taught in the schools, it probably won’t spring up on its own.

    I’m not suggesting an answer, merely proposing the question.

  4. Michael says:

    In Florida, we have the “Bright Futures” scholarship program which requires a certain number of hours of community service to be performed while in High School.

  5. John425 says:

    I would think that if there are enough hours in the week to undertake “community service” then there are enough hours in the week for extra schooling in Civics and Ethics.

  6. Christopher says:

    Wow, all of you denigrating community service? Shame. Sounds like a bunch of liberals, and spoken like people who haven’t done an ounce of community service.

    I would recommend joining your local Rotary club. Rotary is the largest service organization in the world, made up of local business people meeting every week and doing ongoing community service. And they still have time for their families, businesses and recreational activity.

  7. Steve Plunk says:


    With due respect, my local Rotary is nothing but a cabal of businessmen looking to network and glad hand each other. Goofy fines and long luncheons, it’s a waste of time.

    Public service should be purely voluntary. Buying the service (tuition vouchers) or forcing it (my son must perform community service as part of the honor society) is contrary to how I see it.

    My personal community service is through city and county committees and commissions, a school watchdog group, and political activism. I choose to do it and can walk away at any time.

  8. Christopher says:


    I can’t speak for the local Rotary club where you are, but most do meet for about an hour and a half on a weekly basis and enjoy doing it. There are fines all in good fun and enjoying a meal together. How would it be otherwise? The lunch is NOT the community service! I can’t believe you would think that. But most clubs have various committees in charge of service projects, exchange students (both inbound and outbound), planning for a Habitat for Humanity project or building wheelchair ramps for people that cannot afford them etc etc. Work is done on a volunteer basis, with the larger clubs doing the larger projects and so on. Most work is very local. This doesn’t even count the raising of funds for the eradication of polio, especially in the poorest countries, an international service project of all clubs that Rotary Intl. should be commended for.

    I cannot imagine city and county govt. charity work being even close to what Rotary does in efficiency or stature. Please don’t put Rotary down, because if you do, you have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about and only show people how ignorant you are.