The idea of enlisting our youth into local and national assistance projects is not new. It wasn't new when I wrote an essay on the subject to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) nearly 15 years ago. Cranston forwarded my recommendations to a few of the appropriate federal agencies and that was that.
Make this proposal to almost anyone, and they will listen and nod their approval but do nothing about it. The Kennedy charisma brought us closest to the ideal with the Peace Corps. William F. Buckley's version is certainly worth considering and maybe it's an idea whose time has come.
(But) Buckley simply doesn't go far enough. I definitely concur with a system of offering high school graduates a two-year stint in either the military or civilian sector of service to the country. Social services, environmental agencies, medical clinics, parks and forests, and any number of local and federal projects would be well served by such a source of workers.
(I propose that) for their service, the young population receive higher education gratis. Those who did not volunteer for service would have to pay the going rate for college. Those who served the two years and wanted to go on for higher and specialized degrees would be given the option to pay or receive their education free if they agreed to serve an additional two years following the receipt of their degrees. In that additional term of service, they would complete their internship in areas of the country woefully lacking in social services.
In that sort of scheme, the nation is a winner. We have a work force that enters into national service at a time when they are just formulating their career choices. They are given the opportunity to try their wings and to work in cooperation with their peers on worthy projects. They are exposed to the realities of their society. Pretty good preparation for life.
How much is this going to cost? Far less than our ignorant abuse of national resources has to this point. We will improve the current state of affairs quickly and be investing in a much brighter future. The opportunity for individual youngsters to realize their hopes could put a dent into the gang culture we spawned through terrible neglect.
Marina del Rey