Response to Newt Gingrich about ‘poor kids’

My response to the deeply flawed conclusions of Newt Gingrich about ‘poor kids’ is this: Kids cleaning classrooms is wrong if it’s only poor kids doing the cleaning. What follows, for what it’s worth, is a concept I began thinking about almost a decade and a half ago.

Original 1997 Introduction to In-School Service

It is true, as President Clinton said in his 1992 inauguration address, that “Millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead.” And not just poor children are so deprived. Our nation needs the service of its young citizens long before they reach the age of eighteen, and those young citizens must learn the benefits of service before age eighteen. Where better to learn to serve our nation than in the place where the law requires that millions of our youth must be five days a week, 36 weeks a year: the school building?

I propose a program of universal in-school service that students participate in throughout their elementary and secondary education. Such a cycle of service, which I call ISS (In-School Service), would begin in the third grade and continue at three year intervals in the sixth grade, the ninth grade and the twelfth grade. Each ISS year a student reached would act as a mini-sabbatical, an in depth opportunity for the student to be part of structured and varied programs of service to school, community, region and state.

I believe the development of a National Service Corps is an important goal for our nation. It is an idea that is long overdue. I wish to argue in this paper that for National Service to succeed in attracting the attention and dedication of American youth and their families there must be preparation for personal service built into the twelve years of formal education that will precede such service.

I contend that by seventeen or eighteen years old it is mostly too late to introduce the values and benefits of volunteerism and service in our young people. We must start when our children are still optimistic about the world and their future in it. It must be a service that has clear and apparent results for kids that live in a world of instant gratification. It must be a service that unifies the children in their volunteer efforts and goals. It must be a service that has value for parents and community so they can provide the wonderful feedback for a job well done. My proposal addresses those concerns.  Click here to read more…..