June 5, 2008

If you really want to be of public service...

Thomas Sowell writes...

EVERY YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME, big-government liberals stand up in front of college commencement crowds across the country and urge the graduates to do the noblest thing possible -- become big-government liberals.

That isn't how they phrase it, of course. Commencement speakers express great reverence for "public service," as distinguished from narrow private "greed." There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen -- over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.

What I would like to see is someone with the guts to tell those students: Do you want to be of some use and service to your fellow human beings? Then let your fellow human beings tell you what they want -- not with words, but by putting their money where their mouth is.

You want to see more people have better housing? Build it! Become a builder or developer-- if you can stand the sneers and disdain of your classmates and professors who regard the very words as repulsive.

Would you like to see more things become more affordable to more people? Then figure out more efficient ways of getting thousands of things from the producers to the consumers at a lower cost. That's what a man named Richard Sears did a century ago. In the process he rose from near poverty to become one of the richest men around....

Thinking about commencements, the last of our three children just graduated from High School. One naturally feels both pride and sadness at these milestones, and at having our kids grow up and become more independent. (She will start at UC Santa Cruz in September—she's very excited!)

But one aspect of their youth that none of us Weidners will miss at all is school-mandated "community service." It grated upon all of us. And I don't think that we are any less inclined to want to want to help people than other Americans. But involuntary voluntarism is offensive. And the treacly sentiments that go with it are doubly offensive.

And most irritating of all is that the whole process assumes that one has bought-into various liberal pieties. Which you are never allowed to question. Or, actually, saying "never allowed" puts things too clearly. Think of a world where the entire concept of questioning underlying liberal assumptions doesn't exist, and any attempt to do so would be seen as crazy. Not to mention jeopardizing ones chances of getting into college!

Charlene asks, "When did this community-service thing start? I never heard of it when I was in school." These things are fads; they just grow. Why are so many women wearing incredibly-unflattering hip-hugger pants now? Do you think they did any thinking? Of course not. As well ask a school of minnows how they plan their route. Unconsciously I think educators, like leftist politicians, know that the poor and hapless are a precious resource, which needs to be conserved and nurtured, so as to justify big government and anti-Americanism. If one could help homeless people get jobs and get off the street, that would not be "community service."

Posted by John Weidner at June 5, 2008 6:32 AM
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