Our goal in Open Civics is to create in you an understanding that you and your generation are citizens of our Nation and the world. We believe that you and your generation of young Americans, by your action or inaction as citizens in your teens, influence your peers and "elders" across the globe. Many of you already sense the power of your choices of clothes, styles of living, ways of expressing yourselves and means of communication. As significant as those choices may be, they pale in comparison with the your choices about what kind of world you are choosing to create and to live in.
Civics is about "how the world works." And for that reason, it is the most threatening academic inquiry imaginable to those whose power depends upon your ignorance of how they run it. I believe that this is why the teaching of civics is not now a part of the American school curriculum.
This was not always the case in America. One-hundred years ago, the objectives of the powerful coincided with the necessity of creating a knowledgable and active citizenship. America was building itself and the builders needed cities and transportation systems and craftsmen and educators to work together in common purpose on democratically agreed upon ends. Americas students and their understanding of civic life and, most importantly, what they wanted from from it, were the building blocks for that common purpose. On those blocks the American greatness inherited by my generation were built.
The absence of common purpose in modern American life, is obvious. No Nation that planned lowering the living standard of its working families, that abandoned its most dedicated young citizens on distant battlefields, and that commodified educational "opportunity" can have common purpose. Do you agree? (note some of the articles and comments under "Students, Workers, and Soldiers," above.) Did our Country really intend to treat our workers, soldiers and students this way?
The numerous arguments for National Service boil down to a fix to a broken common purpose, but few even attempt an explanation for the breakage. Can we restore common purpose without addressing how it was lost? Can we find new common purpose when the objectives of the powerful ignore the costs of their singular pursuit of greater power?
On Friday, let's examine a positions of two proponents of National Service, Mr. Gerson and Lt. Gen. Ret. McChrystal, and how the idea is sold to America.