Are volunteer type activities voluntary when they are mandated? - Granite Grok

Are volunteer type activities voluntary when they are mandated?

Nowadays, kids are often "urged" to do community service.  Now, I have no problem with that as in high school, I spent thousands of hours volunteering in our local hospital as first a "candy striper" (yup, in a class of 50, there were 4 guys and 46 girls – you do the odds).  The difference is that I did this of my own accord without prompting from my parents, my friends, or school admin / teachers.  I did it because I was interested in it (I worked in the ER a lot) and it was fun. 

Nowadays, it seems that this kind of activity is compulsory as "giving back" or "giving to the community" for mandatory school credit.  Even Obama had this as a campaign platform – mandatory service.

Normally, many would say "hey, why not?  It gets the kids to realize that there is something bigger then themselves and heck, they might learn something!".  And I would include myself at times until I started to think about things a bit more – what is more precious than our time?  We can all give money, and most of us can earn more.  We can give of our "stuff", and later, obtain more.  But time is one thing that once used (or frittered away), it can never be re-acquired.

Thus, reading this from the really, really smart Dr. Thomas Sowell over at Townhall made me think through it again (emphasis mine):


Most people on the left are not opposed to freedom. They are just in favor of all sorts of things that are incompatible with freedom.

Freedom ultimately means the right of other people to do things that you do not approve of

…There are high schools across the country from which you cannot graduate, and colleges where your application for admission will not be accepted, unless you have engaged in activities arbitrarily defined as "community service."

The arrogance of commandeering young people’s time, instead of leaving them and their parents free to decide for themselves how to use that time, is exceeded only by the arrogance of imposing your own notions as to what is or is not a service to the community…

…But that connection remains as unbreakable as ever for society as a whole. You can make anything an "entitlement" for individuals and groups but nothing is an entitlement for society as a whole, not even food or shelter, both of which have to be produced by somebody’s work or they will not exist.

What "entitlements" for some people mean is forcing other people to work for their benefit. As a bumper sticker put it: "Work harder. Millions of people on welfare are depending on you."

The most fundamental problem, however, is not which particular activities students are required to engage in under the title of "community service."…

Supposedly students are to get a sense of compassion or noblesse oblige from serving others. But this all depends on who defines compassion. In practice, it means forcing students to undergo a propaganda experience to make them receptive to the left’s vision of the world


…Indeed, many of those who promote compulsory "community service" activities are bitterly opposed to even voluntary military training in high schools or colleges, though many other people regard military training as more of a contribution to society than feeding people who refuse to work.

And in fact, there are a lot of high school students out in San Francisco that wish to engage in military exercises (JROTC) and are being denied that very thing.

The essence of bigotry is refusing to others the rights that you demand for yourself. Such bigotry is inherently incompatible with freedom, even though many on the left would be shocked to be considered opposed to freedom.