Mandatory public service is unnecessary


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Military soldiers standing together.

Jaisal Kalapatapu, Editor in Chief

Upon graduation from high school, teenagers are finally set free to follow their own path. For the first time, they are allowed to make their own choice about how to spend their life whether by pursuing higher education, joining the military or the workforce, or following another path. 

Because of this, mandatory public service, the requirement that people serve in the military or do other acts of public service, is unnecessary; it will inhibit the abilities of young people to make their own choices. 

Teenagers need to make choices to grow. 

According to a 1999 study by researchers at the University of Virginia, at all ages, agency to make decisions is a key factor for happiness and success. Teens need to feel in control of their lives in order to achieve their goals and simultaneously be happy. 

In this way, mandatory public service serves as a barrier to the wellbeing of teenagers. After 13 years of mandatory education, they deserve to choose their next steps. 

Additionally, not every young person can afford to devote a year to public service. At the start of 2022, 64% of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck, thus, many teenagers need to make money to support themselves and their families. 

Mandatory public service would get in the way of this. 

Advocates of mandatory public service will share that not only would such a policy improve the lives of those receiving help, but also the lives of those giving the help. 

“Essentially, participants would provide much-needed public services and, in return, receive significant benefits, including covered college or trade school tuition and living expenses, that would lessen the country’s socioeconomic divide,” David L. Carden, the first resident U.S. ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, wrote in an article. In doing so, they would interact with Americans from other communities, gain life skills, and transform their own futures—and that of the country itself.

While this is plausible, it is important to consider that the job of the government is not to infringe on the freedom of citizens in the name of improving their lives. Individuals, specifically adults, merit the right to decide whether or not to choose to take a year of service. 

Public service is vital to societal success. However, it should be voluntary and not impressed on our young people.