Dear Readers: I recently did a column on reinstating the draft - with non-military options. I spoke of the apathy, entitlement and lack of practical skills that define many youth today, and how, through mandatory national service, we could not only repair America's crumbling infrastructure and meet an array of unfunded social needs, but youth would receive a life-long work ethic and financial perks to launch them into adulthood.
Today I present the panel's response to this idea - which, so far, is about 80 percent favorable. To post your viewpoint, please visit http://www.straighttalkforteens.com.
Emily, 16, Sacramento: This idea not only helps our country, it gives young people purpose and life skills. I would choose work in suicide prevention. Helping others is a big part of my life. For it to be a "given" rather than something I have to make extra time for would be amazing. Service should be matched with aptitude and personality. But where do we place the totally unmotivated?
Lara, 17, Fair Oaks: We have a similar draft with non-military options in Austria, where I have dual citizenship. One friend is working with children in Russia, another in India, and many choose the military option to get in shape. It's a bummer to force people, but it would make us less self-centered. In Austria, nobody considers the draft as negative or forced, it's just service.
Geoff, 23, Redding: Where's the controversy? A program where kids give back to society with future perks of tuition payments, special mortgage rates, fast-tracking into jobs would be totally awesome. But this has to be a federal program. Delegating to states would be a mess (look at the insurance industry). I would love to see it happen, but am skeptical of its execution.
Ashley, 20 Auburn: It's a good idea. But what teenager will want to do it? And what happens when someone refuses? Do they go to jail?
Dominic, 22, San Luis Obispo: I'm against government forcing me to participate in anything. Patriotism should come from within. I would feel pride participating in community service, but forcing it defeats what this country stands for.
Sawyer, 17, Fair Oaks: A draft with non-military options is a good idea. Many young people dislike America, which is not the mindset we need. Service should be 18 months, with ability to extend into supervisory and career-tracks, starting anywhere between age 18 and 25 so you can travel or attend college first if you want. But what about all the high school dropouts who are under 18?
Kenny, 20, Fresno: I am joining the Navy. In college I went into a slump and alcohol/drugs become temptations. So much of college is about partying. So many kids are drifting and lazy. Every single one of my peers plays video games, 30 percent addictively (for younger teens, 80 percent play addictively). We need a national service program like this and every field of service should have physical training.
Fernando, 20, Monterey: I'm in the Navy (my comments don't reflect the views of the U.S. Navy) and I wouldn't want a forced draft into the armed services - someone resentful about that only puts my life at risk. But I have no problem with mandatory service where you choose between military or Peace Corps-esque options. Serving your country is an honor everyone should experience. I'm more proud of my country and appreciate my life more after tasting the sacrifices that made it possible.
Rachel, 17, Fair Oaks: I used to cringe at the word "draft". Then I presented a similar idea in a school debate and my entire class woke up and saw how mandatory service would only promote our country. We've become "every man for himself". Mandatory service puts everyone in the same boat - and it will take everyone to improve this boat.
Write to Straight Talk at http://www.straighttalkforteens.com or P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks CA 95628.