In the present times, the unity of a nation plays a fundamental aspect as far as the economic development is concerned. When a nation is divided it is impossible for its citizens to focus all their efforts towards the same direction. Currently, the United States is deeply divided not only economically, but also culturally and politically. The recent 2016 general election is a perfect indication concerning the extent to which the class, racial, economic, cultural and political divisions have deeply gained roots in a country that is globally perceived as a super power in the contemporary world (Isabel n.p). These differences have resulted to disagreements on what policies are best to address pressing issues such as health, security, and education. In order to reverse the trend, it is the high time to revive a commitment to national service and to make that commitment universal.
Thesis statement-This paper pays high attention to the analysis of how the institution of the national service can help in unifying the social divide in the U.S. by fostering understanding and shared purpose, building empathy, and fostering a change in social norms that redefines citizenship.
1. Fostering understanding and shared purpose
In the current times, most Americans compete amongst themselves in terms of succeeding in life, and can do anything within their power to outdo another. This is one of the major reasons why economic, cultural and political divisions are on the rise more than ever before. In addition, lack of understanding amongst Americans and a shared purpose is the major cause of inequalities and poverty in the country. However, the use of national service programs such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCops can greatly help Americans from all walks of life to not only appreciate each other, but also serve towards a common goal (Isabel n.p). According to a study that focused on teach for America (TFA) which was conducted by Katharine Conn, TFA (which is a national service program that integrates top graduates into low income communities for two years) have powerful bridging effects (Cecilia n.p). The composition of TFA is diverse since it integrates to graduates from diverse cultures, race, gender, and age. The study established that graduates who participated in TFA did not only manage to understand each other, but also developed a shared purpose compared to those who did not participate. This means that in general, the national service has lasting and profound effects on its participants.
2. Building Empathy
National service programs will help Americans to feel the sufferings that the disadvantaged groups go through and focus on helping them rather than continue discriminating them. For example, the study on the effects of participating in the TFA program identified that the participants were 7.4 percent more likely to believe that systemic injustices result to the income-based education achievement gap (Cecilia n.p). In addition, the TFA participants are more likely to link poverty and racial inequalities to systemic and historical factors rather than lack of efforts of the disadvantaged communities. Without the implementation of national service, most of Americans in the advantaged class and racial groups perceives that lack of education and poverty is as a result of individual laziness. For example, and educated rich White American would less likely to associated with low-income and uneducated Black American since he or she believes that the situation of the latter is as a result of laziness rather than systematic factors. This makes them less likely to help or associate with individuals from the disadvantaged groups or races, which in the long run contributes to social division.
3. Fostering a change in social norms that redefines citizenship
The implementation of the national service programs would greatly help in changing the mindset of most Americans by encouraging social participating as opposed to the conventional perception that the government should provide for them. in his 1961 inauguration address, John F. Kennedy famously stated that, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (Isabel n.p). This resulted to the creation of the Peace Corps, followed by its domestic equivalent Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which were later incorporated into the AmeriCorps network. Additionally, in an essay for Cato Unbound, Zach Maurin stipulated that, “We are all lucky to live in America and the way to pay back our debt to those who built the country as well as strengthen it for the future is through a year of national service.” (Isabel n.p). If national service is implemented effectively, there is a high likelihood that most Americans would enroll as volunteers in various bodies such as the red cross, Youth Build, Teach for America and others. This would create a shared purpose for all Americans and divisions would be a thing of the past.
It is, therefore, evident that the implementation of the national service can greatly help in unifying the social division in the U.S. by fostering understanding and shared purpose, festering empathy, and more importantly, fostering a change in social norms that redefines citizenship. It is unfortunate that the Trump administration is proposing for the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) instead of expanding the national service programs (Isabel n.p). The Congress should oppose any move of eliminating national service programs for the current economic, political and cultural divisions to end.
Cecilia Hyunjung. Does national service help heal America’s divisions? Posted on 31st May, 2017. Accessed from, http://theconversation.com/does-national-service-help-heal-americas-divisions-76833
Isabel Sawhill. It’s time to make national service a universal commitment. Posted on 30th November, 2017. Retrieved from, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/11/30/its-time-to-make-national-service-a-universal-commitment/