January 4, 2007

A national service academy could boost the public sector

Chris Myers Asch and Shawn Raymond's idea of a U.S. Public Service Academy has a chance of being considered seriously in this session of Congress. Very briefly, they have proposed creating a civilian undergraduate academy sponsored by the federal government for students who would be willing to serve in the public sphere for five years after graduation. In the way parallel to the military service academies, the public service academy would take a limited number of highly-qualified applicants from each state and combine an intense undergraduate experience with internships in different fields throughout the four years. In the words of Asch and Raymond,

With four years in a structured, service-oriented undergraduate program and five years of hands-on public service, these young leaders will have the experience, skills, and commitment to become strong leaders in their communities. By allocating spots by state, the Academy will attract a geographically diverse student body and will avoid the trap of many top universities, which tend to be stocked primarily with high achievers from the seaboard cities and suburbs. By offering a competitive academic program tuition-free with a post-graduation service requirement, the Academy will not become the exclusive province of the privileged. By structuring its academic program around a commitment to public service, the Academy will create a corps of patriotic leaders dedicated to helping fulfill the ideals of our nation. This is a winning idea.

There are a number of reasons to support this venture, but one reigns supreme: We need the best leadership possible in the public sector. After more than a generation of politicians bashing "the government," it's time to recognize that the public sector is here to stay, and it deserves the same long-term investment in leadership as exists in the military.

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Posted in Education policy on January 4, 2007 6:14 PM |