Service Nation asks for your opinion, lets give it to them

Posted on June 29th, 2009 by bile
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From: Alan Khazei <>

Dear bile,

I just returned from this year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco, an outstanding event where more than 4,000 service leaders gathered to celebrate our achievements and plan the path forward.

This is an extraordinary moment for our movement, with a new law on the books promising unprecedented federal resources for service; people across the country becoming more engaged in their communities than we’ve seen in a long time; and a President and First Lady in the White House who come from the service world, and who want service and civic engagement to become a part of every American’s life.

So many terrific ideas came out of the event, and you’ll be hearing more about them in the weeks and months to come. But before that, we need you to become a part of this discussion.

Our supporters on the ground are the ones who powered us from the beginning.  And today, it’s your input and your ideas that will carry us forward as we plot out the next steps for this organization – and for the service movement as a whole.

Please fill out this short survey – your feedback will help shape the future of ServiceNation:

If you didn’t make it to the Conference, there’s a lot to fill you in on. Here are a few of the highlights from the event:

-    The crowd gave a hero’s welcome to Michelle Obama, the keynote speaker, who talked passionately about the White House’s commitment to service and the need to find innovative ways to expand it.

-    I had the honor of interviewing Maria Shriver, the First Lady of California, about her path-breaking efforts to strengthen service in that state. (More to come about that interview in a follow-up message.)

-   The Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) announced a week-long October campaign to promote service on all the major TV networks. This is a big opportunity to get new people involved in service, and it’s something we’ll all be hearing much more about in the months ahead. As part of the announcement, we were treated to a terrific concert from Jon Bon Jovi, a longtime friend of the service community who came to the Conference as a representative of EIF.

-    ServiceNation also was proud to host a luncheon for hundreds of service champions.  Melody Barnes, President Obama’s chief domestic policy advisor, spoke movingly about the future of service in America, and all the attendees participated in a strategy discussion led by Arianna Huffington, EIF’s Lisa Paulsen, and Colin Jones, a current AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the program BUILD in San Francisco.

With so many people across the country spending time this week to talk about what’s next for the service movement, it’s absolutely essential that you get involved in the discussion. We want to know more about you, your impressions of the work we’ve done so far, and your thoughts on where we should go from here.

Please fill out the survey today:

Thanks – we’ll be following up with more takeaways from the Conference soon.


The multiple choice sections are limited but there are opened ended areas to let Alan and friends know that we don’t appreciate the move toward national servitude.

One more email to/from Tim Zimmermann about Obama’s service proposal

Posted on November 10th, 2008 by bile
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To Tim Zimmermann:

No serious proposals for mandatory service? President elect Barack Obama indicated on the recently launched website that:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.

That was present on the site till the other day. Now it reads:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

In a December 5th, 2007 post on Barack Obama’s website, still available, he said:

We’ll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.

Indicating that if local schools do not enact the service programs desired they will not receive the federal funding they currently get. Putting greater burden on the local tax payers therefore greatly incentives the schools to enact the requested programs. Given that individuals are required to attend school and would likely not be able to graduate without completing the service it seems to me safe to call it mandatory. Especially if it becomes required for private schools. Even if it were not since anyone who sends their children to private school or homeschools is still required to pay property taxes to pay for government school it is hardly a fair scenario.

Websites I referred to are:

His response was simply:

Thanks, bile. You have found a lot of conflicting language. Let’s see what the actual proposals turn out to be….

Best, Tim
Tim Zimmermann
Director Of Communications
Be the Change, Inc.
cell: 703-850-0735

No real answers. No real concern of the possiblity of mandatory national service. changes language about “service”

Posted on November 10th, 2008 by bile
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According to Gateway Pundit the new site said this as of November 7th:

As of today, November 10th, though apparently changed the 8th it says this:

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

In a December 5th, 2007 post to his website, still available, said:

So when I’m President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you’ll have done 17 weeks of service. We’ll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.

I’ve pointed this out to Tim Zimmermann given he recently said that:

Mandatory service simply does not make any sense. It is not a good idea, there is no infrastructure for it, no public support for it, no leadership support for it, and no money for it. Frankly, it is not something I spend a lot of time worrying about….

I agree it doesn’t make any sense hovever Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel think otherwise. It’s intelectualy dishonest to make these changes without an official announcement of policy change. It’s also dishonest to act as if this is not effectively mandatory. It’s the same trick used by the federal government to get the drinking age to be 21 and there be state laws for seat belts to be worn while driving. Only one state disobeys the federal government. New Hampshire. And that’s only for the seat belt request. Should a state refuse they will see their income tax dollars go out of the state and not come back in. At least a significant portion of it. It’s even worse in this particular case given the government mandates children attend school, continues to tax those who home school or use private schools, and not only would a school not receive federal funds but you can guarentee the local tax payers would continue to be taxed by the federal government at the same rate. If the locals don’t wish to pay higher local taxes and no reduced income taxes they’d have to comply meaning the children would be unable to graduate without doing the national service. Therefore it’s mandatory. And given the requirements for private and home schools imposed by the State it wouldn’t be surprising if they mandated national service for those children too.

Be The Change, Inc. responds to questions on the pick of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff and mandatory service

Posted on November 9th, 2008 by bile
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As anyone who follows this site knows I’ve been following the Service Nation organization and Be the Change, Inc.

Due to the recent announcement by president elect that Rahm Emanuel will be his chief of staff and his previous writtings supporting “universal voluntary national service.” I contacted Be the Change, Inc.’s  Tim Zimmermann <>. The emails went as followed:


Hello, I’m writing to find out Service Nation / Be The Change, Inc.’s official position on the president elect’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff. Would you support an initiative as described in the 2006 co-authored book The Plan? It includes as followed:

It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service. …

Here’s how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They’ll be asked to report for
three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we’re hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to
address their communities’ most pressing needs.

If I’ve contacted the wrong person please forward this along or let me know who I should contact. Thank you for your time.

Read More…

Response to Service Nation’s Education Fact Sheet

Posted on September 14th, 2008 by bile
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  • Nine-year-olds growing up in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind their peers in high-income communities.
    Does this include children attending private schools? Stating the effect without an understanding of the cause means wasted resources treating symptoms. Could it not be that the war on drugs, which harms low-income communities more, combined with welfare and other government disincentives, combined with the general inefficiencies of government provided education are the sources of these sad statistics and therefore should be the focus?
  • Only 31% of fourth graders are proficient in reading. Low-income students do half as well.
    See above. I’d also recommend reading John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education, Mary Ruwart’s Healing our World, and Samuel Blumenfeld’s Is Public Education Necessary?
  • As many as fifteen million students have no place to go after school.
    You can blame some of this on the war on drugs and the welfare state which has split apart families. On a more abstract note I would focus on the Federal Reserve System [PDF]. The federal government through the Fed through inflation taxes all users of Federal Reserve Notes without their supposed consent or knowledge. It hurts those who receive lower or no increases in their income the most. As inflation increases so do prices and do so ahead of any increases in income. Slowly wealth is stripped away requiring individuals to work more and/or longer to bring home the same amount. No longer can an average family survive on a single salary.
  • Teens who do not participate in after school programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes or use marijuana or other drugs, drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.
    Is it that teens who participate in after school programs are less likely to do those things because they are participating or simply because those who tend to participate just don’t. Could it be that those who are not interested in after school programs are also the same ones who have issues with the school curriculum?
  • The hours between 3-6 p.m. on school days (referred to by law enforcement officials as a “danger zone”) are the prime time for violent juvenile crime.
  • More than 1.2 million children drop out of school each year. The cost is more than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetime.
  • Only 70% of students in the U.S graduate from high school. In the nation’s urban schools, the dropout rate is fifteen percentage points lower. Those who do graduate high school will, on average, read and do math at the level of eighth graders in high-income communities.
  • Only 1 in 10 students in low-income communities will graduate from college.

The Service Solution

  • Since its founding, 17,000 people have participated as Teach For America corps members, teaching and affecting over 2.5 million public school students.
  • Since its founding in 1988, City Year’s 10,400 corps members have served 1,060,000 children, completed 16 million hours of service, and engaged more than 1,015,000 citizens in service.
  • According to a study by The Urban Institute, high school students taught by TFA corps members on average performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors.
    If that’s the case why don’t they teach the “far more experienced instructors”? Wouldn’t that be more efficient? Are they teaching a general curriculum or teaching to the state-required end-of-course exams? Are they comparing general instruction to specific tutoring?
  • A study by Mathematica Policy Research in 2004 randomly assigned students within the same schools to teachers both from TFA and traditional certification programs. It found that students taught by TFA teachers performed better in math and science as those taught by non-TFA novice teachers.
    Again, if the goal is helping the children why wouldn’t they be teaching those running the certification programs? Perhaps they do but it’s not something I’ve heard from them.
  • One study shows that first-, second- and third-graders tutored by AmeriCorps members gained seven to fourteen percentile points in reading scores compared to their peers.
  • AmeriCorps members in Education Works help inspire students to improve attendance, helping low-income schools to keep students coming to class for an average of 20 more days per year than other neighborhood schools.
    I have no doubt that showing a student more attention and giving the direct encouragement would increase attendance. But how does the Education Works members compare to Big Brother Big Sister and other organization which are private and perform effectively the same service? 20 days is huge but 20 more days to from what?
  • By focusing its efforts on standardized test preparation, the AmeriCorps program Admission Possible helped students raise their ACT scores by an average of sixteen percent.
    This is a meaningless value. Teaching to tests is not education.
  • AmeriCorps members working for College Summit help low-income students apply to and enroll in college. One study found that 80% of College Summit students got into college, compared to less than 50% of their peers. Aren’t guidance counselors and parents supposed to do this? As with above shouldn’t these College Summit members be working with counselors and parents so that the labor can be distributed?
  • National service programs give students who did not complete high school a chance to finish their education. Since 2002, almost 5,000 AmeriCorps members in the program YouthBuild USA have earned their GED. Many of these GED recipients were previously incarcerated.
    Doesn’t the federal prison system already provide prisoners with the ability to get a GED and take college courses? Seems to me that AmeriCorps was used by these young people as an outlet from their situation at home. Likely it helped them but these programs should be provided by private institutions which would direct the participants labor toward things the community would need instead of what bureaucrats want.

Be The Change, Inc asks for blogging opportunity to clarify their position and involvement on National Service

Posted on August 6th, 2008 by bile
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Thank you for keeping us honest.  We are in the middle of ironing the details of our relationship with ANSA.  Unfortunately, we are not responsible for the language on their website in the same way that they are not responsible for the language on our website(s).  I invite you to contact them if you have concerns about the content on their website.  And Of course, continue to email us should you have any questions/concerns about ours.

When it comes to coalition organizations, it’s a bit tricky.  We will  seek to be more explicit about the nature of our relationship before agreeing to have them as part of our coalition.  That being said, we aim to be a big umbrella organization when it it comes national service programs and volunteering.   If an organization supports our agenda as is, not as they interpret it to be, we are more than likely to have them on board because we believe the majority of Americans want to volunteer and should be given the opportunity to do so regardless of their political views, religious affiliations, race, sex, shape or size.

As for the funding, while you make some good points, on some level we are going to have to agree to disagree.   We are asking the federal government to fund the infrastructure that makes volunteering at all levels possible. Studies have shown for every $1 invested in national service programs the government gets $3 back.  We are currently working on several case studies to support these claims.  I would imagine that we will post them on our website once they are completed.   Moreover, a study by the Brookings Institute has demonstrated that participants in programs such as Americoprs and PeaceCorps are more likely to be involved in the political system and run for office after they leave those programs. Additionally, the federal government is not the sole source (or even the biggest source) of funding for the vast majority of the members in our coalition. In fact, private citizens such as yourself do support many of these organizations despite the currently financial hardships.  However, we believe that with slightly more help from the federal government, some of the successful  programs can be brought to scale and give more people the option of volunteering.

Now that you have a better understanding of Be the change Inc and the ServiceNation Campaign, I would like to ask for the opportunity to do a guest post on your blog where we could explain the goals of ServiceNation to your readership and field any comments/questions that we may have.  Of course this will not any way mean that you endorse our organization or the campaign,  but just giving your readership a chance to make up their mind based on facts, and have a chance to voice their concerns as you did.  I hope that you will consider giving us that opportunity.


Henri Makembe
Be the Change, Inc.
202.778.3553 (office)

Blog of Bile has given Be The Change, Inc. the ability to post. If they’d like, we will leave the account open so they may post whenever they desire.