February 27th (Providence, RI) – Are 18-year-olds ready for college and starting down the path to their professional lives? The President of the United States does not believe so.
Last night (February 26th) during the State of the Union, the President spoke to a joint session of Congress and presented a wide-ranging array of policies and proposals. Education, in particular, seems to be a key concern of the White House. Earlier in the month on February 9th, the President signed an Executive Order attempting to redefine what “post-secondary education” even means. In that text, the President stated a desire to have non-traditional paths be considered equivalent to having a college degree, especially those in the trades field. However, based upon the speech last night, the President has broader ideas about when those scholastic pursuits should take place.
A New “Selective Service” for Everyone to Discover Themselves
The President began talking about education stating:
We can quibble over the exact statistics—and I’m sure the fact check websites will—but only around half of the people who attempt to get a bachelor’s degree ever do. That means they take on all that debt, all that responsibility, and all those consequences, and have nothing to show for it.
With this, the President asked the members of Congress how many of them knew what they wanted to do with their lives right out of high school. The speech then turned to discussions of the modern understanding of psychology and neurological development, with the President arguing that “it is simply too early for these kids” to make such momentous decisions that are going to impact them for several subsequent decades, at the very least.
As such, the President recommended Congress instead create a “compulsory service program” that would last for a period of two years. This service would begin on August 1st of the year after someone had completed their secondary education—no matter if they graduated, got a GED or equivalent, or dropped out earlier—and had turned 18 years of age. If they had a birthday later than August 1st or were still actively working to complete their secondary education, then their start date could be delayed by several months and they could come in together as an “off cycle class”. The President contended that this would be a natural extension of the Selective Service System, which already requires young people to sign up for a potential military draft; though no one has been required to serve in this manner since the 1970s. Further, the President highlighted that the Supreme Court has found multiple times that Selective Service and the draft are completely Constitutional, so long as it is evenly applied, the workers are fairly compensated, and the episode has a time limit. The President expanded on this idea, saying in part:
And I am not talking about having everyone do direct, front-line combat military duty, either; unless they want to do that. In countries like Norway, South Korea, Israel, Brazil, and others, the majority of people work in administrative roles... Today’s armed forces are peacekeepers, technologists, builders, and so much more. We can let these emerging adults try out one or any number of roles, putting them on rotations and giving them exposure and experiences to discover who they are and what they are interested in, all before moving on to further education—whatever that may mean to them. In the interim, while they learn and grow, the country will also benefit from their labor. And perhaps we will discover a few exceptional candidates that may want to continue in higher levels of government service.
The President even brought up the possibility of people being able to work for a non-profit organization of their choice while on the payroll of the United States federal government. At this point, the President did not outline how the country could possibly afford to pay for such a program but hinted at ideas that focused on reallocating military funds and other revenue-generating measures. It would not be until later that the President would give an overview of the administration’s expectations in regard to the entire federal budget.
Back on the subject of government-sponsored vassalage, the President noted that almost 40% of countries around the world already have a required conscription and/or volunteerism, and another 10%—including America—have a “du jure” draft in the form of Selective Service that is currently not being enforced. That, of course, does not take into account the other half of the world that lacks any type of forced servitude, nor that many countries are actually rolling back these requirements. In 2020, the aforementioned South Korea passed what some have dubbed the “BTS Law” (named for the K-pop band popular at the time) that allowed “globally relevant entertainers” to defer their service until they turned 30.
President Uses Props to Try to Change Outlooks
During the education component of the State of the Union, the President also tried another “reset of expectations.” To make a point, the President set up a visual aid with a wastepaper basket being placed some distance away and then attempted to land a crumpled-up piece of paper in it. After missing several shots to some chuckles, the President told the crowd:
Most of us have heard of this example of inequality, where those closer to the basket can make the shot more easily. However, I think another important subject has been missed: the location of the basket. Where it sits right now is being a point guard in the NBA, a social media star, a genius inventor, a lottery winner, or even President of the United States.
This self-deprecating humor seemed to win over a few more people in the crowd, especially considering how the State of the Union began. The President had come out incredibly hostile towards the members of Congress and had already spent a great deal of time trying to lower the tension that had been created by those words.
After air-balling and bricking a few more shots, the President continued:
While these are noble goals, they are not realistic for everyone. If everybody is aiming for the top, then most people are going to miss. Instead, maybe we should move the basket closer.
At this, the President did exactly that, and finally made a shot with more ease.
This is changing expectation from always shooting for the “best” to going for “good”. Sure, people will still miss this, but far fewer will, and we can better support them when they do because our resources will not be stretched as thin. And yes, the “best” will still find a way to rise to the top; I am not suggesting we hold back excellence for “fairness” or any such thing.
Whether the President’s dog and pony show was able to get through to Congress remains to be seen.
The above piece is an excerpt from the speculative fiction novel 254 Days to Impeachment: The Future History of the First Independent President by J.P. Prag, available at booksellers worldwide.
Learn more about author J.P. Prag at www.jpprag.com.
254 Days to Impeachment is a work of mixed fiction and nonfiction elements. With the fiction elements, any names, characters, places, events, and incidents that bear any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. For the nonfiction elements, no names have been changed, no characters invented, no events fabricated except for hypothetical situations.
About the Creator
J.P. Prag is the author of "Compendium of Humanity's End", "254 Days to Impeachment", "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and "In Defense Of...", and more! Learn more at www.jpprag.com.