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The Politics and Civics of National Service

Lessons from the Civilian Conservation Corps, VISTA, and AmeriCorps

Melissa Bass

Publication Year: 2013

In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt created America's first domestic national service program: the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). As part of this program —the largest and most highly esteemed of its kind —nearly three million unemployed men worked to rehabilitate, protect, and build the nation's natural resources. It demonstrated what citizens and government could accomplish together. Yet despite its success, the CCC was short lived. While more controversial programs such as President Johnson's Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and President Clinton's AmeriCorps survived, why did CCC die? And why —given the hard-won continuation and expansion of AmeriCorps —is national service an option for fewer Americans today than at its start nearly eighty years ago?

In The Politics and Civics of National Service, Melissa Bass focuses on the history, current relevance, and impact of domestic civilian national service. She explains why such service has yet to be deeply institutionalized in the United States; while military and higher education have solidified their roles as American institutions, civilian national service is still not recognized as a long-term policy option. Bass argues that only by examining these programs over time can we understand national service's successes and limitations, both in terms of its political support and its civics lessons.

The Politics and Civics of National Service furthers our understanding of American political development by comparing programs founded during three distinct political eras —the New Deal, theGreat Society, and the early Clinton years —and tracing them over time. To a remarkable extent, the CCC, VISTA, and AmeriCorps reflect the policymaking ethos and political controversies of their times, illuminating principles that hold well beyond the field of national service. By emphasizing these programs' effects on citizenship and civic engagement, The Politics and Civics of National Service deepens our understanding of how governmental programs can act as "public policy for democracy."

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front Cover

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p. 1-1

Inside Flap

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pp. 2-5

Title Page

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p. 6-6

Copyright Information

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pp. 7-9

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

The Political Scientist as Democrat” are the words that open David Adamany’s introduction to E. E. Schattschneider’s The Semi-Sovereign People.1 In his essay, Adamany writes of “Schattschneider’s insistence that scholarship aid Americans in self-government by addressing itself to the theory and practice of democracy.”2 ...

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1. Introduction: National Service as Public Policy for Democracy

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pp. 1-10

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush encouraged Americans to go shopping and to visit Disneyland. At a time when the president enjoyed near-universal support for his handling of the crisis, this bully pulpit directive fell conspicuously flat. ...

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2. Citizenship and the Elements of Policy Design

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pp. 11-34

In the United States the idea of national service has long been contested, always the exception rather than the rule.1 But there have been exceptions: members of the military service, some conscripted, have ably defended the nation. To channel martial energy into peaceful pursuits, the philosopher William James advocated waging a “moral equivalent of war.” ...

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Part One: The Civilian Conservation Corps

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pp. 35-36

Drive through almost any American state or national park and most likely you will find a marker commemorating the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. For nine years—from 1933 to 1942—the CCC put over three million unemployed men to work rehabilitating, protecting, and building America’s natural resources; ...

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3. The CCC's Roots and Relationships

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pp. 37-41

In his first inaugural address, President Roosevelt declared that the “nation asks for action, and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work.”1 Within a month and a day, the promise of action yielded the Emergency Conservation Work program, better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. ...

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4. The CCC's Purpose and Government's Role

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pp. 42-55

A program such as the CCC comprises multiple, overlapping elements that influence its political support and viability and communicate lessons to participants and the public, in large part through policy feedback dynamics. In short, these elements shape the politics and civics of the program, which in turn influence future policy development. ...

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5. The CCC's Tools, Rules, and Targets

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pp. 56-78

Like its purpose and role for government, the CCC’s tools, rules, and targets—the service work it supported, its educational goals and content, the type of participants it recruited, and its obligations and inducements— influenced its political support and viability and communicated lessons to participants and the public, in large part through policy feedback dynamics. ...

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Part Two: Volunteers in Service to America

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pp. 79-80

Since 1965 more than 170,000 Americans have served in the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), working to combat poverty in the United States. VISTA is the nation’s longest-running domestic civilian national service program; it continues today as part of AmeriCorps. ...

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6. VISTA's Roots and Relationships

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pp. 81-87

“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” With these words President John F. Kennedy called America to national service. And while Kennedy’s national service legacy is tied to the Peace Corps, he also laid the groundwork for what became, under Lyndon Johnson, Volunteers in Service to America. ...

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7. VISTA's Purpose and Government's Role

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pp. 88-113

A program such as VISTA comprises multiple, overlapping elements that influence its political support and viability and communicate lessons to participants and the public, in large part through policy feedback dynamics. In short, these elements shape the politics and civics of the program, which in turn influence future policy development. ...

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8. VISTA's Tools, Rules, and Targets

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pp. 114-146

Like VISTA’s purpose and role for government, its tools, rules, and targets— the service work it supported, its educational goals and content, the type of participants it recruited, and its obligations and inducements— influenced its political support and viability and communicated lessons to participants and the public, in large part through policy feedback dynamics. ...

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Part Three: AmeriCorps

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pp. 147-148

Since 1994 more than 775,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps, working to meet the nation’s pressing educational, public safety, health, environmental, and other needs. AmeriCorps both drew on and is distinct from its predecessors: it incorporated VISTA as one of its programs, ...

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9. AmeriCorps's Roots and Relationships

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pp. 149-159

In his first inaugural address, Bill Clinton challenged “a new generation of young people to a season of service.”1 Seven months later, he signed the legislation creating AmeriCorps to help them do just that.2 Housed in the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNS or CNCS), it has three components: ...

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10. AmeriCorps's Purpose and Government's Role

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pp. 160-195

All programs, AmeriCorps included, are composed of multiple, overlapping elements that influence their political support and viability and communicate lessons to participants and the public, in large part through policy feedback dynamics. In short, these elements shape the politics and civics of the program, which in turn influence future policy development. ...

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11. AmeriCorps's Tools, Rules, and Targets

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pp. 196-226

Along with its purpose and role for government, AmeriCorps’s tools, rules, and targets—the service work it supports, its educational goals and content, the type of participants it recruits, and its obligations and inducements— influence its political support and viability and communicate lessons to participants and the public, in large part through policy feedback dynamics. ...

Part Four: Conclusion

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pp. 227-228

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12. Making Sense of the Past and Its Lessons for the Future

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pp. 229-248

In the United States, domestic civilian national service has been difficult to create and just as hard to maintain and expand. The CCC was America’s first, largest, most highly esteemed, and most explicitly civic of national service programs, but it was also the shortest-lived. VISTA was, and remains, our longest-existing program, but also our smallest and most controversial. ...

Notes

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pp. 249-294

Index

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pp. 295-304

Back Cover

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p. 322-322


E-ISBN-13: 9780815723813
E-ISBN-10: 0815723814
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815723806

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013