“Mandatory” Volunteerism: An Interview with Paul Saunders

by | Jul 25, 1998

Paul Saunders has been the President of Citizens Against Mandatory Service since its formation in 1990. Paul earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1970 and a Masters of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA) in 1977. Since 1970 Paul has worked as […]

Paul Saunders has been the President of Citizens Against Mandatory Service since its formation in 1990. Paul earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1970 and a Masters of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA) in 1977. Since 1970 Paul has worked as a semiconductor process and manufacturing engineer, engineering education administrator, and capital equipment buyer for Lucent Technologies. This interview was conducted by Margaret S. Sanchez.

CM: Mr. Saunders, could you describe your oganization and its goals?

Paul Saunders: Citizens Against Mandatory Service (CAMS) is a group of about twenty families, parents and children, who decided to vigorously fight the Bethlehem [Pennsylvania] Area School Board’s decision (April 30,1990) to make sixty hours of community service into a graduation requirement. This decision meant that even a brilliant class valedictorian with outstanding academic ability would be denied a diploma if they refused to practice the morality of self-sacrifice. This 1990 decision was moral dictatorship and my organization’s members vowed to fight it in every way they could. A valedictorian was denied a diploma in June 1997 when the Bethlehem Area School Board denied a diploma to valedictorian Kathie Moralis. My organization’s goals are:

1.) To get the mandatory servitude requirement removed from the Bethlehem Area School District.
2.) To provide an alternative graduation celebration for those students who oppose mandatory servitude.
3.) To fight intellectually against mandatory servitude in the media (press and television).
4.) To educate and help other communities to learn how to fight against mandatory servitude.

CM: I understand there is a house bill 1908 [Pennsylvania House Bill] in committee. Could you tell us what that bill is and its chances for passage?

PS: Pennsylvania House Bill 1908 requires that every high school in Pennsylvania adopt mandatory servitude into its graduation requirements with a minimum of twenty hours of servitude for each student during their four years of high school. Each school board can impose more hours of servitude if they so choose. My own representative, Lisa Boscola (D), does not believe the bill has much chance for passage since it had only ten sponsors on it originally which indicates that it is highly controversial. She believes that it will go into the education committee for study and be killed there. I am not so optimistic. I have no insight into Pennsylvania’s legislature and its operations, but I believe that the socialists behind the bill will sneak it through committee and onto the floor for a sudden middle of the night passage hidden as an amendment or package with another more vital piece oflegislation. Sleaziness and stealth have been used repeatedly by school boards across America to introduce mandatory servitude into the public schools.

CM: Are there any court challenges to “mandatory” volunteerism in Pennsylvania or other states?

PS: CAMS used $15,000. plus of its members money to pay to challenge mandatory servitude in federal court (District and 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals). The case was Steirer et. al. versus the Bethlehem Area School Board. Both courts upheld the school board on the grounds that the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution only prohibits involuntary servitude if you are black and in a southern plantation’s cotton field. They ruled that the student’s first amendment rights not to be forced to practice a government dictated morality were not violated because the students could drop out of public school and pay to go to private schools which do not require servitude. These irrational rulings never explained why in all prior first amendment public school cases (e.g., West Virginia State School Board vs. Barnette) the private school argument doesn’t equally apply. When CAMS’ money ran out a public interest law firm, The Institute for Justice, took our case pro bono and submitted a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme court to hear our case and hopefully reverse the lower courts. The U.S. Supreme court receives about two thousand petitions each year and the court only hears one to two hundred cases. The court refused to grant our petition. The Institute for Justice has two other federal case from New York and North Carolina working their way to the U.S. Supreme court. Lower courts have upheld school districts in both cases. One family from CAMS spent about $8,000. of their own money to challenge the Bethlehem program because it violated the Pennsylvania school code (the laws governing public education) and their Unitarian religious beliefs which are protected by specific language in the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court upheld the school district.

CM: It appears that “mandatory” volunteerism is underway in every state and that many high schools have established programs or are planning such programs. Does this wide acceptance of “mandatory volunteerism” make your work more difficult?

PS: The wide acceptance of mandatory servitude in today’s culture is the result of the marriage of two intellectual movements: Marxism and religion. Both groups accept the tenet that moral worth arises out of fulfilling your duty to live for others, which ultimately results in living for the state, the government. I have accepted from the outset that my work will take decades to achieve any major results. All that is possible in today’s culture is awakening the public to the fact that mandatory servitude violates the rational American values of: self-reliance, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, self-motivation — in a word selfishness.

CM: Do you think that the advocates of “mandatory” volunteerism just want children to help out the needy, or is their purpose really to get them to be politically active and thereby promoting certain, mainly, liberal agendas?

PS: The advocates for mandatory servitude are a broad collection parallel to the environmental movement where most servitude advocates just want kids to be kind and helpful toward others, but a small leadership group infuses the viciously evil principles and direction of the collective group toward the leaders’ goals. The leaders’ goals are establishment of a socialist state in America with every American totally dependent on the state. This is why the leadership doesn’t have any qualms about using force to make the students practice self-sacrifice. The leadership doesn’t want community service to eliminate need. They want to make every American needy. The school districts control the socialist agenda of the program through control of which service projects are approved or denied “credit.” However, since community service agencies are by their nature a socialist creation, the very act of forcing servitude in them forces participation in some form of socialist endeavor. In a North Carolina servitude program an Eagle Scout was denied credit for hours of community service that he had performed because that service was partially responsible for him earning him his Eagle Scout badge. These socialist ideologues cannot tolerate even the slightest smidgen of earned reward to contaminate the socialist purity of their program.

CM: American schools are doing such a poor job of educating children. What do you think will be the consequences of putting so much energy and money into “mandatory” volunteerism with regards to the goal of improving the public schools?

PS: Mandatory servitude will not harm the socialist monopoly which is public education because you cannot sink the Titanic twice. Public education has been in a downward spiral ever since John Dewey’s socialization philosophy of education beat out Maria Montessori’s education of the whole child philosophy of education at the turn of the century. The only way to save public education today is to destroy it utterly and replace it with private education tightly controlled by the parents of the students. We may have to keep centralized collection of school taxes around for a while to fund no-strings attached student vouchers until a system of education tax credits can be designed.

CM: President Clinton and other advocates of “mandatory” volunteerism say it would teach civics to children. What do you think would be a proper curriculum for a civics class in a free capitalistic society ?

PS: A capitalistic civics curriculum would consist of first learning the factual progression of governments from ancient tribal cultures through the present decaying Constitutional Republic of America with special focus on what ideas each governmental structure was based on and what ideas forced its decay and destruction or transition to a higher (i.e., more rational) form. This would be followed by an in-depth study of the successes and failures of the Ancient Greek democracy, some of which I only learned recently myself. Next I would perhaps have two solid years spent on studying the intertwining links between freedom of ideas and action in the Industrial revolution and the Enlightenment and the simultaneous rise of man’s standard of living with the rise of his personal freedom. Finally, I would have a capstone project for these students of designing the Constitution for a fully free and rational free market country including an analysis of what ideas will be the challenges to its implementation which the students will have to overcome to succeed.

CM: If the issue of “mandatory” volunteerism comes up in one’s local school district, what in your experience are the most effective things individuals can do to oppose this?

PS: The most destructive agent against mandatory servitude is exposure to the light of day and rational analysis. Most school districts sneak this program in quietly through collusion between school administrators and their elected puppets on the school board. As soon as you hear even whispers of a community service program in your district, immediately get yourself published in the local newspapers revealing that such a program is under consideration, stating what principles of individual rights it violates, and why you oppose it and are actively recruiting members for a group to fight its adoption. This, number one, alerts everyone in the community that something is up that they may want to oppose. Secondly, it gives your name as a contact to support and gather around to form an active group with multiple talents for a full scale press conference, picket and protest, angry speech campaign against the program. Thirdly it puts the socialist puppets who inhabit most public school boards on notice that big trouble might be coming at election time. Get each person who claims that they want to help you to either *commit* to writing at least a letter to the editor stating why they oppose the program or to shut up and stop wasting your time. Many people will waste your precious time telling you how they agree with your stand and then do absolutely nothing to help. Do not allow anyone to talk inside the group you form or to you personally who is not simultaneously doing something to move the ball downfield. Life is too precious and short to waste. Also as soon as practicable get your opposition program into the statewide and national media to widen the state and national recognition of how controversial this program is. This tends to chill the ardor for mandatory servitude of the more timid school boards and provides to less articulate opponents of mandatory servitude the weapon of controversiality to use as a reason to oppose it on their own school board. Do not waste your time and money like CAMS did actually incorporating your group as a for profit corporation.

If you have questions for Mr. Saunders and would like to know more about his organization, Citizens Against Mandatory Service, please contact him at: [email protected]

Web Sites

The Campaign Against Servitude [ARI]

Margaret S. Sanchez is a contributing writer to Capitalism Magazine.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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