In the Arena

McChrystal’s New Mission

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Steven Senne / AP

General Stan McChrystal made an important statement in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

He announced an ambitious new plan for serious national service. The plan—the Franklin Project—was hatched under aegis of the Aspen Institute and it’s about the best I’ve seen in many years of lobbying for a robust form of service—and I make a distinction between service, which is full-time, tough and challenging, and volunteerism, which is admirable but not all-consuming.

In the coming weeks, I’ll elaborate on the many reasons we need a rigorous progam to provide a coming-of-age ritual that will transform boys and girls into men and women (and it’s especially important for boys). There will be a summit to discuss the implementation of the Franklin plan in late June.

For the moment, congratulations are in order for McChrystal who, I’m told, has been pushing for the most intense form of service in the Franklin Project’s internal deliberations. This effort is, I believe, crucial to the future of our democracy.

11 comments
kellyjo5150
kellyjo5150

First time in quite awhile I have agreed with Joe Klein.  Boys are different and they need this or the equivalent.  It's good for girls too but essential for boys to get out, get challenged and get going.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord like.author.displayName 1 Like

When you do discuss it, please make sure you explain this line:

"and it’s especially important for boys"

I would love to know why boys need a coming of age ritual and girls do not.

marsattacks64
marsattacks64 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@forgottenlord

I don't think he's implying girls don't need help, just that boys need it more.  I might be mistaken, but I believe women have been earning more college degrees for quite awhile and are less likely to commit a violent crime.  I think there are a lot of boys in this country that need direction.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@marsattacks64

I'm partial to some variations of the argument - yours included - and if Joe wishes to make that argument, I'm willing to listen.  Far too often, however, it is a condescending retool of gender roles argument and the belief that women define their lives by the families they build while men define their lives by what they accomplish and so men need a coming-of-age ritual to give them early accomplishments to own while women just need to get around to getting pregnant.  In reality, family is a form of accomplishment and it doesn't matter whether it's men or women, they both need accomplishments to call their own and part of the reason families are being started later is because women crave being able to choose their own accomplishment - choosing to not just be restricted to a specific type of accomplishment - just as more and more men are choosing to make family the glowing accomplishment in their life.

(BTW: Women earn only modestly more college degrees - about 55-45 with some variation from year to year.  However, men counterbalance this by being more able to earn a living in blue collar industries where the only consistently demonstrated female limitation - upper body strength - is relevant.  Focusing on the higher rates of violent crime amongst men mask the number of women who end up in equally destructive lifestyles that lead to perpetual property and are caused by the same lack of direction - only it tends to result in them having a family far before they're necessarily prepared for one.  Also, there's huge questions about whether these coming of age rituals even work but that's another debate for a whole other day.)

destor23
destor23

@marsattacks64 @forgottenlord What do you mean by "need help?"  The people who would be Shanghai'd into this sort of program are not receiving help, they are giving it.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@destor23

I think he means being "taught" responsibility/etc.  Basically, he's arguing that boys need something to encourage them to be mature while girls are mature by default.

gysgt213
gysgt213 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

This is the beauty of being one of the elites.  They can fire you, refused to re elect you, even send you to jail.  But, you never ever have to actually go away.  The media will find you and cheerfully report on what you are up to now.  That's if they don't hire you first.  At the very worst you might have to wait until a new administration comes along forgets all the crazy you were involved in and hires you.

B.Carter
B.Carter like.author.displayName 1 Like

Gen. McChrystal's initiative is the best idea I have seen in quite some time, and I whole heartedly support it. Many industrialized countries have a National Service Program that is widely embraced and supported and the US should as well.  

destor23
destor23 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

McCrystal's article refutes itself.  Many more people would like positions with Americorps or the Peace Corps. than are available under current funding.  So, expand the funding and those who want to do that will be able to.  There is no reason to make it mandatory, either legally or through social cajoling.  So long as enough people want to participate in these programs voluntarily, the only issue is whether or not we are adequately funding the programs.  Your national service doesn't need a decree.  People will do it, if you let them.  Also, people won't just do it when they're 18.  Instead of making it a right of passage, a well funded voluntary system where people serve whenever they feel the calling to do so, will bring more diverse and effective solutions to the problems that public service is meant to address.

tommyudo
tommyudo like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@destor23


Looking at Joe Klein's Wiki page, I have one question "Where was your coming of age ritual Joe"? Was it when you wrote for Rolling Stone or the Real Paper in Cambridge?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Klein

It hints of Cheney's Vietnam era experience -  "I had other priorities." A domestic version of the Peace Corps is a good idea, but nothing should be mandatory. We're not Isreal. Of course, it's a concept that you will never get the GOP on board with, because with a domestic corps they wouldn't be carrying guns, and might be doing something useful, like helping people worse off than themselves. That's not part of the GOP playbook. It would show that "we're all in this together" which to the Right is another way of saying "socialism."

destor23
destor23

@tommyudo Interesting how Joe wants the experience to be "all consuming," for those required to do it while he was allowed to spend his formative years devoting time to the craft that has sustained him.  Maybe contemporary youth would like the same freedoms Joe had.