The U.S. Public Service Academy is a hot topic over at GovernmentExecutive.com, the “premier Web site for federal managers and executives.”

Check out the GovExec blog post about the Academy here, and be sure to check out the discussion going on in the comments thread, available here.

Filed under Academy in the Blogosphere by Ashley Slate Quigley on 12 May 2007
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Academy in the Blogosphere

Buzz about the U.S. Public Service Academy continues to grow, and the blogosphere is paying attention. Here are just a couple of the bloggers that are writing about the Academy:

Crooks and Liars Blog
“I would hazard a guess that the need for people to work towards a better society is even greater now than it was in 1960. One need only look at the Gulf Coast to know that the work that would formerly been done by the government will not be done without individual help.”

Read more here.

“An educational environment where every class impacts policy issues relevant to the course material provides a very different perspective, one that would lead to more qualified public servants.” [from the comments]

Read more, including a provocative exchange in the comments section, here.

Filed under Academy in the Blogosphere by Ashley Slate Quigley on 04 May 2007
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Reader Response: The Tenure Question

As the Academy’s Blueprint Advisory Board develops the academic program for the future U.S. Public Service Academy, certain controversial issues continue to arise again and again. One of the most contentious topics to date has been the idea of faculty tenure.

Should the Academy embrace tenure as part of the faculty hiring process, or should it pursue a different model? Instead of tenure, for example, the Academy could offer three or six-year renewable contracts.

Here are some of the arguments to consider when evaluating this issue:

Pro Tenure
– Tenure safeguards academic freedom, which is particularly important at an institution created by Congress.
– Tenure provides a non-monetary benefit to prospective faculty members, making a faculty position more desirable without increasing the cost of the position.
– Offering tenure makes the position more attractive, thus ensuring that top-quality candidates will apply. Many new Ph.D.s, particularly those from top programs, will not even consider applying for a position that is not on the tenure track.

– Tenure is an anachronism does not meet the needs of an adaptive, 21st century college. It artificially binds the hands of administrators and can saddle the college with poor performing faculty members.
– Tenure in itself does not protect academic freedom — there are many ways to preserve academic freedom without using the tenure process.
– Tenure creates “haves” and “have nots” on a faculty, which can undermine morale and collegiality.

The NEA’s Higher Education division has compiled a collection of resources that are useful when evaluating this very important issue. Click here to see their thorough article list.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Which arguments do you find most compelling? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Filed under Reader Response by Ashley Slate Quigley on 23 Apr 2007
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Do We Really Need a Public Service Academy?

No new idea is ever met with unanimous praise. When others express doubts about the Academy mission, those opinions can help us to refine our thinking and check our assumptions as we move forward. Because we think the Academy is an idea whose time has come, however, we also feel confident responding to critics in instances when we respectfully disagree.

One of the criticisms most frequently levied against the Academy plan asserts that, since America has existing undergraduate and graduate programs in public administration, there is no need for a publicly-funded institution with a primary mission of civilian service to country. Here’s an example of such a charge, taken from the Cato Institute’s official blog, Cato@Liberty:

Proponents of [the Academy] idea note on their website that, “the federal government offers only one set of undergraduate institutions for high school seniors with the patriotic desire to serve their country: the military service academies.”

That may be true, but there are plenty of educational options for those who wish to pursue such a career. Why should taxpayers be responsible for an additional $205 million a year for a new public service academy when hundreds and hundreds of colleges and universities already offer public service programs?

An excellent question!, we say. We’re so glad you asked. Here’s Academy co-founder Chris Myers Asch’s response:

“Taxpayers should invest in the Public Service Academy both because it will be more effective than existing colleges at developing strong civilian leaders and because it will send a powerful symbolic message about the importance of public service.

The Academy’s curriculum and five-year post-graduation service requirement have no civilian parallel. Because it will offer a free education to students who make a commitment to service, the Academy will be able to develop an intensive curriculum with more requirements for internships, community service, and mandatory coursework (including study abroad) than other schools can. No civilian college could require or enforce a five-year post-graduation service commitment. This rigorous, service-focused curriculum will produce students who are better equipped for a lifetime of public service leadership.

Public service programs at existing colleges tend to affect small portions of the student body and rarely alter the general campus ethos that values individualism and materialism over public service. A recent study by the Financial Times revealed that even at programs ostensibly devoted to public service, such as Columbia’s School of Public Affairs, the percentage of graduates going into public service has dropped by 50% in a generation. We must do better. The Academy will be able to create a culture of service because it will be devoted solely to the goal of developing public leaders. Like cadets at the military academies, Academy graduates will form strong bonds during the course of four years of service-oriented training. They will be unified by a shared sense of mission that will span across graduating classes, creating an invaluable network of people who can share knowledge and experiences.

Finally, boldness matters. If you want to capture the imagination of a younger generation, you have to be bold. When JFK and Sargent Shriver first sought to develop the Peace Corps, all of the “experts” suggested doing something within existing institutions, something less bold but seemingly safer. Kennedy and Shriver rejected that because they understood that young people would be attracted by two things: 1) the power of a “corps,” a program that unites people into a shared culture of service; and 2) the importance of an identity that comes from having an independent institution. Like the Peace Corps, the Academy can become the defining institution of our generation, our collective response to the challenges of the twenty-first century.”

If any more readers out there want to jump in and join the Academy dialogue, we welcome you.

Filed under Uncategorized by Ashley Slate Quigley on 14 Apr 2007

Reader Response: Should Academy Students Wear Uniforms?

Currently, the USPSA Blueprint Advisory Board is developing its second draft of the Blueprint, a document that will guide the creation of the Academy once the legislation is passed.

The creation of a meaningful Blueprint will require serious discussion about a wide range of issues. Everything — admissions requirements, curriculum, sports teams, tenure — is on the table at this point. This period stands as a unique opportunity for those who love the Academy idea to play a crucial role in its establishment. We genuinely want and need to hear input from you.

To this end, this blog will be offering up a series of “Reader Response” posts, each of which will focus on a particular aspect of the Academy. The comments logged here will be read and seriously considered by those who are responsible for guiding the direction of the Academy. This is your chance to be involved in the formation of America’s next great institution.

On the table this week: Should Academy students wear uniforms?

Although the USPSA will be a civilian college, the official proposal states that “the campus
ethos and daily pace of life will be more akin to a military academy than a typical liberal arts college.” As the civilian counterpart to the military academy model, some have suggested that the Academy should require its students to wear uniforms as a widely-recognized sign of their commitment to service.

What do you think?

Filed under Reader Response by Ashley Slate Quigley on 06 Apr 2007

Setting the Vision at Wingspread

At the end of February, nearly three dozen Academy supporters gathered at the beautiful Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, to lay out the vision for the institution’s future. Though winter’s chill whipped around them, conference participants generated plenty of their own energy. Among other topics, they set ambitious goals for Academy recruitment, curriculum, student life, post-graduation placement, funding, and outreach. Academy leaders called the weekend “a turning point” in the institution’s brief history, and the ideas generated at Wingspread will no doubt be debated and discussed for years to come.

Those are the basic facts about the conference. Now we want to hear from you!

For those of you who attended the USPSA weekend at Wingspread, what were some of the defining moments of the gathering? Can you give us a sense of the Academy’s direction and momentum?

We’re also looking for a confirmation or denial of the rumor that everyone’s talking about: Did notoriously hard-core Academy co-founder Chris Myers Asch really plunge into the icy waters of Lake Michigan, thereby becoming an honorary member of the Polar Bear Club? Inquiring minds want to know.

As always, we welcome your comments and questions.

Filed under Uncategorized by Ashley Slate Quigley on 02 Apr 2007

Academy Bill Officially Introduced

Delays. Room changes. Scheduling conflicts.

Formidable opponents all, yet no hindrance was able to deny the Public Service Academy its moment in the spotlight. On Thursday, March 22, 2007, in the presence of several dozen Academy supporters, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Arlen Specter, Rep. James Moran, and Rep. Christopher Shays officially introduced the Public Service Academy Act. The assembled crowd also heard from Irasema Salcido, principal of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, AnnMaura Connolly of City Year, and Academy co-founders Chris Myers Asch and Shawn Raymond.

In her opening remarks, Sen. Clinton reiterated the need for a public service academy, reminding the audience that “when Americans can serve, Americans do serve.” She also urged her colleagues in the House and Senate to put the bill on a “fast track” to authorization.

The U.S. Public Service Academy Act is now officially known by the bill number S.960 in the Senate and H.R. 1671 in the House.

If you weren’t able to attend the press conference, check out the video footage below, courtesy of Sen. Clinton’s website.

Still wish you could have been there? Check out the Washington Post’s coverage of the event, or view the write-up on Sen. Clinton’s website.

You can also read the full text of the legislation by following the links available here.

Thanks to all of you who’ve supported the Academy on this first leg of the journey. There’s a lot more to come…

Filed under Academy in the News & Legislation Update by Ashley Slate Quigley on 28 Mar 2007