Civic Literacy Curriculum
This curriculum guide is intended to cover question 72.
Q72A: Why is it important for all men age 18 to 25 to register for the Selective Service?
A. Required by law
B. Civic duty
C. Makes a draft fair
D. All of the above
Q72B: How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
A. Sixteen (16)
B. Eighteen (18)
C. Twenty-One (21)
D. There is no minimum voting age
The Selective Service is the program in which all males in the United States between the age of 18 and 25 (so up to their 26th birthday) are required to register for a program of potential military conscription (being drafted to serve in the military). Registration is required by law as a part of one’s civic duty, and is intended to ensure a draft would be fair.
The first military draft in the United States occurred during the Civil War, but the Selective Service program itself was formed in 1917 as part of the draft for World War I. The program was phased out with the end of the war but it was restored in 1940 and, with some modification, continued until the draft was discontinued in stages between 1972 and 1975. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter restored the program, although not the draft itself; the American military today is an all-volunteer institution.
There have been occasional calls to eliminate the Selective Service—that it is an unnecessary expense with an all-volunteer service, as well as that forced registration (to say nothing of a potential draft) violates freedom. However, the program remains in effect, in case a draft becomes necessary to help defend the country.
Requiring men to register for military service is one way for a nation to make sure that it has enough men to serve in times of national crisis. It’s not without its critics, however; one set of critics arguing it was wrong to draft them but not let them vote led to the 26th amendment. This activity allows the students to discuss the voting age and Selective Service.
- Provide each student with a copy of the reading, the 26th Amendment, Voting Age, and Selective Service.
- Provide each student with the 3-2-1 worksheet.
- A rubric is available if this is a graded activity.
The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes a rubric.
- This activity works well as an individual assignment. However, depending on the age and/or skills level of the students, you may want to have them work in pairs.
- If that is the case, divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C).
- Explain to the students that today they are going to read about the voting age and how it interacted with the Selective Service.
- After they complete the reading, they will fill out a 3-2-1 Worksheet where they write down three facts that they learned, two questions that they have, and one opinion.
- Circulate throughout the room to help students as needed.
- If you wish, once the students complete the worksheet, use it as a springboard into a class discussion, using not just the 3-2-1 prompt that students can share, but also the questions at the end of the 26th Amendment handout.
Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting.
- The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question.
- The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events and historical events.
The draft ended in the 1970s and the U.S. military became one staffed entirely by volunteers. This means that everyone who enlists does so voluntarily and not because the government forced him or her to enlist. The Selective Service remains in effect, however, as a backup, just in case there is conflict and additional troops are needed.
The Selective Service requires all men within a certain age range to register so that, if necessary, they can be called upon to serve during times of war. What is this age range? What is the reason for this requirement?
While there are some calls to eliminate the Selective Service, others take the opposite position, that there should be a period of universal service at the age of 18. This could entail service in the military (with some allowances for conscientious objectors), as exists in other countries. Others have suggested it could be broader (such as teaching in underprivileged schools). Should a program like this be mandatory, or should, as is now, people choose to serve, or not?
The voting age was lowered during the Vietnam War because it was believed that those who fought and died for the nation deserved the right to vote. Do you agree with that basic idea that the two should go together? If not, why not? If so, why, and do you think that the right response was to set the voting age lower—or the draft age higher? Use current and past events to support your answer.