Required Service

Can character development be made a prerequisite for graduation? Chicago's school officials think so. Like a few other districts across the country, the city has added a requirement that all high school students take part in public service work, at least 40 hours before they graduate.

The goal of instilling a sense of community is admirable. But objections have been pointed. How will schools administer the program, keeping tabs on students and helping find public-service opportunities? Will youngsters really gain a spirit of volunteerism and service if they are, in effect, forced to serve?

The latter question applies, equally well, to college-bound students who put in public service hours because they, or their parents, know it looks good on their applications.

But the experience of helping others, we suspect, tends to wash away crasser motives. It can't help but do high schoolers, and those they aid, a lot of good. Credit Chicago for taking up the challenge.

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