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How do we teach our young people to engage in constructive dialogue and find common purpose across lines of race, class, religion, and politics? In this era of polarization, the ideal of the common school where children of all walks of life learn together can seem somewhat quaint and unattainable. Given the geographic and demographic limitations of our K–12 schools, I wonder if it is time to reconsider an idea often floated but never adopted: one year of mandatory community service after high school (sometimes called “national service,” but it need not be “national” in design or governance), designed to assemble young people across lines of difference to work together in food banks, afterschool programs, youth centers, veterans’ facilities, health clinics, and other areas of community need. Through a shared, hands-on experience of public service, our youth can learn to appreciate differences, build bridges, respect one another, and understand their role in strengthening our democracy. Might this one day become part of a sound basic education, if we take seriously the preparation of our children for responsible and effective citizenship?

The Restatement, appropriately, does not venture beyond the K–12 framework in defining a sound basic education because courts and legislatures have not done so. But the Restatement, also appropriately, elucidates a deeper thread in our treatment of children—what Professor Scott calls the developmental approach—which straddles the duality, inherent in any Restatement, of what is and what ought to be. Our world is ever changing, and the developmental needs of our youth change too. Structures and standards that were once suitable may become inadequate over time. There may come a day when a sound basic education encompasses not only primary and secondary education in their current forms, but also a well-developed opportunity infrastructure during early childhood and beyond high school. That day may come sooner than we think, given the needs of our children and the society they will inherit. If so, this treatise will stand up well, for one hallmark of an insightful restatement is that it not only states the law as it is, but also, in its explication, marks the path of its own transcendence.