The call for a national academy to train leaders for the public sector is gaining momentum among politicians; however, supporters have yet to explain why a finishing school for politicians produces better leaders than real-world experience.

In the Sept. 10 issue of Time, Richard Stengel argues that community engagement should be a countrywide rite of passage and that the U.S. Public Service Academy would make civic engagement a national value.

The academy envisioned by Stengel and others would be a breeding ground for future politicians, providing “a focused education for people who will serve in the public sector – either the federal, state or local government and thereby create a new generation of civic leaders.”

It would be to civil service what West Point and Annapolis are to military service, according to a pro-Academy Web site.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton supports the idea. According Stengel, she and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., are co-sponsoring legislation that would fund it. The four-year Academy would be free, but attendees would be committed to five years of public service upon


Supporters like Clinton fail to see that it is more likely such an academy will estrange the government from the governed rather than

foster civic engagement.

Attendees at the Academy would be specifically groomed to serve the American public and “confront the challenges that face this country in the future.”

Such a mission sets the stage for a selectively picked cadre of individuals who are little more than career politicians. It creates a system where the educational and vocational knowledge of future leaders is limited to the rules of political advancement.

One must ask how exactly a

student would be taught to serve and confront challenges any differently than the typical


Students of economics and environmental science and policy likely have the intellectual tools to address the issue of energy independence, as education majors have the background to toss around a few ideas on fixing public schools.

The same follows for doctors on health care, civil engineers on roads and so on through the disciplines and professions.

This is because environmental scientists, economists, educators, doctors and engineers have studied or experienced firsthand the issues pertaining to their field of study and employment.

As currently envisioned, a national-service academy would not re-create this experience. Instead, it would train “leaders” who likely have not received the training one needs to lead a medical team in an ER, the board of a corporation or even a small business.