Fall 2023 (21st Century Debate Research):

Mandatory National Service

Every few months (seasonally) the 21st Century Debate Institution releases a series of debate topics for students to debate at our online (and eventually in-person) events. 

This topic is for students learning “Skills” debate.

For more information about upcoming contests, and how you might participate, please use the “events calendar” from the above menu. Or you can click here: Upcoming Events.

[FALL 2023 (NOV-DEC)]
Public Forum Debate Topic

On-balance, mandatory national service in the U.S. would be desirable.


Mandatory national service (also called compulsory service) is a requirement that people serve in the military or complete other works of service. Modern propositions for compulsory service envision that young Americans could join the military or do civilian projects such as teaching in low-income areas, helping care for the elderly, or maintaining infrastructure, among other ideas.
Pro and Con: Mandatory National Service (Encyclopedia Britannica, November 22, 2021).

Benefits of Mandatory National Service (PRO):

  • Mandatory service would foster unity and bring people from diverse backgrounds together.
  • Compulsory service would save the government money and provide benefits to all citizens.
  • Performing national service would help young people mature and serve as a bridge to adulthood.

Harms of Mandatory National Service (CON):

  • National service doesn’t need to be mandatory because the volunteer system is booming.
  • A mandatory service program would be manipulated by the rich and unfairly harm others.
  • Mandating national service violates the constitution and would infringe on the freedom to choose what to do with our lives.


We ask that you watch all of the videos and read all of the articles and take light notes about the topic that you are researching. When everyone in class has watched/read the materials, it makes the learning better. We encourage students to do their own research in addition to the research provided (assuming you have time).

Required Research (Videos):

[Video] Service in the United States,
Khan Academy, September 1, 2020 [3 min].

[Video] Should [US] national service be mandatory?,
We Are the Mighty, May 30, 2018 [4 min].

[Video] Should we have mandatory military service?,
PBS News, July 30, 2018 [8 min].

Required Research (Articles):

[Article/PDF] …A national service program. Could it heal a divided country?, USA Today, April 17, 2019.

[Article/PDF] To Save Democracy, America Needs a Mandatory Public Service Program, Foreign Policy, October 31, 2021.

[Article/PDF] The Case for Mandatory National Service, New York Times, August 4, 2022.


Please consider watching/reading the following research areas in order to prepare for upcoming events.

Optional Research (Videos):

[Video] Should National Service Be Mandatory, Bipartisan Policy Center, August 13, 2013 [4 min].

Optional Research (Articles):

[Article] Mandatory National Service (Top 3 Pros and Cons), Pro-Con.org, Last Updated: July 8, 2021

[Article] Pro and Con: Mandatory National Service, Encyclopedia Britannica, July 8, 2021

[Article] Advantages & Disadvantages of Conscription, Environmental Conscience, Last Accessed: October 2023

[Article] The U.S. Army Has a Recruitment Problem. Here’s How to Solve It, TIME Magazine, March 7, 2023

[Article/PDF] 10 Meaningful Pros and Cons of Mandatory Military Service, Connect Us, July 26, 2018

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH (Evidence & Arguments)

Here are some potentially useful outlines for evidence, arguments, & rebuttals/rejoinders.

[T-Chart] 10 Meaningful Pros and Cons of Mandatory Military Service (Connect Us, July 26, 2018).

Contact Information

Bill Eddy,
Email: BillEddy@21stCenturyDebate.org
Phone: 714.655.8135 (I prefer text)

Note: When contacting me, please include your name and class information (day/time). Thanks

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