War and Peace: Militarizing Our Youth

Today is another Blog Action Day over at Green Change.  The theme for today is War and Peace.  This is a timely connection to the 7th anniversary of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Coalition Forces and the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   I have chosen to focus my war and peace report on military recruiting in schools.  The militarization of our youth is big business and it starts in our public schools. 

To begin, here is a 2007 video made by Working Assets and Mainstreet Moms called Leave My Child Alone.

I first learned about the clause in the No Child Left Behind Act  (incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) about giving student information to recruiters when my son was still in high school.  I wrote this piece on Chlorophyll  back in 2006:

No Child Left Unrecruited

Many folks may not be aware that there is a tiny clause buried in the "No Child Left Behind" Act (NCLB) that requires schools to give military recruiters access to high school student records upon request…..or face losing funding. Here is the section in the NCLB:

(1) ACCESS TO STUDENT RECRUITING INFORMATION- Notwithstanding section 444(a)(5)(B) of the General Education Provisions Act and except as provided in paragraph (2), each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school students names, addresses, and telephone listings.
(2) CONSENT- A secondary school student or the parent of the student may request that the student’s name, address, and telephone listing described in paragraph (1) not be released without prior written parental consent, and the local educational agency or private school shall notify parents of the option to make a request and shall comply with any request.
(3) SAME ACCESS TO STUDENTS- Each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as is provided generally to post secondary educational institutions or to prospective employers of those students.
(b) NOTIFICATION- The Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, notify principals, school administrators, and other educators about the requirements of this section.
(c) EXCEPTION- The requirements of this section do not apply to a private secondary school that maintains a religious objection to service in the Armed Forces if the objection is verifiable through the corporate or other organizational documents or materials of that school.
(d) SPECIAL RULE- A local educational agency prohibited by Connecticut State law (either explicitly by statute or through statutory interpretation by the State Supreme Court or State Attorney General) from providing military recruiters with information or access as required by this section shall have until May 31, 2002, to comply with that requiremen


When the NCLB first came out, I proceeded to begin reading it online. I came across the provision above and immediately wrote an opt-out letter to my son’s school. It was honored. I was contacted by a local newspaper reporter who was doing an article on this issue and through his investigation I discovered that I was the ONLY parent in our entire school district (the largest in Utah at the time) that had opted out. Amazing.
(NOTE: However, thanks to our wonderful former Governor, Mike Leavitt, who became the head of the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services [2005-2009], when a person in Utah  applies for a state i.d. or drivers license, he/she must agree to be registered for the Selective Service or forfeit receiving the i.d./drivers license….so my son ended up getting recruiting info in the mail anyway.)

I have since been educating as many people as I can about this.  I have  organized film screenings of Arlington West and have made sure I had opt out forms for folks to give to high school students and their parents.

I was curious about the stance of Greens on this issue and came across these articles. There are probably more, so please let me know your state party’s position on this.
Greens urge Congress to repeal the provision
Military Recruiters: Stop marketing war to our children
Other positions by Greens on the overall NCLB:
NCLB nonsense flunks BC horse sense and Yale report

It is no secret that Military Recruiters use deceitful tactics to lure youth into their organizations.  There have been many exposés by the media about this.  Here is a video about how recruiters lie to youth:

The military has an active presence in our schools.  Numerous schools have the Army JROTC in them.  The JROTC cannot claim it is recruiting for the military due to provisions in the UN Convention for the Protection of Children which prohibits military recruiting of youth under 16.  The target audience tends to be disenfranchised youth who become mesmerized by the razzle and dazzle.  More information on that can be viewed here and here.  There is an excellent post on The MIlitarization of Public Schools here.

Sherwood Ross wrote a 2008 article at Big Bear Observation post entitled  America’s Child Soldiers: US Military Recruiting Children in which he says,

In some cities, such as Los Angeles, high school administrators have been enrolling reluctant students involuntarily in JROTC as an alternative to overcrowded gym classes! In Lincoln high school, enrollees were not told JROTC was involuntary. In Buffalo, N.Y., the entire incoming freshman class at Hutchinson Central Technical High School, (average age 14), was involuntarily enrolled in JROTC. In Chicago, graduating eighth graders (average age 13) are allowed to join any of 45 JROTC programs.

“Wartime enlistment quotas (for Iraq and Afghanistan) have placed increased pressure on military recruiters to fill the ranks of the armed services,” an ACLU report says. Trying to fill its quotas without reinstituting a draft “has contributed to a rise in…allegations of misconduct and abuse by recruiters” that “often goes unchecked.”

The Pentagon also spends about $6 million a year to flog an online video game called “America’s Army” to attract children as young as 13, “train them to use weapons, and engage in virtual combat and other military missions…learn how to fire realistic Army weapons such as automatic rifles and grenade launchers and learn how to jump from airplanes,” the ACLU reports. As of Sept., 2006, 7.5 million users were registered on the game’s website, which is linked to the Army’s main recruiting website.

The Army Experience Center  has a Facebook forum for the organization of the same name.  The AEC spends millions of dollars providing "real" experiences to youth for free in the form of games.  The AEC’s info on its FB page states:

Providing unique insight into the life of a Soldier, the Army Experience Center is an unparalleled interactive experience, designed and built by the world’s premier land force—the United States Army.
Come test drive the Army in the world’s first and only interactive Army facility. The Army Experience Center is home to three mission simulators—the Apache, the Black Hawk and the HMMWV—touch-screen Career Navigators, a Gaming Arena with Xbox 360 and PC stations, a Tactical Operations Center, and the Global Base Locator, a touch-screen that lets visitors explore Army bases around the world.

Many schools require the administration of the ASVAB test (more below).

My efforts and pursuits over the years have led me to Maryland Green Party member and voice against recruiting in schools, Pat Elder, who is an active participant in the United for Peace and Justice anti-recruiting program and who has engaged in civil disobedience and countless other activities to counter the recruitment efforts in schools.  Recently he has been informing people of legislation in Maryland that will prohibit military testing for recruiting purposes in schools.  He writes:

A crucial Maryland Senate committee unanimously approved a bill to prohibit military testing for recruiting purposes in that state, paving the way for passage of the Student Privacy Protection Act.  Senator Jaimie Raskin, who introduced the legislation, said the measure was needed because the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (ASVAB) was being administered in
Maryland’s high schools without parental consent and results from the test were being forwarded to military recruiters. The bill calls for the selection of Recruiter Release Option 8 for all Maryland students taking the test. An identical measure unanimously passed a House committee last week. Today’s vote virtually assures passage of the bill.  Maryland will become the first state in the country to pass a law to protect the privacy of students who take the ASVAB.  There was no opposition to the measure.

Testimony from several supporters of the bill explained the rationale for the legislation.  Elbridge James, a spokesman for the MD NAACP said that parents of high school students should be ultimately responsible for the release of private information to third parties rather than the military. Rion Dennis from Progressive Maryland corrected a widely held misperception
by explaining that the Opt-out provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act do not cover the release of ASVAB information. Testimony from Cindy Boersma of the MD ACLU underscored the infringement of civil rights with the administration of the test and Merry Eisner of the MD PTA offered testimony similar to the NAACP, explaining that parents in Maryland do not wish to relinquish their right to control their children’s information to the Pentagon.

The bill’s chief proponent, The Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, has waged their lobbying campaign stressing the advantages of the ASVAB as an excellent career exploration tool, praising the military for developing this fine program for the state’s schools.  The campaign has operated completely under the radar screen and has attracted no media attention.

Maryland Governor O’Malley is expected to sign the measure once it is passed by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly, by the end of the 2nd week of April

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is up for reauthorization.  The blueprint was just released last week.  It is not clear yet whether the military recruiting clause will remain in the Act.

Schools need to be sure to provide alternatives to military recruiters when planning career fairs and include organizations that will provide clear and accurate information to students and parents.

Shooting ranges, war, salutes, violence, chants, goose-stepping, flag carrying, twirling guns, weapons….. Education needs to be a safe haven for our children, not a market for the military in which to target vulnerable youth. 

Other sources:
Coaltiion for Alternatives to Miltiarism in our Schools
American Friends Service Committee
Code Pink
House women take aim at aggressive military recruitment in schools

Military Testing in Schools Dealt Setback by Public Concerns
FAQ’s about NCLB and military recruiting
Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment (F.A.M.E.)
Ya Ya Network
Green Party of the United States
Peace Corps