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Military Push in Schools

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By Jo Ann Zimmerman

Uncle Sam wants your children--and thanks to our public schools, he knows how to find them.

A little-known provision of President George Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation requires all public schools, along with private schools that receive federal money, to provide military recruiters with "directory information" about all students age 16-24.

This includes students' names, addresses, and phone numbers, even those of minor children.

As enlistment levels have fallen since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiters have increasingly depended on schools to supply them with soldiers. As of 2005, the number of student records in files maintained by NCLB was 4 million young people per class year. This equals 90 percent of the American high school-age population.

The NCLB law also requires schools to give 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."  But "access" means more than a military recruiting table in the gym on Career Day. As an example, all Philadelphia public schools use Channel One News, the educational news channel that broadcasts in classrooms every day for 12 minutes. Two of those minutes are devoted to advertising. And fully half of those advertisements are devoted to military recruitment.

The most insidious military recruitment tactic - and certainly the most extensive -- is the JAMRS (Joint Advertising, Marketing and Research Studies) database. Since 2002, the United States Department of Defense has been quietly collecting information on over 30 million 16-24 year olds for the purpose of military recruitment. The database includes, among many other things, the students' contact information, ethnicity, social security numbers, religious affiliation, and family and school information. The Pentagon uses this information to target what the military calls "propensed youth," for recruitment, often immigrants, low-income students, and students of color.

For those students still not convinced to join up, the Philadelphia School District currently has two high school military academies, Leeds and Elverson. The district also is planning a major expansion of its JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp) program, which is designed to bring the ROTC program to all the district's neighborhood high schools.

This would triple the number of schools with a  JROTC component. The JROTC program is mostly found in high schools with many low-income students and students of color. Moreover, JROTC staff work hand in hand with military recruiters and  JROTC cadets enlist in the military at a much higher rate than other students.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, "Over 50 percent of JROTC cadets are recruited into the lowest military ranks. Moreover, nationwide the program enrolls a disproportionate number of minorities and students from low-income families, with 54percent of the cadets being youth of color."

How does this militarization  play out in our schools today? According to a 2005 survey filled out by 400 students at Edison High School in Philadelphia. 36 percent  said they had been approached by a military recruiter during lunch period, compared with 14 percent who spoke with a college recruiter. Not surprisingly,  the 2010 graduating class at Edison includes 50 students who will enter the military, while just 40  plan to attend college. Edison High School lost 54 former students during the conflict in Vietnam, more than any other school in the United States.

The future that awaits those who survive combat in our two current wars is also bleak, despite what the glitzy ads and high-powered recruiters promise. For example, recruiters often tell young people that they can sign up for four years. But first-time enlistees must agree to serve eight years, through increasingly common "stop-loss" orders that extend a soldier's active duty obligations.

The term of service provision, like everything else in the enlistment contract, is binding only on the enlistee, not the military.

Fortunately, parents and students can fight against the militarization of our schools. One way is to take advantage of an NCLB provision that is even lesser known than the one that empowers recruiters. Section 9528 also requires schools to notify parents and students of their right to opt out of the military recruitment database. The Philadelphia School District has a link buried on its web site (http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/a/accountability/forms) that provides a form for parents and students to request that their information not be shared with military recruiters.

The form is available in several languages. Students can opt out on their own, regardless of age, and do not need a parent's permission to do so. Opting out of the JAMRS database requires a separate form, which can be found here: http://www.leavemychildalone.org/optout.html.

 

Jo Ann Zimmerman writes an anti-military recruiting blog called Pennsylvania Army of None.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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