With the USA and its allies involved in 2 major conflicts in recent years, military recruitment has become an important issue. But some parents and teachers have protested about military personnel visiting schools to talk to students about the armed forces. This often happened in the past anyway, but since 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act has meant that US schools which receive government money must allow the military in to talk to students. In the UK between a third and half of all new military recruits are under 18, with many joining after meeting serving personnel at their schools. This has led the British National Union of Teachers to pass a motion in 2008 condemning military recruitment in schools. One of the more common proposals is to ban military recruiting of those that are under 18 (the age at which individuals can join the military usually), which would severely limit the ability of recruiters to operate in high schools.
“Douglas Smith, a US Army spokesman, said the job of recruiters is not to make promises but to show applicants possibilities and career options. ‘As for a recruiter making promises and not following through, the recruiter’s not in any position to promise anything. We hope that all our recruiters are communicating honestly with our applicants,’ Mr. Smith said. But he added, ‘In the contract [between the new soldier and the Army] it says, ‘Anything the recruiter may have promised me is moot.“
“And some young people think the military is a good option for them. Today, joining the military gives soldiers more perks than in previous decades. The Army offers money for education, health care, vacation time, family services and cash allowances to cover the cost of living, according to goarmy.com an Army Web site. Paying for a college education is also a big bonus for prospective recruits. Depending on the soldier’s enlistment period, the Army can help pay up to $72,900 in education expenses. The Army also offers classes to active duty and reserve soldiers through online universities and learning facilities in Army posts.”
“For some of our students, this may be the best opportunity they have to get a college education,” according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Secretary of Education Rod Paige in an October 2002 letter to school superintendents.
Recruiters should not minimise the risks of a military career, but the armed forces do have a good story to tell and they should not be prevented from doing so. There really are great opportunities for keen, talented young people in the military, and almost all soldiers, etc. find it a very satisfying life. And compared with the past, soldiers today are much better looked after in terms of physical, medical and psychological wellbeing.
Andrew Morgan, at a Brooklyn public high school and a “commanding officer” of the Marine Reserves Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in the school, wrote to InsideSchools.com that the military’s presence there, “gave me the motivation to excel in school and to work hard at everything I do.”
Individuals always retain their own free will. If somebody wants to join the military, recruiters are there to facilitate that possibility. But, ultimately, recruiters cannot make-up a person’s mind about where they want to go in their life and if the military fits into that equation. For this reason, military recruiters should not be seen as anything but informational agents for individual’s independent decision-making.
Recruitment officers often give misleading pitches. They play up the excitement and chances to travel, as well as the pay and benefits such as college fees and training in special skills. They don’t talk about the dangers of military life, the casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the thousands of young soldiers who have lost limbs in recent years. And they don’t mention the impact of war on soldiers’ mental health, or the lack of support when they leave the military. If we must have the military in our schools, then they should be made to give a much more realistic view of military life. All of this is why military recruiters have received the reputation of being like “used car salesperson,” according to one source.
Ari Rosmarin, coordinator of The New York Civil Liberties Project On Military Recruitment and Students’ Rights: “recruiters are using heavy-handed tactics to harass students, violate students’ privacy rights, and target poor students and students of color. […] In the recruiters’ manual there is a lot about school ownership. They are encouraged to befriend the administration, become coaches for sport teams and organize after-school activities. We hear a lot of instances where recruiters will go as far as taking a student out and buying them lunch. We just want to ensure students are given the right to pursue an education without being harassed and hassled everyday.”
Tod Ensign, director of Citizen-Soldier and author of “America’s Military Today: The Challenge of Militarism.”: “It’s a good cause, but the military recruiting techniques are far more sophisticated today. I mean, they’ve got Fortune 500 quality consultants calling the shots. They know how to go after the kids that are most susceptible.”
Counter-recruiters argue that high pressure on recruiters creates systemic dishonesty. The U.S. Army shut down its entire recruitment apparatus for a single day in 2005 in order to “refocus” on ethical conduct.
They promote the military and make war seem glamorous. Soldiers in smart uniforms come into classes with specially-made videos and powerful weapons, making violence and state-organised murder seem cool. This encourages young people to support aggressive action abroad. It also promotes an unthinking loyalty to the state, whether its actions are right or wrong. By allowing the military in, schools are signalling to their students that these things are OK.
All the military is interested in schools for is the chance to recruit students. The various educational materials (not always clearly marked as coming from the military) and courses on offer are all intended to interest students in a military career. Such methods are dishonest and should not be allowed in schools. If students are genuinely interested in joining the military, they can go along to a recruitment centre outside school.
In fact the media usually focuses on the bad news coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignoring the good work of our military there. A career in the military also offers young people a lot of benefits, and it is only right that they should get to hear about those as well. And no one is signed up on the spot in the classroom; they always get the chance to think about it over a few months or more, and to discuss the decision carefully with parents.
Informing young adults under 18 about the option of joining the military so that when they are 18 they can decide to join, is totally acceptable. Obviously, the military is not trying to have kids make the decision and sign-up before they are 18.
Though parental consent and a High School Diploma or equivalent is required for military service, teenagers are not ready to commit themselves to war when they cannot be considered responsible enough to vote, drink alcohol, buy tobacco or pornography, or sign a legal contract. The fact is our children look up to a highly romanticized image of military personnel from an early age and that fact should not be capitalized upon until they have at least turned 18.
Their brains are only about 80 percent fully developed and that brain development isn’t complete until people reach their 20s.
The army is short of manpower due to high casualty rates and the unwillingness of current soldiers to reenlist. This means that they are very keen to get into schools to sign up young people. But it is not right to let them get at students who are too young to vote, or even drive. 16 and 17 year olds are not grown-up enough to make life and death decisions, like joining the army. They may not be able to see through exciting presentations or resist a persuasive and experienced recruitment officer. Schools should be safe places to grow and learn, not somewhere to sign your life away before it has even properly begun.
“Staffed with service members, if you have wanted to say “Thank you” to someone in uniform, there’s your sign. Next time you’re driving by, take a few minutes to stop in and shake hand or two. Why? These men and women are the ones who get us men like SSGT Guinta and SGT J.D. Williams and so many others, who’s names we’ve read and those most all of us will never hear the names of, but know it took them all to defend the Nation. It’s the recruiters are the ones who either go out and find them to talk to, or have to assess them as they walk in to volunteer.”
An all volunteer military must recruit to keep up its numbers. The army, navy and air force need well-educated and motivated recruits so that they can defend our country from its enemies. Visits to schools are not about forcing militaristic propaganda on children, but about making sure that 16-18 year olds know about the military as a possible career choice. After all, college representatives and local employers are allowed to make presentations to students, so it would be unfair to keep just the military out. If you accept that we need armed forces, then you must allow them to recruit openly.
No Child Left Behind, which allows for military recruiting on campus, gives the military “access to the best and brightest this country has to offer,” according to Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in 2005.
This is particularly true during a time of war.
Schools are for teaching. They are not a feeder system for the military and for the wars waged by them. It is important to draw this distinction. If the military wants to recruit, it can do so elsewhere.
“Adults in the active military service are reported to experience increased mental health risks, including stress, substance abuse, and suicide, and the youngest soldiers consistently show the worst health effects, suggesting military service is associated with disproportionately poor health for this population.”
“Of course, Americans must be 18 to serve in the military, but much of the military’s recruiting work is directed at those who have not yet turned 18.”
While the military might get some extra recruits by aggressively targeting high school students, this practice is not essential by any stretch of the imagination.
Amy Hagopian, a mother of three whose son is a Garfield senior: “They’re spending $4 billion a month in Iraq, but we have to cut our race relations class, which costs $12,500. That’s an important class for our kids.”