A Military Recruiter comes to call....
I was in the middle of giving my class a quiz when a gentleman walked into my class the other day. He was wearing the cool digital camouflage uniform of a sergeant first class. Another teacher, whom I later figured out was his wife, trailed into the room after him. He introduced himself as a recruiter and said he wanted to talk to me.
I thought, "Oh great, Uncle Sam has just found my attempt to register for the draft back in 198_ when I was making a principled stand that women should have the same citizenship responsibilities as men, and now, they're so desperate they're going to try to sign me up." (I have a first name that can be used by males, and back then we all had those unisex haircuts, so the guy took my little card from me. I cerainly was in better shape than my friends who went with me to register for themselves. So, friends, as Arlo Guthrie would say, somewhere in Washington there may be a file with my draft card in it...)
Anyway, he said that one of my former students, let's call him Elvis, was interested in joining the Reserves after having made a previous commitment to the Navy, and he wondered if I "could just fill out this recommendation form?"
Hmmm. I had actually talked to this young man just a few weeks ago, and he didn't say anything about it, but okay, that might be a good move for him (although, frankly, it seems that going regular Army might be a better deal than going reserves, since around here the reserves have gone overseas more than the regular troops, and we've all heard the stories about the difference in equipment and training between "weekend warriors" --I'd like to see that myth laid to rest-- and full-timers, but, whatever...).
So I very quietly said, "Sure, can I see your release form?" Remember the quiz? I had qualms discussing this while other students were in the room, and so on.
He looked at me. "What release form?"
"The one that I need to see in order to release confidential information about a student, including a recommendation in which I would be providing frank assessments of his character and intellectual capability," I said. "Since Elvis isn't here to ask me to write the recommendation, I need a release. You can't be too careful about releasing private information about students in this litigious time..." I smiled encouragingly at him.
He shuffled some stuff around, but no form. I responded that I would fill it out when I saw the form, and we parted ways.
Two days later I got a release faxed to me, and I filled out the form.
I later was talking to a colleague, and he had just blithely filled out the info with no qualms. I dunno. Was I too ... cynical? sensitive? cautious? I was not trying to be obstructionist, but our school district really goes whole hog on the student privacy issue, as I've mentioned previously.
So how do I feel about section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act? I feel that people shouldn't have access to my or anyone else's private records as a default. I feel that this information may not be protected or viewed with the same probity as I would. This gentleman seemed surprised that I would ask to see a release form. The method feels underhanded. I don't think parents are even aware of the fact the information is being harvested by the military, and they certainly don't know that they have to opt out.
There's a couple of interesting things I found here that is very enlightening. Then there was the recent story about the man who found abandoned files from a recruiting center in a dumpster.
I am proud of all of my students who have joined the military (I currently have over 24 in uniform from the last five years alone). I come from a family that has always supported the brave patriots who serve.
And one way I can help, I believe, is to ask questions.