Military Recruiting in High School: Under the Gun?
Imagine my bemusement when I opened up my school email and discovered a request from a nearby batch (what would be the collective noun? --covey? --pod? --clutch? --den? --squad?) of Army recruiters, sent to about a third of the teachers in our school. Instead of being addressed to the district as a whole, the email actually listed all of our names individually. It did not come from the District HQ as a forwarded message, nor did it include any administrators in the list of addressees. This is far from my first experience with a recruiter in my classroom, either, as I've written about here.
The email stated that the recruiters had a goal of speaking to every single junior and senior in our school before the end of the school year, and offered several different possible lessons that they could present to our classes, like on the history of the Army and so on. It later emerged that this email had not been vetted by our school district nor our building principal.
Under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, military recruiters were allowed equal access to public school campuses. Now, of course, we all know (or at least I hope we all do) that under the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools are
Then a friend of mine told me about this story. It talks about certain practices that some Army recruiters have utilized in trying to make their quotas. These include stating that it is more dangerous to walk around in suburban America than in Iraq, for instance. You should read or watch this entire sorry tale.
This is unfortunately far from an isolated incident, however. If you don't believe me, try googling "news investigation military recruiter." Apparently the above claim has been used by unscrupulous recruiters all over the country. This absolutely devastates me. I also believe that this type of tactic certainly makes a lie out of the phrase "support our troops." Young people who sign up for military service as a result of this type of dissembling and false advertising certainly aren't allowed to back out of the contract that they signed when they enlist. There's certainly no such thing nowadays as getting released from a military commitment to go to graduate school.
Now, my Dad dropped out of high school to serve in the military in World War II. Two of my three uncles served as well, and my grandfather served in World War I. One of my cousins served in the Coast Guard. I have a flag like this one that was given to our family in memory of my father's service. My father-in-law, as well, served our country during World War II, and we have his flag as well. Both are in protective cases where we can look at them every day. My Dad's military service gave him access to training that later allowed him to support our family, certainly in a better manner than a high school dropout had reason to expect.
I have about sixteen former students who are currently serving in our military, and I pray for them every day. I treasure the letters I have received from basic training. But these young people voluntarily walked up to a recruiter at a booth in our high school during lunch. They were interested, they listened to the sales pitch, being free to walk away or come back as they saw fit. They knew what they were getting into, and, God bless them, they signed up fully cognizant of the fact that joining the military by definition means signing one's life over to the military without question for at least the next
Now, back to that email.
I require my students to be in class without exception. I am notorious for tolerating no skipping of class. Therefore, I do not believe it is appropriate to invite these gentlemen into my classroom. I believe it is a different matter to force my students as a captive audience to listen to a recruiting sales pitch in my clasroom as a part of my instructional time, where they have no ability to absent themselves if they have no desire to hear this message--even though I would be there to clarify things for my students both during and after the presentation.
I also find it strange and even a bit troubling that these recruiters did not go through the proper channels before contacting teachers with this offer. Perhaps it was an innocent mistake-- or perhaps it was a calculated gambit.
I can give-- and do give-- presentations on the history of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all by myself, thanks. I even have a neat little lesson I've used where we dissect the meaning of the Marine Corps hymn, and i teach my students about military insignia and rank. But I present this information in a neutral manner, and I have nothing to gain from it.
That's the way it should be in a public school.