A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, December 05, 2005

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.


At 12/6/05, 1:31 AM, Blogger EdWonk said...

Good Call. I believe that student contact information must be treated with the utmost confidentiality.

At 12/6/05, 6:12 AM, Blogger educat said...

Lovely. No other post high school opportunity is given this kind of access. Last year, a recruiter pulled one of my kids off the computer in the library in the middle of my class--have you ever seen a college behave that way?

I have no problem with military, I just want them to behave in my school.

At 12/6/05, 10:05 AM, Blogger Fred said...

Yes, it was a great call. I would not release anything without having a signed release. It was the same way in the corporate world, too. (Even with a release, some companies will not release anything for fear of being sued.)

At 12/6/05, 11:30 AM, Blogger Wulf said...

I have two comments. First, to Ms. Cornelius, I don't think that was at all unreasonable, and the recruiter should have been prepared for that. I doubt he felt much put out - at least, he shouldn't have.

But to Educat, yes, I have seen a college recruiter interfere with class. Most college recruiters are not as aggressive as military recruiters, because most colleges have no trouble getting applicants. But I have seen college coaches behave in the way you describe, and to me it's not unthinkable that it could happen with other special programs where the recruiter feels greater pressure than most. It doesn't excuse interference with the class, of course, but they sometimes try.

At 12/6/05, 1:11 PM, Blogger Golden Gate Mama said...

i would never fill out a recommendation form for something like that (especially in War time!!) unless the student specifically asked for it. no way.

At 12/6/05, 4:14 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks for all the comments, guys. Often there seems to be this message that if you object in any way with the whole recruitment process, you're unpatriotic, which infuriates me, by the way.

I am concerned that the sergeant did not think to bring a written release with him. Did he just blithely expect me to reveal confidential information? Apparently, since some people did this anyway, which I believe is a disservice to all our students.

And why walk into the middle of my class-- with 56 ears straining toward us-- to discuss a student? By name, I might add. I felt like his wife provided him access to our school, and no one checked to see what I was doing at that moment.

At 12/6/05, 6:57 PM, Blogger Carol said...

You handled it perfectly! Thanks for providing a good example for all teachers!

At 12/6/05, 7:25 PM, Blogger Dan Edwards said...

Sounds like you handled it like the professional that you are!

Thankfully, recruiters of any kind are not something we have to deal with at the Junior High.

So, did your kids finish their quiz ?

At 12/6/05, 8:00 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yes, my students did finish their quiz, although "Who WAS that guy?" was a question, and I got to explain about military insignia and digital cammies.

And if they ever do away with social promotion, you may not be so lucky about not having to worry about it :)-- there were a couple of kids with whom I went to jr. high who went straight from 7th grade to the Marine Corps...

And educat, today the football coach wanted to know if he could use my room to talk to college recruiters, since I had a relatively small class in there that hour. But your comment also brings to mind the current debate about military recruiting at law schools....

At 1/5/06, 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the way you handled it. As a veteran myself, I will discuss military options with students who ask, and I am proud of those who chose to serve (not that I'm not proud of those who opt not to),but I would never give out personal information to ANYONE; I don't care what the law says. I've had other institutions ask for personal, private info, and without a release, I've said "NO!"


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