by David Swanson
April 18, 2008
Citizens in a number of school districts around the country have dramatically reduced military recruitment through simple procedures that anyone can do. No marching or civil disobedience is required. You might, however, have to chat with a principal at a football game or write a couple of letters. Why aren’t more of us doing more of this?
That’s the question I came away with after interviewing Pat Elder for an hour (here’s the audio). Pat is a member of the coordinating committee of the National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth: http://www.nnomy.org
In Pat’s view, we shouldn’t stop marching in the streets or pulling stunts for media attention or any of the other tactics employed by the peace movement, but far and away the most useful thing we can be doing is changing school policies to block military recruiting efforts in high schools.
Laws provide military recruiters equal access to students, equal to the access granted colleges and employers. But often the military gets greater access. Colleges and companies have to make appointments with the guidance office to speak to students. The military sets up a table in the cafeteria to push its sales pitch on every student who comes to lunch. Why not talk to your local high schools about changing that policy and complying with the law?
The No Child Left Behind law makes school funding dependent on providing students’ names and contact information to military recruiters, but parents can opt-out of including their children in that list. With a little bit of organizing and persuading you can convince your school and your school district to follow through on allowing families to opt-out, and to opt-out of military recruitment without removing names from databases used for other things (like college recruitment), and to send all parents a letter letting them know that they can opt-out.
Take a look at this website: http://www.asvabprogram.com Smiling kids, happy colors, and free career guidance. Would you have any idea that this was a military recruiting tool? The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Some high schools allow students to take it, others require every student to take it. You can persuade your school to not require it, and/or to not send the results to military recruiters, and/or to inform students and parents that the test is a military recruiting tool.
These and similar steps can deny the military tens of thousands of names and the accompanying contact information. Without cannon fodder, not even today’s high tech military can fight aggressive wars. If the need for a defensive war ever arises, recruitment won’t be hard. Sure the military can simply spend billions of our dollars to increase recruiting, but school districts that have taken the steps described here have blocked recruitment regardless.
I recently interviewed Dave Meserve as well (audio here) who is promoting an ordinance in Arcata, California, that would ban military recruitment in locations where there are large numbers of minors. That sort of approach, if possible in your town, would work as well to keep recruiters out of schools.
Schools that provide space in their cafeterias for military recruiters are also required to provide equal access for alternatives, and that includes you. You can set up a table at which veterans tell the truth about the military and at which you offer alternative career choices. But, in Elder’s informed view, the more effective (and measurable) success comes from keeping the recruiters out all together. You don’t have to keep them out of town. You can’t ban their advertising, their movies, their video games, their toys. But you can keep them out of the cafeteria of a school and keep their souped up vans and simulated weapons off school grounds.
And if you can keep their numbers too low, you can shut down ROTC units in high schools and JROTC units in junior high schools.
You can take your message to recruiting stations as well. Grandmothers can try to enlist, or knit stump socks in front of the entrance. You can dress up as Bush and Cheney and try to enlist, since you missed your chance in Vietnam. Such stunts may have a use if they bring more people into your organization or change the media discourse, but – says Elder – the bulk of the recruitment is not happening at recruiting stations. It’s happening in schools. And it can be stopped where it’s happening. And it’s not hard to do.
To get involved in this work, go to: http://nnomy.org
David Swanson is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com.