Wars Begin in High School Cafeterias by David Swanson

Dandelion Salad

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.


see also:

Before You Enlist


14 thoughts on “Wars Begin in High School Cafeterias by David Swanson

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  6. Billypilgrim,

    You mistake me for someone who supports Bush apparently. It is you who have been sold a “bill of goods” and sunk so far down into the “shithole” that there is no way back for you.

    It DOESN’T MATTER whether you or I support the Govt.’s policies, when you attack the military you’re unequivocally in the wrong.

    I get angry because I’m sick and tired of being betrayed by civilians. The military isn’t your enemy unless you make it so – and that’d be foolish of you.

  7. jonolan

    I applaud your recognition that what you said was maybe over the top. It’s not easy for anyone to realize that they’ve been sold a bill of goods in any area of life It’s goddamn hell to recognize that you’re at the point where you’re ready on a moment’s notice to snuff out the lives of people you don’t even know based on what you’ve been brainwashed into believing is truth so sacred that disagreement with it deserves death.

    “Anyone who ascribes to this point of view should be whipped to death!”

    “I’d be willing to spend my life in prison to kill these traitors.’

    Listen to yourself. You’re not out of hell yet, brother.

    The way out starts with facing how deep in the shithole you are. It ain’t easy. The way out is not up. No one can make it up those walls – the shit keeps coming down too fast. You got to tunnel your own way out, deep down, and finally make it up to clean air.


  8. Jonalan, you failed to mention that the phrase ‘baby burners’ was also used within the US Military itself.

    “Flame tanks all had one thing in common – they all had great names. Thirty years later, I can still recall some of them: Looks like Jelly, Burns Like Hell, Crispy Critters, Dante’s Inferno, Devil’s Disciple, and Baby Burners”.

    From ‘Praying for Slack: A Marine Corps Tank Commander in Vietnam’ by Robert E. Peavey

  9. Recruiters can do their job/work but not in the public high schools. Trying to recruit teens under 18 is going too far.

    You wanted to kill people who disagreed with you before you were in the military? Hmm? I think the military training (teaching young people how to kill other people) effects the soldiers possibly in ways you have no idea about.

    We will have world peace once we have young people choosing NOT to go into the military.

  10. Then these people should protest the government’s actions, no interfere with the military. We’re going to be sent to the work, whether recruitment is hampered or not.

    It was the same way in Nam. What started as interference with recruiting degenerated into a “culture” who called the soldiers “baby burners.”

    What I wrote stemmed from rage, not indoctrination. Maybe it was over the top.

  11. jonolan, you don’t understand the point of this article and others that I’ve posted. You, the soldiers are being used by the corporate govt.

    You are not fighting in Iraq to preserve our freedoms, c’mon. Our freedoms have deteriorated during the Bush admin.

    And all this talk about killing people with differing political views! Gee, they certainly brainwashed you, didn’t they? How unAmerican can that be? It doesn’t make any sense what you wrote.

  12. Since you don’t approve of me or my opinion anyway I’m lucky enough to be freefrom constraint on voicing my opinion. That beings stated:

    Anyone who ascribes to this point of view should be whipped to death!

    We defend you and you betray us? I don’t care if you agree with the government who sends us into battle or not – we die and worse so that you can – but when you behave as if our military is the enemy you have made an enemy of me.

    I”ll be bluntly honest here – if I didn’t have a family depending on me and my income, I’d be willing to spend my life in prison in order to kill these traitors.

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