Why the Military Should be Out of Our Schools
The following list of questions was sent to me as moderator for the Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, an antiwar information newsletter sent to over 380 Bay Area groups and individuals. The questions were sent to me by a high school student as part of his homework assignment. The following are my answers. —Bonnie Weinstein
Why do you believe military recruiters should not be allowed to recruit in high schools?
Schools should prepare children for college not the military. Recruiters in the schools portray military life as a professional career that will get them ahead in life. The facts, however, do not support this claim. Very few youth who enter the military actually get a college education when they get out. They are more likely to become homeless than go to college and many come home with some sort of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) if not, grave physical injury. It is also a fact that more soldiers have committed suicide than have died in combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This strongly contradicts the recruiters’ claims that the military is a gateway to a healthy and fruitful life during and after military service.
The No Child Left Behind Act states that High Schools are required to give out certain
student information; do you feel this is fair?
This is not only unfair; it is unconscionable that this goes on in our schools. It amounts to an economic draft. That is, students in schools in wealthy districts do not have to abide by No Child Left Behind and do not have to allow recruiters in their schools because they have the funds in their community to keep their schools going without the NCLB funds. It’s only the schools in the poorer districts that must allow recruiters in their schools and allow them access to student information for military recruitment. The ranks of the military are filled with the poor, not the sons and daughters of the wealthy. If they serve at all, the wealthy serve as officers tucked safely away from the dangers of the battlefield—giving orders to kill; and orders that often result in the death or injury of those who follow those orders.
How much access, if any, do you think the military recruiters should have to students and why?
There is no good reason for military recruiters to have access to students before they have completed their education—or any other time, for that matter. Recruiters routinely lie about what it’s like in the military and what advantages students will have if they join the military. I have footnoted extensive links that prove these lies are being carried out as a normal function of military recruiting.1
If High Schools do not comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, they can lose their federal funding. Do you feel this is fair and why?
Of course, the reason recruiters are allowed in the schools is because of the loss of federal funds to the schools if they do not allow the military on the campuses. Again, this allows the military to target the schools with the poorest students from the poorest communities. Now, especially in these desperate economic times where youth unemployment is at a staggering all-time high of over 50 percent—and in communities of color—up to 80 percent—military recruitment is portrayed as a way out of poverty. Unfortunately, the facts do not support this by any stretch of the imagination. The real point is that all youth have a right to jobs, education, housing and healthcare.
What would be “fair,” is if the trillions spent on war funding could go, instead, to what our children really need. As a case in point, in a March 11, 2010 New York Times article titled, “Cost of F-35 Has Risen 60 percent to 90 percent, Military Says,” by Christopher Drew, about the cost of developing the F-35 war plane, “Michael Sullivan, an analyst at the Government Accountability Office, said the program could eventually cost $323 billion. And while the recent changes could help ease the problems, ‘further cost growth and schedule extensions are likely,’ he said.”
Just what could our schools do with the $323 billion being spent on developing just this one type of warplane!
Even though the No Child Left Behind Act states that the schools are required to release names and phone numbers of students, parents can sign a form to opt out. Do you think most parents are aware of this?
Most parents are not aware of the “opt out” form. And, unfortunately, signing the “opt out” form does not preclude the military recruiters from getting student’s information by other means. What the recruiters do in cases where parents have signed the “opt out” form is, they simply invite students to have pizza or sodas off campus and after school—informally. If a student shows up to one of these “informal events” the “opt out” form does not apply! It only applies on school grounds. The student can voluntarily offer the information to the probing and sneaky recruiters. The recruiters typically act as “buddies” to the kids, treating them to pizza and other perks. They come to schools with thousands of dollars worth of military whips and jingles to attract students to them. They dress up in their crisp military garb and act as if they are now on top of the world because of their military service. They pump kids up with “patriotism” but make no mention of the lies that were told to justify the wars. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq—that is an admitted and proven fact. Why would any school want blatant liars around its students? Our schools should be devoted to truth and searching for ways to end war, poverty, injustice and oppression in all forms. Our schools should be devoted to finding a better way for humanity’s future.
What age do you feel is the best age for a person to be exposed to the military? Why?
War is not the answer. Military occupation of civilian populations is not the answer—it’s tyranny! Military service offers no real opportunities except for injury, death and severe psychological damage. Human beings aren’t meant to kill for profit and conquest—they must be forced by economic necessity to do so and our schools should have no part in this!
Have you ever heard of any students being harassed by military recruiters? If so, please elaborate.
As a counter-recruitment worker at schools in San Francisco in the past, I have seen repeated instances of students being harassed by recruiters. Students have been forced into JROTC because of severe cutbacks in physical education, so that in order to graduate—to get the PE credits necessary to graduate—they have to join JROTC which, in California, is counted as PE credit—although the program does not qualify for the Physical Education curriculum guidelines for California schools.
The cutbacks in Physical Education programs and many other programs like art, music and after-school and summer programs are a direct result of the fantastically expanding costs of the wars and occupations the U.S. military is carrying out in over 1000 U.S. bases in countries around the world; and, the costs of aiding Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine. In fact, in an article in the March 1995 issue of The Middle East Forum Promoting American Interests titled, “Jesse Helms: Setting the Record Straight,” Helms, who was the senior senator from North Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time stated, “I have long believed that if the United States is going to give money to Israel, it should be paid out of the Department of Defense budget. My question is this: If Israel did not exist, what would U.S. defense costs in the Middle East be? Israel is at least the equivalent of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East. Without Israel promoting its and America’s common interests, we would be badly off indeed.”2
Since 1995 hundreds of billions of dollars more have been given to Israel. In fact, Israel receives approximately one-third of the U.S. Foreign Aid budget to carry out its war against Palestine and secure the Middle East for the United States! Those funds should be redirected toward the schools.
These wars and occupations have nothing to do with bringing peace to the world and everything to do with maintaining U.S. corporate dominance in the world at any cost. This relegates the U.S. ranks in the military to “cannon fodder” for the wealthy, corporate elite that controls the military.
The U.S. has the biggest military in the world—bigger than all the rest of the world combined! They do not bring peace. They bring rape, pillage and plunder and the theft of natural resources that do not belong to them, but that the U.S. corporations need. Meanwhile, our schools are suffering with teacher layoffs, closures, and downgrading of curriculum. Education in the U.S. is getting worse.
With the expansion of charter schools comes the expansion of military schools within those schools. Students who join the “military academies” wear uniforms and obey orders as if they are in the military. Charter schools means the expansion of the military recruitment program in our schools and in our poorest communities. President Obama appointed the “king of military and charter schools, ” Arne Duncan, as Secretary of Education. It amounts to the scrapping of public education, as we know it. Much like President Clinton did when he did away with “welfare as we know it” resulting in even more poverty and hunger among children in the U.S.
I read that in some schools, military recruiters attend school events to get to know students and teachers better. Are you aware of this?
Recruiters before NCLB, were regulated to coming to the schools during “career days” or “career fairs” when colleges, universities, trade schools, and union apprentice program representatives showed up. The military was allowed two recruiters for each branch of the military, i.e., the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and National Guard. That’s ten recruiters on campus at one time—with tens-of-thousands of dollars of key chains, book covers, pens—all kinds of give-away stuff to attract students. They were not allowed to collect names at these events. However, they were allowed to invite students to after school get-togethers like pizza parties, etc. This is where they make their best gains and recruit the most students. Since No Child Left Behind, the “Career Days” have been abandoned and the military comes and goes at will on school campuses that have to abide by NCLB.
Some schools even have a JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program. What are your thoughts on JROTC?
According to the U.S. army, JROTC is one of their best recruitment tools. Although they are not allowed to recruit directly, their job is to indoctrinate kids with lies about military life. They teach, first and foremost, obedience to the military chain of command, to obey the orders of those above you unquestionably. You do not question a command in a combat situation unless you wish to be court marshaled. This is the primary lesson taught in JROTC. They are taught to march in formation; to obey commands; to stand at attention; to respect and obey military authority above all. In JROTC, students do not see the decapitated heads of babies rolling on the ground or wedding parties blown to bits by U.S. drones. All they see is flag waving, marching bands, and fancy uniforms. They are introduced to target practice, rock climbing, fun and games. The truth about war is carefully concealed. War is kept about as real as the video games kids play. There are no JROTCs or military recruiters at the schools of the wealthy. The agonies of war are reserved for the poor and those under U.S. guns.
Advertising also takes place in High schools; yearbooks, posters, sporting event programs, etc… Do you feel that the military should advertise to students whether or not they are allowed on campus?
The military and schools don’t mix. The military has billions of dollars at their disposal for recruitment purposes. They are at concerts, ball games, movies and the malls—anywhere youth congregate. Schools and the military are counter to each other. Schools should be about searching for alternatives to wars. Our schools should be dedicated to building a better world of justice, equality and human rights for all, not to recruit “cannon fodder” for wars of empire, occupation, repression and the theft of natural resources at the expense of everything—even at the expense of the planet itself. This is what the wars are fought for. We need to develop schools that can search for alternative ways of sharing the planet equitably thereby eliminating the causes of wars in the first place.
The military has no place in our schools or in our human society. Our job as educators is to point our children in the direction of peaceful, rational, and just solutions to the problems we ordinary people face in life the world over. We all have the same needs, wants and desires to live happy, healthy and peaceful lives. This is what our schools should work toward and the message they must give to our children. War is a vestige of rule of the wealthy elite over all; and that is the root of the problem. We need peaceful and democratic rule by the majority. Not the violent rule of the infinitesimal minority—less than one-tenth-of-one-percent of the human population—that make up the wealthy elite who control the giant U.S. military.
We need to get the military out of our schools!
1 David Martin, “Army Recruiter Used Scare Tactics,” CBS News National, July 28, 2008, KHOU Houston, Texas, July 29, 2008, ; “Hidden camera catches Army recruiter” video,” February 16, 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BFNKzmqHjs&feature=PlayList&p=458; “Hidden Cameras Catch Army Recruiters In Bad Position” video,” January 9, 2008, ; “Hidden Cameras Catch Dishonest Army Recruiters” video, WOAI news, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ObdWUrZITU&feature=related; “Hidden Cameras Catch Dishonest Recruiters” video, ; “How Far Will Army Recruiters Go?” video,” Denver CBS affiliate KCNC, May 2, 2005, ; See also transcripts at “Army Recruiters Face Investigation, Caught On Tape: Recruiters Seemingly Helping ‘Prospect’ Lie:” transcript, CBS Early Show, May 2, 2005, ; and “How Far Will Army Recruiters Go?” Denver CBS affiliate KCNC, May 2, 2005, http://www.quakerhouse.org/Recruiter-Abuses-07.htm; “Military Recruitment Abuses Uncovered, NY WABC Undercover Investigation of 10 Recruiters, at least 5 Lied” video, November 3, 2006, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZntDHh_lTk&feature=related. (Text article about this video is at: ; “Recruiter Abuses transcript,” Atlanta Fox TV WAGA, November 8, 1999, ; “Recruiter Caught Lying” video, Channel 5 Brownsville, TX, September 14, 2008, ; Michael Moore, “Recruiters Lie to Kids at Malls to Fill Quotas” Video, February 20, 2007, ; Jackie McLean, “Recruiters Lie: Video Fox 9 Minneapolis” Fox 9 Twin Cities, May 13, 2008, ; “Army Recruiter threatens student with Jail” video,” Democracy Now!, August 7, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RgQYDQIT3o&feature=related; “Army Recruiter threatens student with Jail-2/5  - video,” Democracy Now!, August 7, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwUQyfzzbMA&feature=related;“Army Recruiter: ‘Join the Army, or go to Jail!’” video, Channel 11 news, January 29, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXx9nJzOCaU; “Army Recruiters Tell Applicant to Lie and Cheat” video, December 5, 2006, ; “Army Recruiting Investigation” by WTVF, video,” August 20, 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuoMkuY3yAM; Mark Greenblatt, “Caught on tape: Army recruiters threaten high school students” video,”