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Debate: Military recruiting in public schools

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Should the military be allowed to recruit in public schools?

Background and context

With the USA and its allies involved in 2 major conflicts in recent years, military recruitment has become an important issue.
But some parents and teachers have protested about military personnel visiting schools to talk to students about the armed forces. This often happened in the past anyway, but since 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act has meant that US schools which receive government money must allow the military in to talk to students. In the UK between a third and half of all new military recruits are under 18, with many joining after meeting serving personnel at their schools. This has led the British National Union of Teachers to pass a motion in 2008 condemning military recruitment in schools. One of the more common proposals is to ban military recruiting of those that are under 18 (the age at which individuals can join the military usually), which would severely limit the ability of recruiters to operate in high schools.

Contents

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Parental : Will parents be happy or approve of military recruitment in schools ?

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Pro

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Con

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Information: Do military recruiters provide valuable info?

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Pro

  • Students should know about options/benefits in military. Diego Cupolo. "Military Recruiters In High Schools." Gotham Gazette. January 2007: "And some young people think the military is a good option for them. Today, joining the military gives soldiers more perks than in previous decades. The Army offers money for education, health care, vacation time, family services and cash allowances to cover the cost of living, according to goarmy.com an Army Web site. Paying for a college education is also a big bonus for prospective recruits. Depending on the soldier’s enlistment period, the Army can help pay up to $72,900 in education expenses. The Army also offers classes to active duty and reserve soldiers through online universities and learning facilities in Army posts."
  • Military can be best opportunity to get college education. "For some of our students, this may be the best opportunity they have to get a college education," according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Secretary of Education Rod Paige in an October 2002 letter to school superintendents.[1]
  • The military has a compelling story to tell to youth. Recruiters should not minimise the risks of a military career, but the armed forces do have a good story to tell and they should not be prevented from doing so. There really are great opportunities for keen, talented young people in the military, and almost all soldiers, etc. find it a very satisfying life. And compared with the past, soldiers today are much better looked after in terms of physical, medical and psychological wellbeing.
  • Military recruiters encourage discipline and hard-work. Andrew Morgan, at a Brooklyn public high school and a “commanding officer” of the Marine Reserves Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in the school, wrote to InsideSchools.com that the military's presence there, "gave me the motivation to excel in school and to work hard at everything I do.”[2]
  • Military recruiters aren't forcing anyone to do anything Individuals always retain their own free will. If somebody wants to join the military, recruiters are there to facilitate that possibility. But, ultimately, recruiters cannot make-up a person's mind about where they want to go in their life and if the military fits into that equation. For this reason, military recruiters should not be seen as anything but informational agents for individual's independent decision-making.


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Con

  • Recruiters mislead kids about military service Recruitment officers often give misleading pitches. They play up the excitement and chances to travel, as well as the pay and benefits such as college fees and training in special skills. They don’t talk about the dangers of military life, the casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the thousands of young soldiers who have lost limbs in recent years. And they don’t mention the impact of war on soldiers’ mental health, or the lack of support when they leave the military. If we must have the military in our schools, then they should be made to give a much more realistic view of military life. All of this is why military recruiters have received the reputation of being like "used car salesperson," according to one source.[3]
  • Military recruiters often harass kids to join Ari Rosmarin, coordinator of The New York Civil Liberties Project On Military Recruitment and Students’ Rights: “recruiters are using heavy-handed tactics to harass students, violate students’ privacy rights, and target poor students and students of color. [...] In the recruiters’ manual there is a lot about school ownership. They are encouraged to befriend the administration, become coaches for sport teams and organize after-school activities. We hear a lot of instances where recruiters will go as far as taking a student out and buying them lunch. We just want to ensure students are given the right to pursue an education without being harassed and hassled everyday."[4]
  • Military uses sophisticated persuasion techniques on kids. Tod Ensign, director of Citizen-Soldier and author of “America’s Military Today: The Challenge of Militarism.”: “It’s a good cause, but the military recruiting techniques are far more sophisticated today. I mean, they’ve got Fortune 500 quality consultants calling the shots. They know how to go after the kids that are most susceptible.”[5]
  • Pressure/quotas on recruiters incentivizes misconduct. Counter-recruiters argue that high pressure on recruiters creates systemic dishonesty. The U.S. Army shut down its entire recruitment apparatus for a single day in 2005 in order to "refocus" on ethical conduct.[6]
  • Military recruiting wrongly makes violence appear cool. They promote the military and make war seem glamorous. Soldiers in smart uniforms come into classes with specially-made videos and powerful weapons, making violence and state-organised murder seem cool. This encourages young people to support aggressive action abroad. It also promotes an unthinking loyalty to the state, whether its actions are right or wrong. By allowing the military in, schools are signalling to their students that these things are OK.
  • Recruiters there to persuade, not "provide information." All the military is interested in schools for is the chance to recruit students. The various educational materials (not always clearly marked as coming from the military) and courses on offer are all intended to interest students in a military career. Such methods are dishonest and should not be allowed in schools. If students are genuinely interested in joining the military, they can go along to a recruitment centre outside school.


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Judgment: Are young individuals able to judge whether to join?

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Pro

  • Young people aren't stupid, understand risk of joining military. In fact the media usually focuses on the bad news coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignoring the good work of our military there. A career in the military also offers young people a lot of benefits, and it is only right that they should get to hear about those as well. And no one is signed up on the spot in the classroom; they always get the chance to think about it over a few months or more, and to discuss the decision carefully with parents.
  • OK to inform kids so when 18, they can decide. Informing young adults under 18 about the option of joining the military so that when they are 18 they can decide to join, is totally acceptable. Obviously, the military is not trying to have kids make the decision and sign-up before they are 18.
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Con

  • 17-year-olds Not Ready to Join Though parental consent and a High School Diploma or equivalent is required for military service, teenagers are not ready to commit themselves to war when they cannot be considered responsible enough to vote, drink alcohol, buy tobacco or pornography, or sign a legal contract. The fact is our children look up to a highly romanticized image of military personnel from an early age and that fact should not be capitalized upon until they have at least turned 18.
  • Teenagers not developed enough to "choose" service. Their brains are only about 80 percent fully developed and that brain development isn't complete until people reach their 20s.
  • Military should not recruit youth that can't vote/judge. The army is short of manpower due to high casualty rates and the unwillingness of current soldiers to reenlist. This means that they are very keen to get into schools to sign up young people. But it is not right to let them get at students who are too young to vote, or even drive. 16 and 17 year olds are not grown-up enough to make life and death decisions, like joining the army. They may not be able to see through exciting presentations or resist a persuasive and experienced recruitment officer. Schools should be safe places to grow and learn, not somewhere to sign your life away before it has even properly begun.


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Defense: Is military recruiting important to national security?

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Yes

  • Recruiters are necessary element of all-volunteer force An all volunteer military must recruit to keep up its numbers. The army, navy and air force need well-educated and motivated recruits so that they can defend our country from its enemies. Visits to schools are not about forcing militaristic propaganda on children, but about making sure that 16-18 year olds know about the military as a possible career choice. After all, college representatives and local employers are allowed to make presentations to students, so it would be unfair to keep just the military out. If you accept that we need armed forces, then you must allow them to recruit openly.
  • On-campus recruiting gives military access to best/brightest. No Child Left Behind, which allows for military recruiting on campus, gives the military "access to the best and brightest this country has to offer," according to Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in 2005.[7]
  • Barring military recruiters is a snub to the military. This is particularly true during a time of war.


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No

  • Schools should not be feeder systems for military/war. Schools are for teaching. They are not a feeder system for the military and for the wars waged by them. It is important to draw this distinction. If the military wants to recruit, it can do so elsewhere.
  • Military shouldn't recruit those under military age. Washington Truth in Recruiting: "Of course, Americans must be 18 to serve in the military, but much of the military's recruiting work is directed at those who have not yet turned 18."
  • Military recruiting in high schools is not essential. While the military might get some extra recruits by aggressively targeting high school students, this practice is not essential by any stretch of the imagination.
  • Military recruits for wars that cut school budgets. Amy Hagopian, a mother of three whose son is a Garfield senior: "They're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq, but we have to cut our race relations class, which costs $12,500. That's an important class for our kids."[8]


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Free speech: Is military recruiting consistent with free speech?

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Pro

  • Banning military recruiters violates free speech rights. Barring recruiters is an infringement of free speech.
  • Schools can deny military; they just won't get govt money. US Chief Justice John Roberts: "[Don't ask don't tell] doesn't insist that you do anything. … It says that if you want our money, you have to let our recruiters on campus."[9] Schools, therefore, have complete freedom of speech in this regard; it's just a matter of the consequences of exercising that speech.
  • Public schools can oppose military, but must offer equal access. Law schools remain free to protest the military’s message as long as they give recruiters equal access. This adequately preserves everyone's freedom of speech.
  • If other recruiters allowed, military should be too. Emily Gockley, chief of public affairs for the New York City Recruiting Battalion, "Every school decides differently on how they deal with recruiters. But if they invite college recruiters they must also invite military recruiters. We are also entitled to get the same information they give out to colleges."[10]
  • Denying recruiters is not a protected form of "expressive speech." Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 2006 ruling that the government can force law schools to accept military recruiters, that recruiting is not an 'inherently expressive' activity and that law schools 'are not speaking when they host interviews and recruiting receptions.' Therefore, the act of denying military recruiters access is not considered "speech" protected by the First Amendment.[11]
  • Recruiters raise general awareness about military. In the UK, for example, the army visits many schools each year “with the aim of raising the general awareness of the armed forces in society”. This importantly allows them to learn about the role the armed forces play in our country.


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Con

  • Free speech applies to citizens, not govt/military. The bill of rights and constitution in many countries protects the rights of citizens to free speech. It does not protect the right of the government or military to free speech. It is wrong, therefore, for military recruiters to claim free speech rights.
  • Forcing schools to accept recruiters violates their free speech rights. Many schools object to the message the military is trying to send, whether it be through policies like "don't ask don't tell", or more generally regarding war and violence. Forcing them to accept recruiters violates their right to voice this opposition through denial of access.
  • Military is different than other career-field recruiting. Washington Truth in Recruiting: "Military service is categorically different from other career choices. Eight year contract. Non cancellable, one-sided. 24 hour’s a day. Breakdown and rebuilding of personality in boot camp lasts a lifetime. Regimentation for total obedience. Surrender of civil rights. Degree of risk of death and injury. Moral component of killing - most victims are civilians. Moral component of war - most wars are over oil and resources and beliefs, not defense of U.S. territory. The military is categorically different from a 'career' and does not belong in high school career centers."
  • Non-military recruiters lack similar resources for recruiting. The military has unmatched resources to dedicate to marketing and recruiting. No recruiters from other industries can match this. This is why, once again, military classes are categorically different in terms of how aggressively they can pursue recruits.
  • Military recruiters have unprecedented access in schools. Michael Berg. "Military Recruiters Have Unrivaled Access to Schools." The State. February 23rd, 2005: "military recruitment efforts are omnipresent inside our public schools. Recruiters walk freely around high school cafeterias in uniforms and talk to students. They hang posters on the school walls. They loiter in the parking lots. A recent Richland 1 career fair for eighth graders, held at Fort Jackson, had those representing careers other than the military confined behind tables and answering three short questions, while military personnel operated in groups wandering around, intercepting and talking to children at will."
  • Military recruiters wrongly have access to student info. Washington Truth in Recruiting: "According to Dave Meserve in Arcata, Calif., localities can avoid the consequences of the No Child Left Behind law (which turns students' names and contact information over to recruiters) not only by helping students and parents to opt out of recruitment lists or by challenging the ability of recruiters to be on school campuses, but also by prohibiting any recruiting activities that involve kids under 18."
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Disadvantaged: Do recruiters target disadvantaged students?

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Yes

  • Military provides important role in disadvantaged communities, providing positive role models and encouraging students to finish school (the US army now requires recruits to have at least a high school diploma). And many soldiers from tough areas say that if they hadn’t joined the military they would have been sucked into criminal gangs instead.


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No

  • Military does not equate educationally disadvantaged students necessarily as good soldiers. The military almost always aim their recruitment towards possible and able candidates who are able to serve full time once given the proper training and guidance. There is clearly no research so far that can justify that these students who are capable of being in the military usually are handicapped in their studies or are deemed unfit for the schooling environment. Furthermore, the military will not discriminate recruitment of students just because of their education level because even students with much higher intellectual capabilities can pique the interest of the military. Simply on the basis that they can very well serve in the military from behind the scenes under intelligence gathering or technological development. On the other hand, the recruitment of disadvantaged students, whom usually are associated with attitude problems, will not make training them into soldiers as easy as it sounds. This is because of the obedience of these problematic children; it will waste more time to train them and will not benefit the military in any way. In short, the military will not necessarily target disadvantaged students because the attitude problems in these students will degrade their recruitment chances and that the military also does focus recruitment on intellectually capable students because they have soft skills and learning capabilities which may be put to good use.


  • Military wrongly targets disadvantaged communities. There is evidence from both the UK and the USA that military recruiters target disadvantaged areas. They seem to think that poorer students will have few other career options, so they will be more likely to join up. It isn’t right that young people from poor backgrounds can be exploited in this way. Why should they be expected to risk their lives much more than students from better-off areas? Instead schools and governments should make sure all students get equal chances in life.


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Privacy: Does recruitment in schools invade student privacy?

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Yes

  • Individuals can opt-out of giving information to recruiters. If parents don’t want their son or daughter to be included in the database, they can opt out by writing to the district superintendent. A total of 2,232 of about 8,000 Madison high school students withheld their names from military recruiting lists this year, compared with 495 reported by The Capital Times in 2003, showing that students can always opt out of giving information.


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No

  • Military should not be able to collect info on students. US military recruitment in schools has a very sinister side. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters collect data on 30 million students. A huge database contains their personal details, including social security numbers, email addresses and academic records. The purpose of this is to allow recruiters to pester young people with messages, phone calls and home visits. This itself is bad enough, but many people think the government should not be trusted with so much personal information. Isn’t it police states that want to keep files on all their citizens?


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International law: Does school recruitment violate international law?

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Yes

  • The USA has not signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, although it has signed the UN’s Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. But the US military does not recruit under-18s anyway, so it is keeping to it agreement. In any case, neither of these agreements stops recruiters visiting schools in order to make students aware of military career options once they turn 18.


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No

  • Recruitment in schools is against parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A set of rules that the USA signed up to in 2002 forbids the recruitment of children under the age of 18. Despite this, the American Civil Liberties Union has found that US military recruiters target children as young as 11, visiting their classrooms and making unfair promises to them. In order to live up to its pledge in 2002, the USA should stop trying to recruit in schools.
  • Pressed by the demands of the “global war on terrorism”, the United States is violating an international protocol that forbids the recruitment of children under the age of 18 for military service, according to a new report released Tuesday by a major civil rights group that charged that recruitment practices target children as young as 11 years old. The Protocol, which is attached to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is designed to protect the rights of children under 18 who may be recruited by the military and deployed to war.


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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No

See also

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