Steve August 17, 2020
military-recruiters-don’t-belong-in-high-schools

Schools have become contested territory.

For years, getting police officers out of schools has been a central
goal of racial justice campaigns. Recently, they’ve won victories in Denver,
Minneapolis,
Portland,
Charlottesville,
and even on many university
campuses
.

However, there’s another group of outsiders in schools we should be wary of:
the U.S. military.

Since the end of the draft in 1973, the US has relied on an all-volunteer service
to maintain its 1.3
million-member
global police force. Over the years the military has used
a number of different recruitment methods, but the target audience has always
been the same: high schoolers.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 significantly changed how military recruiters
reach teenagers. Section
9528
mandates public high schools give military recruiters the same access
to students that college recruiters get, including their personal contact information.
Schools became gold mines for recruiting “future
soldiers.

Recruiters at my high school in Fairfax County, Virginia always set up shop
in the cafeteria. For the next two hours, they would sit through the four different
lunch periods and give their spiel to whoever was curious enough to stop at
their station.

Recruiters use their omnipresence on campus to build relationships
and trust
in all kinds of different ways. They may offer to chaperone homecoming
events, timekeep at football games, or even give lectures in history or government
classrooms.

All the while, they paint a glamorous
picture of life in the military
. Promises of scholarships and a chance to
earn honor and respect serving around the world are very compelling to 17-year-olds,
especially those without a lot of other options.

That’s key. Recruiters deliberately exploit the financial and social insecurities
of teenagers to enlist more soldiers.

A RAND
Corporation study
, for example, found that nearly 57 percent of students
at public high schools with JROTC programs relied on free or reduced-price lunch
– about 10 percent more than schools without them.

Sometimes the disparity is even starker. Education
Week
reporters in Connecticut found that recruiters made 10 times as
many visits to one largely low-income school as they did to a nearby affluent
school.

Finally, four years of studies
by the Resistance Center in western Massachusetts found that Black, Hispanic,
Indigenous, and low-income students were overrepresented among the enlistees
most
often put in harm’s way
.

Schools aren’t the only place the military targets young people. As
early as 2002
, recruiters had already begun using e-sports as a platform.
Today this effort has transformed into an official
Army e-sports team
and an Army
video game streaming channel
, all designed to reach vulnerable youth at
an even
younger age
.

These practices are nothing less than predatory. Research reveals numerous
physical
and mental health
risks from joining the military at a young age – including
higher rates of substance abuse, depression, PTSD, and suicide.

Students’ rights to health care, education, housing, and citizenship, among
other military “perks,” should not have to be earned by putting their life on
the line.

Far more effective jobs guarantees could exist if we invested in them: Education,
health care, and clean energy all create
more jobs
per dollar than Pentagon spending. Yet the US spends more on its
military than the next 10
countries combined
.

Pentagon recruiters don’t belong in schools – or anywhere vulnerable kids gather.
And getting them out should be part of a bigger effort to right-size our military
and invest in the things that actually keep us secure.

Sidney Miralao is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies. Reprinted
from OtherWords
with permission.

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