Wendell Berry -
We are no longer talking about theoretical alternatives to corporate rule. We are talking with practical urgency about an obvious need. Now the two great aims of industrialism—replacement of people by technology and concentration of wealth into the hands of a small plutocracy—seem close to fulfillment.
At the same time the failures of industrialism have become too great and too dangerous to deny. Corporate industrialism itself has exposed the falsehood that it ever was inevitable or that it ever has given precedence to the common good.
It has failed to sustain the health and stability of human society. Among its characteristic signs are destroyed communities, neighborhoods, families, small businesses, and small farms.
The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY)
Wendell Berry -
"Many parents have experienced the eerie intuition that tells them their child is in danger."
Dr. Teresa Whitehurst -
"Mom, there's this test we're supposed to take tomorrow," my daughter told me one night last year, "but I have a funny feeling about it. Our guidance counselor came in and said that the school would be giving all juniors a special career-aptitude test, to show us where our talents are. It sounded good, but then a military recruiter came in and said that this test, called the ASVAB, could help us choose the best career path."
"He said, 'any personal information will be kept strictly confidential.' I asked if the military would keep our names and numbers, and he just repeated that it's 'confidential.' That was when I knew something was wrong – why make such a big deal about getting our personal information, unless that's the point of the whole thing?"
The guidance counselor reassured one boy who asked a very good question that no, the ASVAB had nothing to do with the military or the possibility of being drafted. No, the names and information would never be used in the event of a draft.
Unconvinced, that boy and my daughter talked after class and decided to ask if they could refuse to take the test. They were the only students who opted out – the others were scared not to take it. One friend simply said he was taking the test because he didn't want to "get in trouble." Another classmate said, "Well I don't want to take it, but if we don't, the school might not let us graduate!"
Notice that even the two most skeptical children felt they had to ask for permission not to take the test: they'd been given to understand that the test was mandatory because the guidance counselor had announced that "all juniors will be taking the ASVAB tomorrow."
Whatever Happened to Parental Consent?
Parents, if you want to protect your child from military recruiters and the coming draft, you'd better speak up and speak up now. If you think your child is safe at school, think again – now that Mr. Bush's wars are in full swing, he needs a steady stream of warm bodies for the battlefields. And the easiest warm bodies to get, of course, are the young ones.
Kids are so much easier than mature adults to dupe with glorious words of manhood, honor, sacrifice, and heroism. That's why the military is focusing so heavily on getting them at school, where their parents can't see what's going on.
I'm sorry to say that, with a few admirable exceptions, American schools are no longer safe places for learning: they've become essential tools in the Pentagon's toolbox, allowing recruiters (and future draft boards) easy access to the children in their care.
The ASVAB "aptitude" test was news to me; I'd never even heard of it, and the school never asked for parental consent before administering it. None of the parents I knew had any warning about the test or when it would be given. When they did hear about it, most of them believed that this was just another standardized test, or that kids refusing to take it would be penalized in some way.
Isn't it just the perfect setup? So much can be said without actually saying it. The official tone of the announcement, the introduction of the test by a trusted guidance counselor, the disavowal of any ties to the military: these routine-sounding aspects of the ASVAB convince teens and parents that every student must take it.
Support Our Children
To keep the military's hands off your child, just say no to the ASVAB. Here's how:
- Call your child's school and ask if and when the ASVAB will be given.
- If the answer is yes, ask what the consequences will be for students who refuse to take it (there shouldn't be any).
- Ask if the school will require written parental consent before students can take this military "aptitude" test, the way it does for field trips to museums, etc.
- Ask what arrangements are provided for students not taking the test (what they'll be doing during the time when the test is being administered). The school should have an interesting learning or recreational experience planned for opt-out students, not something that feels like (and is) punishment (going to the office, sitting silently while others take the test, or being given busy work).
- Ask what the procedure is for "opting out." Some schools require that the student go to the guidance office to sign an "opt out" statement. Students usually have to sign something stating their refusal to take the ASVAB, which may be accompanied by legal-sounding words, written or stated, such as "I hereby state that I am refusing to take the ASVAB aptitude test…." At some schools, the burden is on the parents ("let the buyer (parent) beware") to figure out what the ASVAB really is, then write letters refusing consent for their children to take the test.
- Take all steps required by the school to keep your child safe from the ASVAB scam.
- If the burden is on the child to refuse the test (which can be very difficult due to peer pressure or adult insinuations that it's required), you'll need to reassure your child ahead of time that it really is safe to refuse. Sometimes what's said in opt-out procedures can intimidate students: "Do you realize that you are refusing to take an important test?," "All your classmates are taking this test; we have nothing for you to do while they're taking it," "Okay, but I hope you understand that if you don't take the test your aptitudes won't be on file," or even "Why don't you want to serve your country?"
- Spread the word to all the parents and children you know. Educate them about the the ASVAB's real purpose.
- If you can, talk with other parents and sympathetic educators about arranging an ASVAB Parental Advisory, which could be a one-time talk at the next PTA meeting, or a discussion group announced at school and held in a nearby library.
- Suggest that the school hold an honest informational session for all students on the ASVAB, its purpose, how the military could use students' information (now and in a military draft) – and how students can opt out of the test. Every school, if it's really doing its job, should encourage students to think for themselves and understand their rights. Schools should be places of learning, not tools of the Pentagon.
Children, especially teens, are highly suggestible – just the way the military likes them. That's why the underhanded recruiting of this age group is inappropriate, unethical, and immoral. It is the school's responsibility to protect the children in their care by (a) providing parents and students with honest information about the ASVAB and other recruiting ploys, and (b) requiring parental consent before any child can take the test.
An absurd double standard exists in American schools: parental consent is required for a trip to the museum, but not for military recruitment. The school required my written consent to allow my daughter to simply volunteer in the office – but not to take a sneaky test that places her at risk for recruiting harassment or getting drafted into combat!
Show this article to every parent and teen you know, because forewarned is forearmed. We've had enough of this "Let's you and him fight" business, where "you and him" are children whose lives have just begun.
- The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Official Site
- Is the ASVAB Required?
- ASVAB Campaign - National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy
- Protecting Student Privacy
- The Los Angeles Unified School District’s current administration of the
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery violates NCLB, FERPA,
the California Constitution, and California statutes. - National Lawyers Guild
Original Publication 03/03/2005 - Revised from Archive.org 12/01/2022
The Tragic Death of Brian Arredondo
Linda Pershing, with Lara Bell -
Brian Arredondo never really recovered from his brother’s death in the Iraq War. When they were kids, Brian adored his older brother Alexander and tagged along with him whenever he could. They were often seen playing together in parks and schoolyards in communities surrounding Boston, Massachusetts, and Bangor, Maine, where they grew up.
As teens the two boys were perfect targets for military recruiters: first-generation Americans on their father’s side (he emigrated from Costa Rica), working-class youth (Alex attended a technical high school where much of the curriculum focuses on job training), living with their mother after their parents divorced when they were young. Promises of career training, male camaraderie and “becoming a man,” appeals to patriotism, a $10,000 signing bonus, and funding for college enticed Alex Arredondo to join the marines, just a month before September 11, 2011.
Jon Letman -
Last week, just before Veterans Day, my seven-year-old son, a second grader at a public school on Kauai, brought home an issue of Scholastic News.
The cover of the four-page kid's newspaper pictured a German shepherd wearing a black military vest as it bounded through churning water. The headline read "Soldiers Make a Splash."
The accompanying mini-feature explained how Veterans Day is when we “honor our armed forces [and the dogs that protect them].” The story showed a dog in mid-air harnessed to a paratrooper with the caption: “Parachuting dogs aren’t scared of heights. They just enjoy the ride.” The story said that dogs can also be soldiers and carry cameras to take secret photos.
One of the other two stories told of young girls who hug and cuddle “Daddy Dolls” when they miss their father, a helicopter pilot, who “went to war last year” and “had to be away from his family for a long time.” The other story was a lesson about tying yellow ribbons.
This material taught my son learned that soldiers go overseas to fight wars, dogs like jumping out of airplanes as well as new vocabulary like "stealth," "military," and "abroad."
With teaching materials like this, is it any wonder the U.S. is full of people who tacitly, if not enthusiastically, support American global militarism and waging wars in foreign countries? Many Americans might ask, "what's wrong with teaching children about a U.S. holiday like Veterans Day?"
I suggest that this is just one example of how our society, often in subtle and seemingly benign ways, "soft-primes" children into a culture that glorifies and institutionalizes war as a pillar of patriotism, worthy of pride and respect, while ignoring, or sensationalizing the inevitable violence in ways utterly divorced from reality.
Inculcating our children with this kind of "teaching material" is why ours is a nation of people who like to watch war movies, play video games like Call of Duty MW3 or read "terror thrillers" that feed fantasies and grossly manipulate fears, presenting made-for-Hollywood war narratives as “education” or “entertainment.”
It’s why cable news and other media have gotten away with playing the role of 24/7 cheerleaders for war and why we have a political system where the military policy differences of the “left” and the “right” are but in name only.
It’s why a supposedly “far-left socialist-leaning” president can announce a major escalation of ground forces in Afghanistan the same week he is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and why a “liberal” senior Congresswoman from Hawaii can vote in favor of spending $725 billion for the military even as domestic social programs, basic education and other societal safety nets are eviscerated or outright eliminated.
It's the reason why, a few months ago, while at my son's school cafeteria during a book fair, I found a book about the Iraq war which appeared to be aimed at fourth or fifth grade readers. When I randomly opened it, the first passage read (in effect) "...how are the bombs able to hit just where the bad guys are?"
It's the same reason my son's kindergarten class was visited by National Guardsmen for his first-ever career day and was told "we only kill bad people" just days before a deranged U.S. Army major killed and wounded over 40 fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood. It's why they handed out Army National Guard 6-inch plastic rulers to kindergarteners and why I was roundly (and anonymously) criticized in the local newspaper after I wrote about the utter perversity of sending the National Guard to pitch to 5-year-olds.
It's also the reason why not two weeks ago my son came home from this year's career day talking about the police who came to his class and how they told him that they use pepper spray and have "extra bullets in their pockets." And it's why another second-grader told his parents he wanted to become a computer programmer so he could “shoot missiles” after a career day talk by someone from Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility.
I would guess that most Americans don't see anything wrong with this. They probably have no problem coaxing their own kids into a culture that is awash with militarism and institutionalized violence in a society where warfare (always far from home) is a normal state of affairs.
This criticism is not about a teacher, a school or the material produced by Scholastic Publishing. It’s a recognition that our society is saturated in an undercurrent of militarism and weaponry, both domestically and internationally, a phenomenon which permeates our national character deeper than mere mind-set or philosophy. It is who we are and what we turn our children into.
But really, is this the best we can offer them?
Jon Letman is a freelance journalist on Kauai. He writes about politics, culture and conservation and occasionally tweets at @jonletman.
Haggith Gor & Rela Mazali -
Both of us have been looking for years at the implications of raising children in a state that requires them by law to enlist in the army at age 18. At first we were looking at ourselves. We were two very politically aware and active women, Israeli and Jewish, conscious feminists, taking part in organizations that opposed Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and worked against Israel’s violations of human rights. For many years each of us invested a great deal of time, energy, creativity, and what money we could, to working in and with such organizations. We regularly took part in demonstrations and protest actions.
As part of these processes, each of us formed a deeply critical view of actions taken by the Israeli army, and of the ways in which the military was deployed by successive governments, irrespective of the party in power. We began asking ourselves to what degree the military has been, and is, used as an organization truly providing defense; whether it is in fact too easily usable for purposes of oppression. We delved into extensive reading about processes of militarization in other countries, including South Africa, Ireland, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, the USA, Hawai’i. Each of us read different books and articles, as we compared and shared in an excited atmosphere of urgency and discovery. We conducted an ongoing, unfolding dialogue about similarities and differences between the Israeli case and the ones described in our reading. We constantly drew detailed analogies or identified contrasts with our own personal experiences and insights, generating a growing, living body of shared knowledge. Gradually, we began to ask whether the power and status of the Israel Defense Force allowed and even actively encouraged continuing use of warfare as a political strategy. Were these, and not external circumstances beyond our control, actually perpetuating the state of war?
Veterans for Peace works for the abolition of war, and while that process will take many steps, one that should be taken immediately is the dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
NATO has always been a war-making institution lacking in accountability to the peoples of the nations it claims to represent. But NATO at least once claimed a defensive purpose that it neither claims nor represents any longer.
NATO has militarized the nations of Europe against the will of their people, now maintains hundreds of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear European nations in blatant violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and is threatening Russia with missile base construction on its borders.