Before You Enlist Video -
Researching Pop Culture and Militarism -
If you have been Harassed by a Military Recruiter -
War: Turning now to Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson - Christian Science Monitor
Click through to find out
Religion and militarism -
‘A Poison in the System’: Military Sexual Assault - New York Times
Change your Mind?
Talk to a Counselor at the GI Rights Hotline
Ask that your child's information is denied to Military Recruiters
And monitor that this request is honored.
Military Recruiters and Programs Target marginalized communities for recruits...
..and the high schools in those same communities

 Militarization of our Schools

The Pentagon is taking over our poorer public schools. This is the reality for disadvantaged youth.


What we can do

Corporate/conservative alliances threaten Democracy . Progressives have an important role to play.

 Why does NNOMY matter?

Most are blind or indifferent to the problem.
A few strive to protect our democracy.


The Poverty Draft

Jorge Mariscal -

Do military recruiters disproportionately target communities of color and the poor?

Recently I stumbled upon an online exchange about why young people join the military. One participant who claimed to be "on the Left" made the following assertion: "Disenfranchisement is the reason why kids join the military and they know going in that it gives them the opportunity to legally and with the blessing of our government kill, torture, and hate other people in order to give an outlet to their hostilities toward society."

Among the many youth I have met over the years as an educator and counter-recruitment activist, I have never met anyone who enlisted so that he or she could "kill, torture, and hate." While "disenfranchisement" may be an accurate word for why some youth enlist, the claim that working-class youth sign up so that they can "legally kill and torture other people" at the very least betrays a profound misunderstanding of why young people join the "all-volunteer military" and at worst reveals biases that separate Americans due to differences of class and race.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the conservative claim that most youth enlist due to patriotism and the desire to "serve one's country" is equally misleading. The Pentagon's own surveys show that something vague and abstract called "duty to country" motivates only a portion of enlistees. But the vast majority of young people wind up in the military for different reasons, ranging from economic pressure to the desire to escape a dead-end situation at home to the promise of citizenship.

WHEN MANDATORY MILITARY service ended in 1973, the volunteer military was born. By the early 1980s, the term "poverty draft" had gained currency to connote the belief that the enlisted ranks of the military were made up of young people with limited economic opportunities.

Today, military recruiters react angrily to the term "poverty draft." They parse terms in order to argue that "the poor" are not good recruiting material because they lack the necessary education. Any inference that those currently serving do so because they have few other options is met with a sharp rebuke, as Sen. John Kerry learned last November when he seemed to tell a group of college students they could either work hard in school or "get stuck in Iraq."

President Bush led the bipartisan charge against Kerry: "The men and women who serve in our all-volunteer armed forces are plenty smart and are serving because they are patriots—and Sen. Kerry owes them an apology."

In reality, Kerry's "botched joke"—Kerry said he was talking about President Bush and not the troops—contained a kernel of truth. It is not so much that one either studies hard or winds up in Iraq but rather that many U.S. troops enlist because access to higher education is closed off to them. Although they may be "plenty smart," financial hardship drives many to view the military's promise of money for college as their only hope to study beyond high school.

Recruiters may not explicitly target "the poor," but there is mounting evidence that they target those whose career options are severely limited. According to a 2007 Associated Press analysis, "nearly three-fourths of [U.S. troops] killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."

It perhaps should come as no surprise that the Army GED Plus Enlistment Program, in which applicants without high school diplomas are allowed to enlist while they complete a high school equivalency certificate, is focused on inner-city areas.

When working-class youth make it to their local community college, they often encounter military recruiters working hard to discourage them. "You're not going anywhere here," recruiters say. "This place is a dead end. I can offer you more." Pentagon-sponsored studies—such as the RAND Corporation's "Recruiting Youth in the College Market: Current Practices and Future Policy Options"—speak openly about college as the recruiter's number one competitor for the youth market.

Add in race as a supplemental factor for how class determines the propensity to enlist and you begin to understand why communities of color believe military recruiters disproportionately target their children. Recruiters swear they don't target by race. But the millions of Pentagon dollars spent on special recruiting campaigns for Latino and African-American youth contradicts their claim.

According to an Army Web site, the goal of the "Hispanic H2 Tour" was to "Build confidence, trust, and preference of the Army within the Hispanic community." The "Takin' it to the Streets Tour" was designed to accelerate recruitment in the African-American community where recruiters are particularly hard-pressed and faced with declining interest in the military as a career. In short, the nexus between class, race, and the "volunteer armed forces" is an unavoidable fact.

NOT ALL RECRUITS, of course, are driven by financial need. In working- class communities of every color, there are often long-standing traditions of military service and links between service and privileged forms of masculinity. For communities often marked as "foreign," such as Latinos and Asians, there is pressure to serve in order to prove that one is "American." For recent immigrants, there is the lure of gaining legal resident status or citizenship.

Economic pressure, however, is an undeniable motivation—yet to assert that fact in public often leads to confrontations with conservatives who ask, "How dare you question our troops' patriotism?" But any simplistic understanding of "patriotism" does not begin to capture the myriad of subjective motivations that often coexist alongside economic motives. Altruism—or as youth often put it, "I want to make a difference"—is also a major reason a significant number of people enlist.

It is a terrible irony that contemporary American society provides working-class youth with few other outlets besides the military for their desire for agency, personal empowerment, and social commitment. It is especially tragic whenever U.S. foreign policy turns away from national defense and back toward the imperial tradition of military adventurism, as it did in Vietnam and Iraq. Within a worldview of pre-emptive war and wars of choice, the altruism and good intentions of young people become one more sentiment to be manipulated and exploited in order to further the aims of a small group of policymakers.

In this scenario, the desire to "make a difference," once inserted into the military apparatus, means young Americans may have to kill innocent people or become brutalized by the realities of combat. Take the tragic example of Sgt. Paul Cortez, who graduated in 2000 from Central High School in the working-class town of Barstow, Calif., joined the Army, and was sent to Iraq. On March 12, 2006, he participated in the gang rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her entire family.

When asked about Cortez, a classmate said: "He would never do something like that. He would never hurt a female. He would never hit one or even raise his hand to one. Fighting for his country is one thing, but not when it comes to raping and murdering. That's not him." Let us accept the claim that "that's not him." Nevertheless, because of a series of unspeakable and unpardonable events within the context of an illegal and immoral war, "that" is what he became. On February 21, 2007, Cortez pled guilty to the rape and four counts of felony murder. He was convicted a few days later, sentenced to life in prison and a lifetime in his own personal hell.

As ex-Marine Martin Smith wrote recently in Counterpunch: "It speaks volumes that in order for young working-class men and women to gain self-confidence or self-worth, they seek to join an institution that trains them how to destroy, maim, and kill. The desire to become a Marine—as a journey to one's manhood or as a path to self-improvement—is a stinging indictment of the pathology of our class-ridden world." Like a large mammal insensitive to its offspring's needs and whereabouts, America is rolling over on the aspirations of its children and crushing them in the process.

Let us return now to our "friend" who thinks young people enlist so that they can legally kill and torture other human beings. According to this theory, Sgt. Cortez was a rapist before he enlisted. And so are others who enlist.

If young people enlist because of a predisposition to "kill and torture," why do so many U.S. troops crack under the pressure of combat and its aftershocks? Why are at least one in eight of all Iraq veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, according to a 2004 Pentagon study published in the New England Journal of Medicine? Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, stated that the study's results were far too conservative. As the war in Iraq drags on, many more young veterans will experience some debilitating form of PTSD.

And if the majority of soldiers and Marines enjoy killing, why have so many filed for conscientious objector (CO) status? Hundreds of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have either begun or completed the CO process. According to Bill Galvin of the Center on Conscience and War: "For some people, the training gets to them. From stabbing dummies, to shouting 'Kill!' or 'Blood makes the grass grow!' But in the last year or two, we've been hearing people talking about their experiences in the war, or talking about the children they've witnessed being killed, or the civilians that were murdered. Some of them are wrestling with the guilt about people they may have killed or families they may have ruined."

Most people are not predisposed to kill, and so it should concern us that our children are being increasingly militarized in their schools and the culture as a whole. To take only one example: What does it mean for a society to put young people from ages 8 to 18 in military uniforms and call it "leadership training"? This is precisely what each of the more than 300 units of the Young Marines program is doing at a neighborhood school near you.

From rural America to the urban cores of deindustrialized cities, a military caste system is slowly taking shape. If recent history is any indication, our politicians will use our military less for national defense than for adventures premised on control of resources, strategic advantage, and ideological fantasies. As in the final decades of every declining empire, it's likely that many wars loom in our future.

Exactly who will have to fight and die in those wars will be determined by economic class. In order to accomplish their goals, the recruiters and politicians will exploit the hopes and dreams of mostly well-intentioned youth from humble origins who are looking for a way to contribute to a society that has lost its moral compass. As they did in Vietnam and again in Iraq, young women and men will serve their country. But how well will their country have served them?

Jorge Mariscal is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and the son of a U.S. Marine who fought in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego.


A Call To All Activists to Shut Down the "Army Experience Center"

Pat Elder -

The children of Sparta were drilled in battle using knives and swords. At the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia the same kind of training for warfare is taking place, except children use simulated M-16 automatic rifles and M-240B light machine guns. The training in each scenario is appropriate for different kinds of battle -- facing the dreaded Athenians in hand to hand combat during the Peloponnesian War or launching hellfire missiles to "suspected terrorist targets" in Afghanistan by robotic drones controlled from digital war rooms in suburban Maryland and California.

The Spartans realized the importance of developing the ethos of a warrior caste and we're seeing that same phenomena today in America. This isn't a far-fetched notion. The Pentagon is intent on militarizing American youth at the earliest ages to cultivate this new breed of soldier, based on an ancient model.

Consider the changes made to the U.S. Army's Soldier's Creed. The old creed, discarded in 2003, had soldiers recite, "No matter what the situation I am in, I will never do anything, for pleasure, profit, or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit, or my country. I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions disgraceful to themselves and to the uniform."

These words were scrapped for:

"I am an American Soldier. I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat."

In 2005, when Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker ordered Army recruiters in the nation's public schools to wear combat uniforms, it signaled a philosophical sea change in the tenor of military recruiting throughout the nation. It was disturbing to many recruiters, used to wearing Class A or Class B uniforms. It squarely placed the subject of polarizing, unpopular wars on the table of national discourse, reflective of President Bush's "us vs. them" mindset. Career recruiters recognized the change. Recruiter manuals were purged of references of "contracts" or references to selling. Instead, a new creature, a new animal was to be cultivated -- the warrior. Articles in the U.S. Army's Recruiting Command's "Recruiter Journal" became bellicose overnight. There was no overall strategy in the shift, according to two recruiting insiders, except that a strident, jingoistic tone was adopted in communications from the command to recruiters. The August-September 2009 edition of the Recruiter Journal calls on recruiters to "Take Back the Schools" and is filled with combat-related analogies to recruiting in high school hallways.

Another phenomenon has shaped the drift toward the goal of recruiting lifelong warriors rather than "citizen soldiers." As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged, recruiting company commands faced a diminished pool of talented, educated officers with some semblance of an educated, world view. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed a tremendous strain on the Army officer corps and systemic shortages exist in many key ranks and specialties. Consequently, this shortage of Captains and Majors has necessitated the assignment of many lower quality officers to recruiting command.

For many, war is preferable to the hassle of recruiting. "Rolling a donut," i.e., coming up with no recruits for a month, can be tortuous. Consider the five Houston battalion recruiters who've killed themselves in a relatively short period of time. Recruiters work 12- to 14-hour days, six or seven days a week. If they don't fill monthly quotas, they're criticized as failures, punished with even longer hours and threatened with losing rank or receiving poor evaluations, according to media sources. It's all about producing "bodies on the floor," that is, recruits at MEPS, the local Military Entrance Processing Command. These changes are evidence of a fundamental paradigm shift.

This shift is also characterized by a drift toward a more cloistered existence for recruiters, as evidenced by the successful unveiling of the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia. Increasingly, recruiters are persona-non-grata in thousands of communities across the nation. Their calls are anathema to parents and teens in millions of households. To counter this trend, the military is micro-targeting potential recruits. At Franklin Mills Mall, the Pentagon is going after teens "who don't have X-boxes at home," according to an active recruiter in the battalion. The Army has been disconnected from the entire southeast Pennsylvania region since the Philadelphia Battalion was moved to exurban Lakehurst Naval Air Station in NJ and renamed the Mid-Atlantic Battalion. Also, the Philadelphia MEPS wasmoved from the cityproper to Fort Dix, NJ. These actions further cloistered recruiting leadership and MEPS personnel from the citizenry they serve.

These trends will continue nationally. Since the AEC opened, five area recruiting stations have closed. Recruiters will no longer be coming into contact with the mainstream and that's just fine with the Pentagon. Developing a Warrior Caste isn't dependent on popular support. With the AEC, the Army is exposing/indoctrinating teens to a very narrow slice of what the Army does - "killing bad guys." There are nearly 200 occupational specialties in the Army. Even those serving in the infantry are called on to do a whole lot more than shoot people. The Pentagon's agenda is very clear - present a narrow view of the Army experience and hope that those indoctrinated will a) enlist; and b) volunteer for a combat MOS on their own accord.

Throughout world history, warrior castes have been built from particular regions and/or ethnicities within the territorial confines of an empire -- and we're no exception today. Our warrior caste is being built disproportionately from recruits who reign from the old south. We are witnessing the development of a military radically unmoored from the intellectual and popular center of American socio-political thought, further contributing to the refinement and further development of a new caste in American society - the warrior caste.

That brings us back to the two 13 year-olds giving each other high fives in a suburban shopping mall in Philadelphia for "wiping out ragheads" with automatic machine gun fire. The Army has plans to extend these "Experience Centers" across the country. We'd better wake up before it's too late. Join us on September 12, 2009. See:

Articles on the web about the Army Experience Center:

Counter-Recruitment Deserves Higher Priority on the Peace Agenda

Pat Elder -

National Guard Bureau Sky's the limit for kids in STARBASE Camp > National Guard > News Features - The National Guard - DOD ImageThe mainstream peace and justice movement is beginning to see that countering military recruitment deserves a higher priority and should be viewed in strategic, rather than tactical terms. Resisting the unprecedented and relentless militarization of American youth transcends the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countering military recruitment confronts an ugly mix of a distinctively American brand of institutionalized violence, racism, militarism, nationalism, classism, and sexism.  It gets to the root of the problem.

Confronting the work of military recruiters, particularly in the nation’s public schools will provide a catalyst for activists to shift gears from the traditional antiwar tactics of vigils, protests, sit-ins, and CD actions to the long-term strategy of opposing the militarization of youth.  The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One however, treats symptoms; the other addresses causes.

How Peace Activists Can Win Access to Schools Equal to that of Military Recruiters

Rick Jahnkow -

Since the end of the Vietnam War, the US military has been steadily expanding its presence and influence in schools. In light of this, our expectations need to be realistic: reversing the militarization trend and establishing a strong counter-recruitment presence in schools is not something that can be accomplished in a year. It requires a long-term vision and proportionate commitment by groups for the long haul.

Teaching Peace

Colman McCarthy -

Teaching Peace - Colman McCarthyHaving begun my thirtieth year of teaching high school, college and law school courses on the philosophy of pacifism and the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, I was challenged again to decide where to begin this year’s course. Should I use the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to discuss nonviolent alternatives to the Bush/Cheney bents for bombs and bullets? Or pose this: would members of Congress, left or right, have voted to increase military spending so dramatically during the Bush years if they had studied peace and nonviolence in college? Would Barbara Lee of California’s 9th District have been the only member of Congress—one out of 535—to vote against the Bush war plans on September 14, 2001?

Should I discuss the influence of nonviolence on the protests of the Arab Spring, from Egypt to Bahrain? Or explore alternatives to more than a dozen forms of violence that put one or another group of victims at risk every day: military violence, economic violence, environmental violence, corporate violence, racial violence, homophobic violence, verbal violence, emotional violence, sexual violence, structural violence, street violence, religious violence, legal or illegal violence, video game violence, violence toward animals? Or how about a quiz? Identify: (a) Emily Greene Balch; (b) Jeannette Rankin; (c) Dorothy Day.*

I began teaching courses in what is generically known as “peace studies” out of curiosity. Are the ways of peacemaking teachable? And if so, why are so few schools—at any level—offering courses? For answers, I went in 1982 to School Without Walls, a public high school near my office at the Washington Post, to ask the principal if I could volunteer to teach a course on alternatives to violence. Give it a try, she said. The 2.5-hour weekly seminar became a discussion-based class, unmired in tests, exams or homework: neither Socrates nor Maria Montessori, my North Stars on how to navigate the seas of pedagogy, believed in such fake academic rigor. Two of my own children had been students at Walls, and they brought home stories about the school’s preference for experiential learning with internships, not theoretical learning from books.

The first courses went well. Teaching peace—reading, debating and discussing the literature and getting students to examine their choices regarding violence and nonviolence—was as easy as breathing. Some children came from violent neighborhoods and were hungry to explore the unknown landscape of nonviolence. Others were from moneyed families who had ample funds for private schools but not a taste for the insularity.

We adopted a motto for the course: Instead of asking questions, be bolder and question the answers. What answers? Those that say violence. Those that say that if we kill enough people, drop enough bombs, jail enough dissenters, torture enough prisoners, keep fighting fire with fire and not with water, we’ll have peace forever.

Enjoying it immensely, I accepted invitations from more schools: a daily 7:25 am class at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in suburban Maryland and a daily 9:30 am class at Wilson High in DC. By the mid-1980s I had courses at Georgetown University Law Center, American University, the University of Maryland and the Washington Center for Internships. Since 1982 I’ve had more than 8,000 students. In recent years, it’s been eight classes at six schools.

Nationally, the peace education movement is growing—some say surging—because of the continued failure of military solutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the belief that alternatives to violence do exist. In 1970 only Manchester College, a Church of the Brethren school in Indiana, offered a degree in peace studies. The Peace and Justice Studies Association, based at Arizona’s Prescott College, estimates that more than 500 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs are now being offered on US campuses. The schools include American University, Manhattan College, Hobart, Guilford, Tufts, Wellesley, Earlham, Goucher, Colgate, Goshen, Berkeley and the University of Colorado. Costa Rica has the University of Peace. The Rotary Foundation funds up to seventy master’s degree fellowships in peace studies annually. Before her death in 2003, McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc gave generous financial support to the University of San Diego and the University of Notre Dame to create peace studies degree programs. I’ve visited both in recent months. They are thriving.

Although the message is getting out that unless we teach our children peace someone else may teach them violence, no one should be deluded. The day is distant when peace education enjoys the same academic regard as math and science. Most seniors in my high school classes have had twelve years, since first grade, of those subjects, with only one peace course—mine—tucked in as an elective. Would we ever graduate them with only one math or one science course in twelve years? Yet the young are instructed by assorted politicians, shamans and visionaries that nothing is more important than peace. Yes, children, let’s give peace a chance—but not a place in the curriculum.

Whether in high school, college or law school classes, my students usually divide into two groups. One bonds intellectually, and often quickly, with Gandhi’s belief that “nonviolence is the weapon of the strong” and agrees with Hannah Arendt that “violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world.” Many have endured violence in their own lives. On leaving class a few semesters ago, after we had discussed Gandhi’s views on ending war, a student pulled me aside to describe the war zone of her home—the years of witnessing her father and mother flay each other verbally, emotionally and sometimes physically. How do I end that war? she asked.

Valid question. Perhaps if we’d had her parents in schools where nonviolent conflict-resolution skills were systematically taught, battles on the home front might have been resolved before the marriage was wrecked. It was too late for this couple, who had left school as peace illiterates. Shaping a peaceful child is easier than reshaping a violent adult. Is it grandiose to think that if peace courses were in the nation’s schools, domestic violence—the leading cause of injury to women—would decrease?

The other group comes to class encrusted with doubts, eyeing me as a 1960s lefty who had stuck one too many daisies into soldiers’ gun barrels and knocked on one too many doors in New Hampshire for Gene McCarthy in ’68. Nonviolence and pacifism are noble theories, they instruct me, but in the real world we have to deal with, and destroy, despots across the ocean and street thugs across town. So let’s keep our bomb bays opened and our fists cocked. I respect the students’ skepticism, while asking them to consider that if violence were truly effective, we would have had peace eons ago. And to remember that in the past quarter-century at least seven brutal regimes—in the Philippines, Chile, Poland, Yugoslavia, Georgia, Egypt and Tunisia—were overthrown by people who relied on weapons of the spirit more than on weapons of steel. To varying degrees, their strategies of nonviolence worked. During the same years, American presidents and Congresses ordered up violent force in Libya, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. For what? Mounds of corpses, profits to weapons companies, career boosts for generals, high rates of suicide among veterans and soldiers, and an economy laid waste by spending on wars that can’t be won, afforded or explained.

* * *

Peace teachers have no illusions that exposing students to the literature of peace and the methods of nonviolence will cause governments to stockpile plowshares rather than swords, or that across the Hudson River from the West Point Military Academy will be the East Point Peace Academy. Nor do they see the fog clearing when it comes to persuading the academic mahatmas on school boards that the study of peace should be given as primary a place in the curriculum as any other essential subject. In elementary and secondary schools this is the era of No Child Left Untested—our answer to the latest report that all those Chinese and Korean grade-school smarties are way ahead of America’s layabouts.

Just muscling one course into one school takes extraordinary flexing. A while back I was invited by a school board to speak on peace education. After twenty minutes I thought I was getting through. My goal was to move the board members to permit one peace class in each of the county’s twenty-two high schools. One course. One period a day. An elective for seniors. Nothing grand.

I was already a volunteer peace teacher in one of the county’s high schools, so I wasn’t breezing in as a theorist with a lofty idea. At the end of my pitch, a board member had a problem. “Peace studies,” he pondered. Is there another phrase? The word “studies” was OK, but “peace”? It might raise concerns in the community. I envisioned a newspaper headline: “Peace Studies Proposal Threatens Stability in the County.” The same school board gives military recruiters full access to the county’s high schools.

Unable to rally the board, I tried the school system’s curriculum office. It was an end run, and there’s always an end to run around if you look hard enough. I had edited a textbook, Solutions to Violence, a sixteen-chapter collection of ninety essays published by my Center for Teaching Peace that ranged from Gene Sharp’s “The Technique of Nonviolent Action” to Joan Baez’s “What Would You Do If?” After near-endless meetings with assorted bureaucrats, papercrats and educrats, I realized that public schools are government schools. Teachers are government workers. Obedience prevails. Innovation is suspect. It took six years to get Solutions to Violence approved. I’d already been using it in my course during that time, slipping it in like contraband and starting off the semester with a discussion of Thoreau’s “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” Might as well practice it. I’ve edited another one, this for my college and law school classes: Strength Through Peace: The Ideas and People of Nonviolence.

Private schools, moated to keep the hordes from storming in, have their own ways of caution about peace education. Excessive amounts of Advanced Placement courses, matched by equally excessive amounts of homework, are the air currents expected to waft students into top colleges. How can a mere peace course oxygenate an already rarefied air? Neither theoretical nor experiential knowledge of nonviolence is seen as a help in acing the SATs. Kaplan prep courses are about outfoxing tests, not developing reflectiveness. Doubtless, private schools produce brainy students. But are they brainy and peace-educated? I recall speaking at a New England prep school and being told by the headmaster that he takes peace education seriously: once a year Peace Day is observed. I wondered: Is there an annual Algebra Day? A yearly Physics Day?

I’ve taught in several private high schools in the Washington area, including Georgetown Day School, Landon and Stone Ridge. The course attracted students who had unshackled themselves from the academic pressures by realizing that Walker Percy had it right: you can make all A’s in school and go on to flunk life. They grasped that, often enough, private schools, however committed to excellence the faculties may be, process students as if they are hunks of cheese enrolled in Velveeta Prep on the way to Mozzarella U and Parmesan grad school.

A crucial part of peace education is exposing students to the personal joys of service, giving them a chance to become, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “other-centered,” not “self-centered.” I’ve taken my high school, college and law school students into prisons, death-row cellblocks, literacy centers and soup kitchens—sometimes to be of real service, other times merely to be around and learn from people who are broke but not broken.

Serving food to the hungry or tutoring inmates is useful, but it can remain mere dabbling in charity if we don’t return to the classroom to examine the connections between injustice and public policy. Which political decisions permit massive increases in military and security spending and projected decreases for the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps? Which policies are allowing prisons to be packed with the mentally ill and drug-addicted, who need treatment, not punishment? Which fiscal policies create tax shelters for the rich rather than homeless shelters for the poor?

I’ve been accused of teaching a one-sided course. Perhaps, except that my course is the other side, the one that students aren’t getting in conventional history or political science courses, which present violent, militaristic solutions as rational and necessary.

* * *

In 1985 my wife and I founded the Center for Teaching Peace. Supported by foundation grants and membership, our work is assisting schools at all levels either to begin or expand academic programs in peace education. I’ve seen progress, such as that described by Paul Wack, a teacher at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, in a letter four years ago: “I’m writing to let you know that our district, somewhat miraculously, approved a peace studies course…. I ordered your two collections of peace essays years ago, and you wrote back an encouraging letter. It takes a long time to get a course started here, with many institutional hoops to go through. Two other teachers and I put a proposal together, which at first was rejected. It was too ‘social studies’ oriented. We are all, incidentally, English teachers. Our second proposal, titled ‘The Literature of Peace,’ was accepted by the school board. This was the miraculous part.”

Recently, Wack reported that his efforts remain on sure footing: “Students often tell me that ‘Literature of Peace and Nonviolence’ is the one course where we talk about things that matter.” A nearby school now has a similar course.

Over the years, I’ve visited hundreds of schools to lecture on the need for peace education. I can report that large numbers of students, whether seeking alternatives to violence in their lives or sickened by governments that rely on the gun, have embraced the advice offered to the young a century ago by Prince Peter Kropotkin: “Think about the kind of world you want to live and work in. What do you need to know to build that world? Demand that your teachers teach you that.”

Is there any doubt that a peaceful world is what the young want and that so far violent solutions have abjectly failed?


The Center for Teaching Peace has produced two text books, Solutions to Violence and Strength Through Peace, both edited by Colman McCarthy. Each book contains 90 essays by the world's great theorists and practitioners of non-violence. ($25 each). To contact Colman McCarthy, write to: Center for Teaching Peace, 4501 Van Ness Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016 Phone: (202) 537-1372





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War Inc. – Pentagon sucks in American youth


AFP Photo / Str © AFP

11 Aug, 2011 / RT USA News / Author Not Disclosed - As the US economy remains on a consistent downward spiral, one thing the government is never shy to invest endless cash in is the Pentagon.

Which – on its end – is pumping millions of dollars into luring in the young population of America into enrolling into the military. RT looks at some of those mesmerizing techniques, and what kind of effect they have had on those fit to serve.A hunt for American youth to hunt down the next American enemy. War incorporated – a robust business machine – is operating at full capacity in the US. From televised ads, to Hollywood blockbusters, to video games, to American presidents dubbing soldiers the real Patriots. The image of the American warrior is portrayed as that of the invincible hero.Times Square in New York is one of the number one entertainment spots in the Big Apple. It lures in millions from around the world and across the US. Apart from flashy lights and billboards there is a recruitment centre – one of hundreds just in New York.The mesmerizing techniques luring young Americans into serving are more sophisticated than ever before.“Sponsoring video games tournaments, paintball tournaments and going up to these young kids and say ‘Hey, the US military needs you, we see your skills at this video game,’ and of course to a 15, or 16 or 17 year old, this is something that’s very enticing,” said Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner.“It’s a cruel and deceptive type of recruitment. They want to use all the hippest tools they have to make being in the military as cool as possible,” said media critic and filmmaker Danny Schechter. Now a cinematographer, Edward Pages dedicated 10 years to being a US soldier. He thought it was the honorable thing to do.“If they presented war for what it was nobody would join,” said Edward. But they do join- having played one computer game, and seen one war movie too many.“There are no second chances in real life. You can re-set a game, you can re-start a movie, there are no second chances when you are actually out there and your life is at risk for something that most of these young men have no idea really the true reasons why they are even out there,” Edward explained. By the time some of these reasons are realized, it is often too late. “To expand the military influence and domination in these regions of the world that are currently off limits to US imperialism.” Michael Prysner named one. “The problem is a lot of these kids don’t know – once they get in, it’s hard to get out,” said Danny Schechter. For some – the way out is suicide. A military report says 80 percent of soldiers in Afghanistan have seen a friend killed or injured, the gore of war quickly replacing its promised glory.However, nothing stops the military propaganda campaign.“They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year on recruiting groups and recruiting people, glorifying war, glorifying the killing of people whether it’s necessary or not," said war veteran Jake Diliberto from Washington DC. A dire economy at home also comes in handy for the Pentagon.“There is a joke in the military that the best recruiter is an economic downturn,” said economist Richard Wolff. And that recruiter is raging on.“What happened after 2008 that solved their problem was the desperation of millions of Americans. We had an economic crisis, we’ve had unemployment zoom up,” explained Wolff. But no matter the times, the power of the Pentagon seems eternal. “American Presidents do not become leaders by challenging national security, nor the military industrial complex. They just don’t do it,” said poet and philosopher Phil Rockstroh. Meaning luring in more young Americans into more wars, with no happy ending or game over in sight.



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