In response to the Sept. 20 Our Generation article by Brandi Waters (regarding her choice to join the military after high school), we at the youth division of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) would like to express another view of military recruiting.
When public school districts allow recruiters access to high schools, recruiters tell students half-truths and outright lies to sell teens on the military. Recruiters usually promise things, such as money for college, that they have no power to guarantee.
A top recruiter uses this well-prepared sales pitch for the college-bound: $30,000 in scholarship money. In reality, to qualify for any aid at all, the military requires new recruits to pay a $1,200 non-refundable deposit.
Recruiters also promise jobs and training which are not guaranteed. Recruiters often tell students they get to choose what to study but many new recruits are placed in areas that the military wants them to study.
In order to persuade a student to enlist in the military, recruiters glamorize the unglamorous. For instance, basic training includes degrading commands and lectures by higher ranking officers. Because higher officers tear down the self-esteem of new recruits, many turn to substance abuse and even consider suicide.
Soldiers may find themselves forced to fight in a war they disagree with, even when they believe in fighting to defend their country. Yet recruiters lure thousands of young people into the military each year. After all, “no recruiter, no ad, ever used the word ‘casualties,”’ said Jessica Siegel in a 1991 New York Times article.
Recruiters often mislead students with offers of skill training for non-existent careers. Ohio State University researchers found that only 12 percent of men and 6 percent of women used their skills in civilian jobs after leaving the military.
The military also misleads students in regard to career placement after discharge. The Veterans Administration found that unemployment among young male veterans is 31 percent higher than among non-veterans of the same age group. Young female veterans face a 58 percent higher unemployment rate. Recruiters have a history of deliberately lying to students to persuade them; 7 percent of the recruiting force was disciplined for fraud in 1988 by the military itself.
Recruiters lure college-bound students into the military with promises of money and education, which all too often they don’t produce. In the case of a student who decides he or she wants to work after high school, recruiters often convince the student they need skill training to work. And according to the recruiter, the place to get the training is the military.
Recruiters entice teens with money, adventure and travel to enlist students, because many would not consider the military otherwise. They do not mention that many enlisted personnel even in Spokane rely on food stamps to make ends meet. They gloss over the facts that once they join, recruits must move away from home, go through strenuous physical training and be ready to kill or be killed if ordered to do so.
Military recruiters should have no place in public high schools. Recruiters tell lies to students, including promises they cannot keep, glamorizing the unglamorous, and misleading students with offers of job training for a career that does not exist outside the military.
Militarism is the glorification of war. The purpose of schools is to educate students in a safe environment for a better future. But when military recruiters push propaganda in the faces of students trying to get a free, unbiased education, they defeat the purpose of public schools.
For more information about militarism and military recruitment, see the video “The Military’s Not Just a Job … It’s Eight Years of Your Life,” which is available at the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (838-7870).
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