The British navy used to use trapdoors in barrooms to capture recruits to maintain its colonial empire. The U.S. military doesn’t need these tricks. It has No Child Left Behind.
Section 9528, the 300 or so words buried within the act’s 670 pages, cement militarism in public schools. This section’s provisions funnel private student data such as telephone numbers and home addresses into the Pentagon for military recruitment purposes and also mandate access for military recruiters to students in public secondary schools.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on, recruiters have become increasingly aggressive on campus. Data from student information provided via Section 9528 are used for recruiter home visits and repetitive phone calls to students. Military recruiters also use high-pressure sales techniques, flashy videos, and eye-candy trinkets, and bring he-man danger mobiles such as Hummers and helicopters onto school grounds to attract students, especially young males.
At the beginning of this school year, the Los Angeles-based Coalition Against Militarism In Our Schools (CAMS), a group that I work with, decided to get the word out about Section 9528.
As NCLB reauthorization neared, we began spreading the word about Section 9528 to the blogosphere, via e-mails, websites, and letter writing campaigns to congressional representatives. In contacts with legislators, we encouraged activists to express the need to carefully review the excesses of NCLB, and to eliminate Section 9528 from any NCLB reauthorization.
CAMS activists thought that citizen contacts with legislators would be only marginally effective. So we committed ourselves to working at the grassroots, with parents, students, and educators, to build concern about Section 9528 and military recruitment abuse. We initiated counter-recruitment conferences where Section 9528 was explained. We produced documents written in ways that youth could understand, and distributed them through our Adopt-A-School volunteers at over 35 high school campuses in Los Angeles just before the students enter school.
CAMS has organized at the district level to place limits on recruiters, with some success, and has spread the word to students, with better success. A February 19 Los Angeles Times article reported that JROTC enrollment in LAUSD had declined 24 percent in the last four years compared to an 8 percent growth nationwide, due in part to CAMS organizing teachers and students. CAMS also counters military recruiters by setting up tables at school events such as Career Day Fairs and Community Fairs.
We concentrated our teacher union work within the Human Rights Committee of United Teachers Los Angeles, a joint National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) local. As a member of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the AFT statewide teacher union affiliate, I drafted a resolution to put the union on record for the removal of NCLB’s Section 9528. UTLA introduced the resolution at the CFT convention and delegates approved it overwhelmingly on March 18, one day before the 4th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion. (See box for the text of the resolution.)
So where do we go from here? CAMS suggests a variety of activities, locally and nationally:
- Inform yourself about NCLB, particularly Section 9528.
- Hold an NCLB discussion meeting with fellow educators.
- Reach out beyond the people who are already opposed to the war. Conservatives do not like federal mandates regarding the release of citizens’ private information and Big Brother style governance.
- Write and pass anti-9528 resolutions in your unions.
- Call, write, or better yet, visit your congressional representative and voice your concerns. Support H.R. 1346, which removes Section 9528 from NCLB. Let Senators and Congresspeople know that you oppose NCLB’s provision that orders schools to support military recruitment in our public schools.
Gregory Sotir teaches 8th grade English at Virgil Middle School in Los Angeles. He works with the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools.