December 18, 2011
NNOMY is a national network that serves to unite national, regional and local organizations that oppose the growing intrusion of the military in young people's lives. We seek to promote the importance of counter-recruitment organizing. NNOMY is not intended to function as an independent national organization, but rather as a coalition that strengthens the work of participating groups.
We stand in absolute solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Occupy/(Un)occupy movement. We embrace the notion that we are the 99% and we refuse to tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We recognize that it is the interests of the 1% that dominate military policy and the spread of militarism in our society. We feel, therefore, that confronting militarism and countering military recruitment of youth deserve a high priority in the movements sweeping the country that are aimed at reducing the power and influence of the 1%.
Resisting the relentless militarization of American youth transcends opposing the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time that we ask questions about the recruitment of youth for wars fought in the name of profit and control of resources, we confront an ugly mix of a distinctively American brand of institutionalized violence, racism, militarism, nationalism, classism, and sexism. Militarism in all its forms robs society of the resources it needs to function well – human, financial, environmental, intellectual, political. Challenging the militarization of youth gets to the root of the problem, both for today’s generation and for the next. Confronting recruiters, particularly in the nation's public schools, provides a catalyst for activists to shift gears from the traditional tactics of vigils, protests, sit-ins, and other civil disobedience actions to the long-term strategy of reducing societal support for both waging wasteful and unethical wars and for funding a bloated peacetime military that operates at the expense of real human needs.
It's frightening to think about, but in the last dozen or so years we've largely ceded our public schools to the narrow interests of both corporations and the military. Military academies, corporate charter schools, “CEO’s” instead of superintendents, special “superintendent schools” for retiring military personnel and high-powered businessmen and women with no background in education are all part and parcel of the same problem. Privatization of the public sector never happens in the absence of militarization of the public sector, because once collective power is conceded to private interests, the military always finds a role that advances its own interests. Due to the constant need for new recruits and for conditioning the minds of youth to accept a militarized society, schools are the favorite target for military influence.Due to the exploding influence of both military and corporate interests, the American educational system has systematically produced an ill-informed citizenry.It sounds depressing, but it’s not too late to turn the tide of militarism! It’s just that change requires a long term strategy and that strategy must include the schools and youth.
“And Gen. Smedley Butler, who said that after 33 years and four months in the Marine Corps he had come to understand that he had been nothing more than a gangster for capitalism, making Mexico safe for American oil interests, making Haiti and Cuba safe for banks and pacifying the Dominican Republic for sugar companies. War, he said, is a racket in which newly dominated countries are exploited by the financial elites and Wall Street while the citizens foot the bill and sacrifice their young men and women on the battlefield for corporate greed.” - Chris Hedges
Luckily, NNOMY has beenworking on challenging school policies that favor military recruiters and we've been organizing in our communities to change them. We've been providing youth with training, employment and educational alternatives to military service. We've been engaged with community leaders. Most importantly, we've being successful across the country but we need more help from the 99%.
How can you help?
Do you know the policies of your local school system regarding military recruitment? The Pentagon preys on vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds to convince them it's in their best interest to enlist. It is an insidious practice. The military may request a list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the high school children in your town. What's your school district's policy regarding the military recruitment "opt out" form? Federal law says your schools are supposed to tell parents they have the right to remove their children's names from lists being sent to the Pentagon. What's your high school doing?
Does your school have a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Program? Are children firing weapons on school grounds during marksmanship training? Are they using lead ammunition, spewing deadly particulates into the air?
Your local high school has probably been forced by the Federal No Child Left Behind Act to hire highly qualified teachers. Many school districts are requiring classroom teachers to have master's degrees after a few years of service. Meanwhile, many JROTC instructors need only a high school diploma to teach credited courses. The stringent "No Child Left Behind" regulations don't address JROTC instructors. What are they teaching? Certainly, they're reading more Clausewitz and Machiavelli than Jefferson and Thoreau. What kind of curricular oversight does your high school exercise over this program? If you want to stop wars, you might start asking.
660,000 school children in public schools take the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test every year. Does your school offer the test? Why is the Pentagon testing children in the public schools? Military recruiting manuals admit it is primarily to produce leads for recruiters. The ASVAB is supposed to be voluntary, but many schools require all juniors and seniors to take it. Students are forced to sign a "Student Privacy Statement," to take the test, violating state laws. Does your school automatically forward the results from the four hour test to military recruiters? Most do, even though two states have banned the practice and hundreds of schools and districts have stepped in to protect the privacy of their students.
Are military recruiters allowed to greet children as they enter the cafeteria during lunch while college recruiters are required to meet with students by appointment in the Guidance Office? Federal law calls for military and college recruiters to have equal access to children. Schools across the country have ordered the military to meet with students in guidance and career centers, rather than allowing recruiters to have access to the entire student body.
Do you know if your local high school lets children out of class to shoot M-16 rifle and M- 9 pistol simulators in the increasingly popular Army recruiting vans? Are military recruiters frequenting some schools more than others due to racial and economic factors? Call your local high school principal and start asking questions. They're your schools and you're paying for them, even if your children don't attend. Wars start in your community and they can end there too.
Pat Elder, Don Chapin, Amy Wagner and Janine Schwab for NNOMY