Posted by CODEPINK Staff

As the economy erodes and hard-pressed states like California institute draconian cuts in funding to public education, we have to ask ourselves what kind of education a child in a class of 40 or 50 students is likely to receive. Studies show a low student-teacher ratio is among the most important factors in quality education. Massive classes don't lend themselves to active, hands-on lessons where students explore where their curiousity leads. A top down lecture format every day (like showing movies) isn't true education. It's more like free public day care so parents can work -- or look for work.

What does this have to do with counter-recruiting? Everything. Is the real purpose of public schools in America education, or is it warehousing same-age potential recruits to deliver them as a conveniently assembled audience for recruiting messages?

Take the ASVAB -- as 621,000 students did during the '06-07 school year in 11,900 high schools. The Armed Services Vocation Aptitude Battery is given during school time, in buildings funded by local taxes, supervised by staff paid by citizens who thought they were hiring folks to educate their children, not recruit them.

Recruiters lie to high school students all the time when they claim that the ASVAB is a test to tell you which careers you would be suited for. In fact, the test as used by the Army focuses on these "careers": Clerical, Combat Operations, Electronics, Field Artillery, General Maintenance, General Technical, Mechanical Maintenance, Operators and Food, Surveillance and Communications, Skilled Technical and Special Forces. And, unless you or your family know about selecting "Option 8" when you take the ASVAB, it will deliver your contact data and your test scores to a recruiter near you.

Then there's JROTC, the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, one of the best recruitment programs we could have. Educators and school boards around the U.S. have long opposed this militarization of high schools which allocates classroom space and other resources to teaching underage kids how to be recruits, not officers. Despite the acronym claiming it's a junior version of ROTC, which offers tuition if you agree to enlist at the university level.

Counter-recruiting activists in San Francisco agitated for years and finally succeeded in 2006 in getting a San Francisco School Board vote to phase out JROTC from the district. The military countered by going around the school board and placing an initiative on the ballot last fall supporting JROTC.  The non-binding Proposition V passed by a slim margin, and the San Francisco school board voted 4-3 in May to keep the JROTC program three weeks before it was set to expire, but then laid off all the JROTC instructors. Budget cuts are a double-edged sword, apparently.

The four SF school board members who had voted in 2006 to remove JROTC were no longer on the board by May, 2009. Maybe time for you or a family member to think about running for your local school board?

Locals calculated JROTC cost San Francisco taxpayers nearly $1 million per year. A million that could be spent lowering class sizes from 40+ kindergarteners. But that might be dangerous.

If kids come up through schools which teach them, not what to think, but how to think, they may be a lot harder to recruit.

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