- I learned something new yesterday. Channel One News,
the "educational" TV show that my daughter Isa and millions of
other American kids watch every morning at school, is busy recruiting our
teenagers into the military.
- "Mom, they're really aiming at the black kids, and
the Hispanic kids too. I'm so sick of seeing those military ads everyday.
"The Power of One", and all that lots of my friends are falling
- This is especially upsetting to Isa because several of
her black friends, 18, 19 and 20 years old, have been shipped to Iraq.
Some were promised they wouldn't have to be in combat, but would be doing
"mechanical work", "communications", or "wiring".
- It seems doubtful that, when push comes to shove, kids
who've been promised such jobs will be allowed to avoid combat. One of
her friends has already been shot "in an embarrassing place";
he's being treated overseas instead of the US so that he can be sent quickly
back into combat in Iraq. Mr. Bush's military needs warm bodies, able or
- I stopped the car and asked, "Wait a minute. What
do you mean when you say you're 'seeing those military ads every day'?"
- "We have to watch this short thing every morning
in homeroom called 'Channel One News'," Isa explained with a weary
tone. "It's educational, supposedly. You know, the day's news, so
we'll be up on current events. But in between the stories, there are more
and more ads for the Army and the Marines."
- I thought about "No Child Left Behind" and
the malignant purpose behind that sweet-sounding act that Mr. Bush and
his men (and at least one journalist paid $250,000 by the White House)
have continuously promoted to trusting parents across the US. After catching
my breath I asked,
- "Are you saying you're being recruited through the
TV you watch during homeroom?" She nodded. I asked again, "What
do your teachers think about this? What about Mr. Hitchens (not his real
name), who told you privately that he's antiwar? Doesn't he say anything
- Persuaded Away from College, Towards the Military
- "No, I think the teachers and the kids are so used
to it at my school that they don't even notice anymore. I mean, the other
day I was walking to Sociology class and heard the ROTC instructor telling
the kids, "Okay, this is how you hold your M-16". The whole culture
of the school is military these days, so nobody notices anything unusual
about this. And I think the few teachers who aren't prowar or proBush are
afraid to get in trouble if they say anything that doesn't sound pro-military."
- As noted in my recent articles on military recruitment
and the coming draft, for two years my daughter and I have been fighting
the aggressive and often sneaky efforts of military recruiters to sign
her up. Certainly they don't want her for her physical prowess-she weighs
98 pounds-so I can only assume they want her for other reasons. Either
they've seen her high verbal scores, or they just want young bodies--even
a tiny one--to serve as cannon fodder.
- With a military recruiter present every day in the cafeteria,
military "speakers" visiting classrooms, and huge recruiting
posters in the guidance office, perhaps it's not surprising that teachers
and even guidance counselors have been influenced by the constant hum of
"enlist, enlist, enlist". Students at Isa's school are told that,
yes, they could consider college, but that it's "very expensive"
and "may not guarantee you a job", while the military "will
pay for college" and "practically guarantees you'll have a great
career". Oh, and "a big cash bonus right now if you sign up today!"
- Joining the military is presented as the one and only
path of honor, heroism, and service to one's country. Many students, not
surprisingly, want to be heroes or get out of poverty, so they're signing
up in droves. College recruiting is a rarity at this school, and at her
previous school, as well. Ah, but military recruiters are constantly lurking
around, spending quality time with fatherless boys, handing out materials,
giving "aptitude tests" (played down as "just helping you
figure out what you're really good at"), handing out Marine bumper
stickers, and otherwise making their smartly-uniformed presence known.
- "It's just everywhere", Isa continued. "Here's
an example: In gym we don't exercise or play sports like we used to do-now
we "sound off", just like in the military, while running and
doing jumping jacks, push-ups, and pull-ups. The freshmen are told to shout,
"one, two!", then the sophomores are supposed to answer, "three,
four!", and then the whole group of us has to say "Sound off!"
I mean it's ridiculous Mom! How are you supposed to exercise while you're
shouting at the top of your lungs?"
- As I started driving again, I took a moment to reflect
on this "military culture" that's replacing the educational culture
in America's public schools. Surely Channel One News, which parents and
educators have criticized from the start as nothing more than a way to
let corporations advertise their products directly to kids without their
parents' knowledge, wouldn't go so far as to market the military to children
as a (better, more heroic, more exciting) alternative to college? Surely
they wouldn't override Mom and Dad by sneakily recruiting through "educational"
TV at school? Would they? Could they?
- Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist and
writer. Her most recent book describes the nonviolent guidance of children,
Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family,
Baker Books, 9/2004. You can contact her at DrTeresa@JesusontheFamily.org