Military recruiting in schools
Should the military be banned from visiting schools to promote the armed forces and recruit new soldiers, sailors and airmen?
The army is short of manpower due to high casualty rates and the unwillingness of current soldiers to reenlist.
The army is short of manpower due to high casualty rates and the unwillingness of current soldiers to reenlist. This means that they are very keen to get into schools to sign up young people. But it is not right to let them get at students who are too young to vote, or even drive. 16 and 17 year olds are not grown-up enough to make life and death decisions, like joining the army. They may not be able to see through exciting presentations or resist a persuasive and experienced recruitment officer. Schools should be safe places to grow and learn, not somewhere to sign your life away before it has even properly begun.
Young people are not stupid – they know that there are risks involved in joining the military. In fact the media usually focuses on the bad news coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignoring the good work of our military there. A career in the military also offers young people a lot of benefits, and it is only right that they should get to hear about those as well. And no one is signed up on the spot in the classroom; they always get the chance to think about it over a few months or more, and to discuss the decision carefully with parents.
Allowing members of the military into schools is a form of propaganda.
Allowing members of the military into schools is a form of propaganda. They promote the military and make war seem glamorous. Soldiers in smart uniforms come into classes with specially-made videos and powerful weapons, making violence and state-organised murder seem cool. This encourages young people to support aggressive action abroad. It also promotes an unthinking loyalty to the state, whether its actions are right or wrong. By allowing the military in, schools are signalling to their students that these things are OK.
Our military is an all-volunteer force and must recruit openly to keep up its numbers. The army, navy and air force need well-educated and motivated recruits so that they can defend our country from its enemies. Visits to schools are not about forcing militaristic propaganda on children, but about making sure that 16-18 year olds know about the military as a possible career choice. After all, college representatives and local employers are allowed to make presentations to students, so it would be unfair to keep just the military out. If you accept that we need armed forces, then you must allow them to recruit openly.
Recruitment officers often make highly misleading pitches about life in the military.
Recruitment officers often make highly misleading pitches about life in the military. They play up the excitement and chances to travel, as well as the pay and benefits such as college fees and training in special skills. They don’t talk about the dangers of military life, the casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the thousands of young soldiers who have lost limbs in recent years. And they don’t mention the impact of war on soldiers’ mental health, or the lack of support when they leave the military. If we must have the military in our schools, then they should be made to give a much more realistic view of military life.
Recruiters should not minimise the risks of a military career, but the armed forces do have a good story to tell and they should not be prevented from doing so. There really are great opportunities for keen, talented young people in the military, and almost all soldiers, etc. find it a very satisfying life. And compared with the past, soldiers today are much better looked after in terms of physical, medical and psychological wellbeing.
There is evidence from both the UK and the USA that military recruiters target disadvantaged areas.
There is evidence from both the UK and the USA that military recruiters target disadvantaged areas. They seem to think that poorer students will have few other career options, so they will be more likely to join up. It isn’t right that young people from poor backgrounds can be exploited in this way. Why should they be expected to risk their lives much more than students from better-off areas? Instead schools and governments should make sure all students get equal chances in life.
All young people should have the chance to think about whether joining the military is right for them. For that reason recruiters should not visit some types of schools and not others. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with recruiters making extra visits to schools from which many students have joined up in the past. And students from poorer areas may be particularly keen to hear about some of the benefits a military career can offer, such as free college tuition and good opportunities for promotion. The military can provide an important role in disadvantaged communities, providing positive role models and encouraging students to finish school (the US army now requires recruits to have at least a high school diploma). And many soldiers from tough areas say that if they hadn’t joined the military they would have been sucked into criminal gangs instead.
All the military is interested in schools for is the chance to recruit students.
However it is dressed up, all the military is interested in schools for is the chance to recruit students. The various educational materials (not always clearly marked as coming from the military) and courses on offer are all intended to interest students in a military career. Such methods are dishonest and should not be allowed in schools. If students are genuinely interested in joining the military, they can go along to a recruitment centre outside school.
In the UK the army does not directly recruit in schools but does visit many each year “with the aim of raising the general awareness of the armed forces in society”. And they always visit by invitation of the Headteacher. Compared to the USA fewer young people have local or family connections with the military, so it is important for them to learn about the role the armed forces play in our country. And in both the UK and the USA the military offers other services to schools, from educational materials to leadership courses and team-building exercises. Banning the military from visiting schools would deny students all these opportunities.
US military recruitment in schools has a very sinister side.
US military recruitment in schools has a very sinister side. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters collect data on 30 million students. A huge database contains their personal details, including social security numbers, email addresses and academic records. The purpose of this is to allow recruiters to pester young people with messages, phone calls and home visits. This itself is bad enough, but many people think the government should not be trusted with so much personal information. Isn’t it police states that want to keep files on all their citizens?
There is nothing wrong with collecting information about students. As no one thinks that students should be signed up at their classroom desks, recruiters need to record contact details so that they can follow up students who have shown an interest in the military. The new law was necessary as some schools tried to deny recruiters a chance to contact students. If parents don’t want their son or daughter to be included in the database, they can opt out by writing to the district superintendent.
Recruitment in schools is against parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Recruitment in schools is against parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A set of rules that the USA signed up to in 2002 forbids the recruitment of children under the age of 18. Despite this, the American Civil Liberties Union has found that US military recruiters target children as young as 11, visiting their classrooms and making unfair promises to them. In order to live up to its pledge in 2002, the USA should stop trying to recruit in schools.
The USA has not signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, although it has signed the UN’s Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. But the US military does not recruit under-18s anyway, so it is keeping to it agreement. In any case, neither of these agreements stops recruiters visiting schools in order to make students aware of military career options once they turn 18.
Children are vulnerable to influences
Children are susceptible to marketing that promotes something as fun, exciting and glamorous.
Because joining the Armed Forces represents a dangerous commitment to one's country, and they don't present it as such when marketing in schools, they should be banned.
No one can have escaped over the last few years the media attention on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To think that children wouldn't know that the armed forces are dangerous is a naive and frankly ridiculous proposition.
Children are too young to decide for themselves
Why should the army be allowed to market themselves to children who are too young to buy alcohol, cigarettes or drive when joining the army is more dangerous than these three things? If we protect our children from the harmful effects of drugs, we should be protecting them from getting shot as well. Allowing one and not the other is hypocrisy - and since letting 16 year olds drink legally would be a less-than-sensible idea, we should ban the armed forces from recruiting in schools.
School-leavers are indeed old enough to decide upon a career path for themselves. They are free to join any job they wish, and the army is a legitimate career path for them to follow. To stop them from doing so, or learning about the great opportunities the armed forces presents, is to deny them the right to determine what they do with their lives.
The Armed Forces are less than honest
When giving presentations, the armed forces do not give the full picture, focusing more on humanitarian aid work than the incredibly dangerous job they do in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. When the danger is death or losing limbs in road-side bomb attacks, but this is being kept from potential recruits, the armed forces are trying to manipulate them. Who would join if they knew the full picture? For abusing the trust they are given when allowed to present to children, they should be banned.
As already noted, there is a wealth of information about how dangerous the armed forces are. Just because they don’t tell children themselves about how many soldiers have been killed or wounded in the past x years, doesn’t mean those children don’t know about it. Any recruiter will naturally present the best side of their organisation, but at least in the armed forces’ case, the darker side is right there in the national press every day.
In any case, arguing that children are unaware of the possibility of being injured in the armed forces is unreasonable. By the time they are eligible to join (currently 15 years 9 months at the very earliest) they will undoubtedly have had an adequate chance to consider all aspects of the career. No one should choose a career on a whim, so assuming they have thought about it at all, they will surely be aware of the fact that as a soldier you may very well be shot at and in the worst case killed or horrifically injured. I don’t think recruiters are inherently more dishonest than most other professions. What about fire fighters and police officers? Are those recruiters dishonest for not showing examples of where members of the profession have been injured?
Children are not stupid
The massive media attention on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has not gone unnoticed. Even young children know that British troops are dying and being wounded in these conflicts, so to suggest that they don't know what they're getting themselves into is a ridiculous idea. This is merely an example of the nanny state trying to interfere too much in the lives of its citizens.
Negative publicity can always be countered and manipulated. The way presentations are given makes people forget the bad press and focuses instead on all the benefits.
Recruits always go in thinking that ‘it’ll never happen to me’, regardless of what they know about casualty figures.
Teenagers/Young adults also get killed in car crashes which are also broadcast in the media. Yet they still believe that it won’t happen to them.
One main thing I noticed that an army recruitment officer neglected to mention (as well as some from other areas) is the psychological damage they could potentially suffer.
The Armed Forces are a legitimate career option
The young men and women who join the army when leaving school at 16 are those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Without the army to instil discipline and responsibility into these young people, there would be little else for them to do. They do not have many qualifications, and there is a statistical link between education and crime; without the army taking people off our streets and employing them for good - patrolling dangerous places, helping people across the world - they would be worse off.
Banning the army from schools would see a drop in recruitment in precisely the groups it helps, to the detriment of the army and young men and women.
It is exactly this vulnerable group of people we should be protecting. Actively targeting them is to take advantage of their socio-economic situation, patronising them because of where they live or how much money their parents earn. By suggesting that the army is one of the few career options that is open to them society runs the risk of losing out on potentially talented individuals who are sheperded into a vocation that does not actively improve society or their community. We should instead focus on raising their aspirations and increasing their opportunities by working with the communities in which they live to break the entire community out from a cycle of poverty.
The Armed Forces need recruits
Recruitment is already shrinking as a result of negative media attention over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is bad news for our country. Banning recruitment in schools would exacerbate this problem.
We need an army to maintain our role in the world as exporter of peace and democracy, as one of the few countries that seek actively to make the world a better place. Without brave young men and women to help this aid, millions of people across the world would find themselves living under repressive regimes, and without access to clean food and water.
Our armed forces are a benevolent force in the world. Banning recruitment in schools would damage their legitimate mission, and be a victory for our enemies.
The debate is not about whether or not the armed forces do good things - they do. It is about whether or not we should protect young, innocent children from being recruited when they do not know the full extent of what they are getting themselves into. While they may be deployed to protect minorities across the world from genocide, they may equally be deployed as part of a neo-conservative agenda to control the middle east, which is not so laudable.
What do you think?