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[Susan notes: In the print edition of the paper, this letter was published as an op-ed right next to the list of war dead.

The author of this fine letter alerted me to the fact that students in grades six, seven and eight will be receiving instruction from uniformed National Guard soldiers during health class starting in January. ]

Published in Times Record

Uniformed 'teachers' send wrong message

By Robin Brooks

Parents who read the Mt. Ararat Middle School newsletter from cover to cover will be aware that students in grades six, seven and eight will be receiving instruction from uniformed National Guard soldiers during health class starting in January.

It is no mystery to me why uniformed soldiers are showing up in our children's classrooms. Lacking a national draft, the military has become creative about gaining access our young people. Regardless of your feelings about military service, I feel that middle school is no time for undue influence from any source, whether it is the military, a particular religious group, or any other interest group. Our children's souls should not be so cheap.

The School Administrative District 75 board of directors approved this program to replace Camp Kieve, a local nature-based program that promotes team-building for incoming grade six students. They determined this program was too expensive and the National Guard's program is being offered "free" to Maine schools. That is, funding for Stay on Track comes from the Pentagon's budget, not local tax dollars.

The National Guard soldiers will be teaching our children to "Stay on Track," (the title of the curriculum) and "just say no" to drugs and alcohol. All this will be presented in slick NASCAR race car imagery with a good dose of military hardware thrown in.

Maybe you also find it ironic that NASCAR's biggest advertiser is Anheuser-Busch and cigarette advertising also features prominently in race car hype.

I am a parent of a 10-year old and I am a certified teacher, so my feelings about uniformed soldiers teaching our 11-, 12- and 13-year-old children run strong. Maybe you don't have a child in school but feel like me that soldiers have no place teaching our children.

In no way do I mean to disparage this or any other branch of our military. They are brave, honorable young men and women willing to put their lives on the line for our country. This said, however, they are not trained, certified and background-checked teachers; they are soldiers.

The Maine Department of Education is aware that some parents may be so offended by this program that they might wish to "opt out" their child, which is every parent's legal right.

Whether or not you have children or grandchildren attending Mt. Ararat Middle School, I strongly urge you to call the administrators and School Board members of SAD 75 ΓΆ€” www.link75.org ΓΆ€” and communicate your concerns about "Stay on Track."

I am currently volunteering with the administration to support their efforts to provide an "opt out" alternative for children whose parents decide they don't want them to participate in "Stay on Track."

Finally, if you are wondering why this is happening, look no further than "No Child Left Behind," the deceptively titled federal education act that has been slowly but surely destroying our public schools with its strict regimen of testing, punitive sanctions and the resultant loss of local control.

Even though the "Stay on Track" program claims to be free, everything has its costs. The cost to our children will be exposure to a program that glamorizes the military at a very vulnerable time when they are forming their identities and future aspirations. Please contact me if you would like more information at benjamin@gwi.net.

Robin Brooks

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