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NCLB Outrages

Are schools to teach students or give service to the military?

The writer, a concerned parent, is an expert in military recruitment strategies. She speaks knowledgeably about the situation in Toledo--and the nation. Her conclusion is something school personnel should consider: Maybe it's time for everyone to demand an answer: Is school's purpose education or military recruitment?

By PEGGY DALY-MASTERNAK

IMAGINE you're 17 years old, maintain average grades, and work hard in school. Imagine two additional things: you'll do OK to graduate, and mom, dad, and you cannot pay for college without back-breaking debt.

Despite this, you're hearing that a high school diploma is no longer good enough, and college must be everyone's goal to avoid a life of constant struggle.

Yet, between December and February, federal post-secondary financial aide was cut another 12 percent and local colleges hiked tuition by 6 percent.

Escalating the stakes, Governor Taft recently proposed that to even gain admission in state-funded universities, students be required to complete a "rigorous" curriculum of intense math, science, English, social studies, and foreign languages.

Adults insist "go to college" while placing real obstacles in your path.

School long ago stopped being about the love of learning. It's an "industry," youth are "products," and teachers are "centers of influence."

School district performance boils down to a single number - a proficiency test rating - often used as a real estate marketing tool when reported in a quick-and-dirty chart on a newspaper's front page.

Everyone awaits those test scores with bated breath. Male principals might don a skirt and wave pom-poms just to "cheer you" on to production. Afterwards, he'll kiss a pig or eat worms to thank you.

You produced. He gets a raise or a better job.

Can anyone quite explain to you why Ohio will not equalize public school funding, while tapped-out families no longer can support levies, yet both industrial and retail corporations get tax abatements, congratulating them for failing to support the school you attend?

Why doesn't the rhetoric match a 17-year-old's reality? Maybe there is an intended different reality for those "around average" students, even more so for the "less-than-average" student who is trying awfully hard.

Is it: Join the military?

You would think so by looking around school buildings every day.

Military recruiters want to "own the schools," flatly stating so in the School Recruiting Program Handbook.

Here's what the handbook wants of teachers, called "centers of influence:" Encourage students to defer college until serving in the Army.

School districts apparently view the military's "rights" as somehow exceeding those of parents and students.

Schools seem reluctant to even explain those rights, while violating privacy laws.

There's a federal statute limiting military recruiters' access to the same access as others present in school for purposes of recruitment, such as college and employment recruiters. That would be college or career night, maybe twice per year, in the gym, with parents in tow.

Instead, school districts go all out accommodating military recruiters daily.

Some equate any Bowling Green State University or University of Toledo employee volunteering to tutor at, say, Woodward, to a quota-bound military recruiter who's pitching promises, glossy brochures, and trinkets in the cafeteria during lunch periods.

School administrators cite these unrelated comparisons, absolving themselves of legal requirements to hold the line on "same access."

That explains why at Rogers, two tricked-out military Humvees rode in this year's homecoming parade.

Or why at Bowsher, after attending the year's first school staff meeting, the Army treated teachers to a sumptuous lunch in the school cafeteria.

Teachers junket to four-day boot camp immersion at Ft. Benning, courtesy of the Army - and taxpayers - or tour San Diego naval installations.

Military recruiters work cafeterias or hallways at every urban, suburban, and rural public school. Mom and dad are hardly aware, believing students are in the building being educated, not recruited.

If private schools are not currently experiencing similar military pressures for quota, those receiving federal funding - and most do - are nonetheless bound by identical federal requirements.

Then, there's the ASVAB test, euphemistically called a "careers test."

Instead, it's a tool providing recruiters a deeper marketing profile on targets. The Department of Defense calls ASVAB the "only test authorized for determining enlistment eligibility." It's not required of students, despite anyone's claim.

One might wonder why students, urged toward college, get comparatively scant information on colleges' offerings.

Examine recruitment budgets. A recent survey by Noel-Levitz, a college management consultant, reveals two-year schools, like Owens, spend about $74 per single recruited student.

Four-year schools, including UT, a survey participant, spend about $455 each. In 2004, the Army spent $16,800 per recruit.

Military recruiters must reach at least 200 young adults to catch one enlistment.

It isn't rocket science to know where the target market is for 180 days, a bonanza other salesmen would give their eyeteeth for.

In a captive market (compulsory attendance), isolated from advisers whose foremost goal is their student's best interests (parents), salesmen pitch products they're not obligated to provide (read the enlistment contract), spinning only the "sexy" stuff (try pushing discussions about death and amputations), to youth deeply worried about how they'll make it in this world.

There's more. As parents get unwanted telemarketing calls, students get the equivalent: unwanted recruitment calls.

How? Schools must release personal contact information; administrators willingly remember that section of law.

Amnesia seems to set in when meeting other federal requirements.

First, schools must effectively notify families that they will release this data, give parents and students the tools and a reasonable time to opt-out, then comply. Ask Albuquerque schools how costly it was in a recent settlement after violating family privacy requirements.

Parents and students should opt-out now - there is no required form, just your written statement to your school.

Tell schools, including private and charter schools, specifically who should and who should not get your contact data.

Repeat it every school year by the first day.

Earlier is better, since Toledo schools are so cooperative with everyone but you, they've given out the lists days before school began, despite federal laws.

After you opt out, don't undermine your rights. Skip the "free" pizza raffle or water bottle traded with military recruiters for that personal information.

What other special interest group can do this to schools?

Maybe it's time for everyone to demand an answer: Is school's purpose education or military recruitment?

Peggy Daly-Masternak of Toledo is co-coordinator of the Student and Family Rights and Privacy Committee.

— Peggy Daly-Masternak
Toledo Blade
2006-03-18


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