Military Targets At School
A school board member thinks there is a reason the military recruitment provision of NCLB is hidden. Although supporting military recruitment, Andy Dousis insists that "we have to look at the whole system of how we figure out whose sons and daughters will die. It can't keep being just the sons and daughters of the working people."
Andy Dousis, 42, of East Lyme, is senior consultant for the Northeast Foundation for Children and author of "The Research Ready Classroom" (Heinemann, 2006). Dousis is serving a four- year term on the East Lyme Board of Education and is a former public elementary school teacher and a former U.S. Marine. Dousis spoke to freelance writer Jennifer Warner Cooper about a section of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 that provides for the access of student contact information to military recruiters.
Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 gives military recruiters access to contact information, including names, addresses and telephone numbers, for American high school students. What does this have to do with education?
It has absolutely nothing to do with education. Let it be known that I believe that our country needs to be strong militarily, as well as educationally. Unfortunately, we've had some people take advantage of the NCLB, and this is one of the things that [lawmakers] were able to sneak in. It has no connection to what goes on in the classroom. What it's done is to have made it easier for military recruiters to get to the kids. I would encourage any young man or woman to pursue that path if that is what they desire. What I see that is wrong with this whole system is that we have an over-representation of the lower-middle and lower classes in the military. Recruiters know that they are more likely to recruit a kid out of poverty than out of wealth, so they cherry-pick addresses and target certain neighborhoods, certain environments. They know that they're more likely to get a kid out of rural or urban America than out of suburbia.
That makes sense; recruiters go where the opportunity is. Are you speaking speculatively or based on experience? Is there hard data on this?
I was recruited; I was lower-middle class. I had the ability to go to college. And there is hard data on who is joining. I just read an article about a group of recruiters in [Flint] Michigan. They were interviewed and asked why they were recruiting at a particular mall, instead at the mall that was more like, say, the Westfarms mall.
In your work as an educational consultant and a school board member, do you think that Connecticut parents have an awareness of this provision of the law?
"Think" is the wrong word. I know they don't know about this. A lot of attention is given to the funding for the testing. Folks are led to believe that this is something fantastic for our school systems, and that it's all about standards.
Parents don't even know that this [clause] exists, let alone know that they can opt out. I've asked around, to people who know NCLB as it pertains to standards in education, people I work with, and they're not even aware that it's in there.
The provision is on page 559 of the voluminous 670-page NCLB text. Would you say it's hidden?
Yes. It is certainly hidden, and that's not by mistake.
The argument could be made that there is valid reason for this provision to be part of NCLB: It does set forth alternative career options for those who may not be college bound. You're a former Marine, so what's wrong with that?
I am a former Marine. I love the Marine Corps. Any person who wants to join has my support. What I don't appreciate is that we've gotten to a place where we have tagged this onto NCLB. The upper-middle class is over-represented in military academies and the lower-middle and lower classes are over-represented in the ranks. We're targeting and profiling the poor to serve.
So do you think it's inappropriate for this recruitment clause to be part of the law?
It's not inappropriate, but it should be changed. It should be changed to create a balance in the military. I would like to see the clause changed to say something like, "Even if the parents make over a certain number of dollars a year, recruiters will still use the address and phone number. Go to their house." Let's make some standards. If we're really looking to not leave any child behind, then let's not. Let's go get them. Let's not leave those children of privilege behind. I'm talking about your children, my children. Let's include the children of the people who work at The Hartford Courant, not just the children of those who live under the bridge, New London or those first-generation Americans who now have teenagers.
My main point is that we have to maintain a strong military, and we have to maintain a strong system of public education. But we have to look at the whole system of how we figure out whose sons and daughters will die. It can't keep being just the sons and daughters of the working people.
Jennifer Warner Cooper and Andy Dousis
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES