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Just how far should we let recruiters go?

Ohanian Comment: Think about it: The school makes certain kids feel unsuccessful--all that test prep, failing the state test, etc. Then along comes the military recruiter, targeting these kids with promises of success.

By Kelly Flynn

When it comes to a military presence in our schools, just how much is too much?

Many parents don't know that under the No Child Left Behind act, schools receiving federal funds must give students' names, addresses and telephone numbers to military recruiters.

Many parents also don't know that they can "opt out" and request that the district not share their child's information. I'll bet they don't know just how much time the recruiters spend at their child's school, either.

Of course, it's in a student's best interest to explore all his options. And adults encourage kids to do a lot of things that we think are good for them, like take an advanced placement course, or try out for a sport. But usually, the stakes are not so high. Some teens are not worldly enough to understand the real ramifications of signing on that recruiter's dotted line.

For students like Ashleigh Smiley, a junior at Grand Blanc High School, the military is an unwelcome presence in the cafeteria a couple of times a month. She's also not crazy about their tactics.

"The Marines came in and showed a video about a day in the Marine Corps," she said. "[It included] two very attractive female Marines in a yellow convertible " I found it vulgar." She also thinks that it's unethical for the Army National Guard to give away cards to students redeemable for 10 iTunes of their choice.

Because military numbers are down, recruiting efforts have been stepped up. And military recruiters go much further than simply telling students about options. Recruiters do not simply make contact, leave a brochure and move on, like colleges and prospective employers. Recruiters wage an all-out campaign with one goal: To meet the quota.

And that's what makes some people uncomfortable. Recruiters are taught to establish a regular presence in the school. In the U.S. Army's School Recruiting Program Handbook, a 12-month plan is laid out in detail, with suggestions for every month. For example, in November recruiters are told to attend as many school holiday functions or assemblies as possible.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not anti-military. I invited recruiters into my journalism classes to talk to kids about communications careers. I also know that military life can be an excellent choice for some. Two of my former female students joined the Navy and the Marines. I've been in touch with them since and it's been a positive lifestyle choice.

But high school students are so terribly impressionable. And often immature. A moment of bravado, desperation, a dare, and they've gotten themselves into something mom and dad can't get them out of.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures.

But does that mean the military deserves such unprecedented access to your children?

— Kelly Flynn
The Flint Journal


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