Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why Go to College, When You Can be Cannon Fodder?

February 17, 2005

Do You Know What Your Kids Are Watching on
"Educational" TV at School?


"A parent who's too busy or doesn't realize the
importance of tuning in to his or her child often
expresses surprise when the child gets into trouble or
drops out of school. The child knows, but can't
explain, that those "bad kids" he or she hangs out
with are alike a lifeline. This is the secret pullall
the unpleasantness and risk in the world is worth the
feeling of being seen and heard by someone."

from Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles that
Will Transform Your Family

I learned something new yesterday. Channel One News,
the "educational" TV show that my daughter Isa and
millions of other American kids watch every morning at
school, is busy recruiting our teenagers into the

"Mom, they're really aiming at the black kids, and the
Hispanic kids too. I'm so sick of seeing those
military ads everyday. "The Power of One", and all
that lots of my friends are falling for it!"

This is especially upsetting to Isa because several of
her black friends, 18, 19 and 20 years old, have been
shipped to Iraq. Some were promised they wouldn't have
to be in combat, but would be doing "mechanical work",
"communications", or "wiring".

It seems doubtful that, when push comes to shove, kids
who've been promised such jobs will be allowed to
avoid combat. One of her friends has already been shot
"in an embarrassing place"; he's being treated
overseas instead of the US so that he can be sent
quickly back into combat in Iraq. Mr. Bush's military
needs warm bodies, able or not.

I stopped the car and asked, "Wait a minute. What do
you mean when you say you're "seeing those military
ads every day"?"

"We have to watch this short thing every morning in
homeroom called "Channel One News"," Isa explained
with a weary tone. "It's educational, supposedly. You
know, the day's news, so we'll be up on current
events. But in between the stories, there are more and
more ads for the Army and the Marines."

I thought about "No Child Left Behind" and the
malignant purpose behind that sweet-sounding act that
Mr. Bush and his men (and at least one journalist paid
$250,000 by the White House) have continuously
promoted to trusting parents across the US. After
catching my breath I asked,

"Are you saying you're being recruited through the TV
you watch during homeroom?" She nodded. I asked again,
"What do your teachers think about this? What about
Mr. Hitchens (not his real name), who told you
privately that he's antiwar? Doesn't he say anything
against it?"

Persuaded Away from College, Towards the Military

"No, I think the teachers and the kids are so used to
it at my school that they don't even notice anymore. I
mean, the other day I was walking to Sociology class
and heard the ROTC instructor telling the kids, "Okay,
this is how you hold your M-16". The whole culture of
the school is military these days, so nobody notices
anything unusual about this. And I think the few
teachers who aren't prowar or proBush are afraid to
get in trouble if they say anything that doesn't sound

As noted in my recent articles on military recruitment
and the coming draft, for two years my daughter and I
have been fighting the aggressive and often sneaky
efforts of military recruiters to sign her up.
Certainly they don't want her for her physical
prowess-she weighs 98 pounds-so I can only assume they
want her for other reasons. Either they've seen her
high verbal scores, or they just want young
bodies-even a tiny one-to serve as cannon fodder.

With a military recruiter present every day in the
cafeteria, military "speakers" visiting classrooms,
and huge recruiting posters in the guidance office,
perhaps it's not surprising that teachers and even
guidance counselors have been influenced by the
constant hum of "enlist, enlist, enlist". Students at
Isa's school are told that, yes, they could consider
college, but that it's "very expensive" and "may not
guarantee you a job", while the military "will pay for
college" and "practically guarantees you'll have a
great career". Oh, and "a big cash bonus right now if
you sign up today!"

Joining the military is presented as the one and only
path of honor, heroism, and service to one's country.
Many students, not surprisingly, want to be heroes or
get out of poverty, so they're signing up in droves.
College recruiting is a rarity at this school, and at
her previous school, as well. Ah, but military
recruiters are constantly lurking around, spending
quality time with fatherless boys, handing out
materials, giving "aptitude tests" (played down as
"just helping you figure out what you're really good
at"), handing out Marine bumper stickers, and
otherwise making their smartly-uniformed presence

"It's just everywhere", Isa continued. "Here's an
example: In gym we don't exercise or play sports like
we used to do-now we "sound off", just like in the
military, while running and doing jumping jacks,
push-ups, and pull-ups. The freshmen are told to
shout, "one, two!", then the sophomores are supposed
to answer, "three, four!", and then the whole group of
us has to say "Sound off!" I mean it's ridiculous Mom!
How are you supposed to exercise while you're shouting
at the top of your lungs?"

As I started driving again, I took a moment to reflect
on this "military culture" that's replacing the
educational culture in America's public schools.
Surely Channel One News, which parents and educators
have criticized from the start as nothing more than a
way to let corporations advertise their products
directly to kids without their parents' knowledge,
wouldn't go so far as to market the military to
children as a (better, more heroic, more exciting)
alternative to college? Surely they wouldn't override
Mom and Dad by sneakily recruiting through
"educational" TV at school? Would they? Could they?

To be continued in, "Military Recruiting Commercials
on "Educational" TV in Public Schools: Day after Day,
Military Ads Target Children-Especially Hispanics and
Blacks-On Channel One News in Schools Across the

Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist and
writer. Her most recent book describes the nonviolent
guidance of children,Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential
Principles that Will Transform Your Family, Baker
Books, 9/2004.

You can contact her at

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