Military Presence in Our Schools

Counter-Recruitment Season

Kevin Young -

Army of None“Counter-recruitment,” alternatively known as “truth-in-recruiting” or CR for brevity’s sake, involves providing young people and their parents with information about alternatives to military enlistment (college, vocational training, job opportunities, scholarships, etc.). At the same time, CR campaigns can provide a sense of the terrible realities of war by exposing students and parents to the words of soldiers, veterans, and foreign war victims. Since most military recruits enlist 1) because they see no other option, and/or 2) because they have a deluded and romantic view of war, the military, and US foreign policy, CR efforts can fill two important gaps in young people’s knowledge.

One of the lesser-known aspects of the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 is a provision requiring all public high schools to provide military recruiters with students’ private contact information. The only way to avoid the release of this information is to submit a signed “opt-out” form to school administrators every year by a district-specific deadline, usually sometime between mid-September and mid-October. School administrators are legally obliged to send the opt-out form home with students, but many do not, and often the forms get overlooked within the massive information packets sent home at the start of the school year. The months of August, September, and October are thus particularly crucial for CR efforts.

What follows is an analysis of the importance of counter-recruitment and a brief starters’ guide for those who might be inclined to engage in it this fall, with links to sample leaflets and educational information.

Parents: The Anti-Recruiter

Dr. Teresa Whitehurst -

Army temptation"Temptation is not random, nor is it one-size-fits-all. Instead, it will always attach itself to our unique talents and aspirations. One of temptation's cleverest tricks is to seduce that which is a strength. Our strength can become our downfall because we're tripped up through the misuse or misdirection of our talents and ambitions."

- Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family

My daughter works in the guidance office of her high school. She runs errands, takes calls, files paperwork, and does all she can to help guidance counselors as they advise and assist college-bound students. But demand is low this year: With recruiters sitting in the hallway, playing rock music at a cafeteria table at lunch, and striking up chummy conversations with kids every chance they get, and with every senior's first period devoted not to academics but to watching Channel One's recruiting TV, military prep is winning young hearts and minds away from college prep.

On parent-teacher night, I entered the guidance office and noticed large recruiting posters on the wall. There were no college-recruiting posters or ads of any sort. Inside the guidance counselors' offices, students can't help but see more military posters and stacks of glossy recruiting brochures, booklets, and magazines. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were at the Army Recruiting Office near the mall, not a public school guidance office that's supposedly dedicated to helping students make the most of their educational experience and continue on to college or trade school.

A guidance counselor may never say a word about joining the military. But then again, she really doesn't need to: the recruiting posters and materials do it for her. Students can't help but see them, and if they ever pick up a brochure while they're waiting, they're bound to feel the pull of exceedingly well-researched appeals to teen psychology.


How Military Recruiting Posters and Brochures Persuade Teens at School

Marketing whizzes at MTV, The Gap, and Abercrombie and Fitch know how to appeal to kids in need of confidence, direction, escape, and/or an identity, but the military is even better at it. And considering enlistment's distinct disadvantages over purchasing clothing and music (with the former you stand a good chance of getting killed or losing an eye, a limb, or your mental health), the marketing tricks in military materials must be far more sophisticated and on target. Here's just a sampling of the psychological and financial appeals used to persuade kids (all bold print and caps are as-printed on the brochures):

Large folded brochures for the Army are made of high-quality glossy card stock, featuring a macho-looking grainy yellow-and-black color theme:

Appeal #1:Immediate excitement; freedom from decision-making; unlimited career options; supportive, sky's-the-limit guidance from implicit father figures. Free money now, free money later, free college later, and free gifts now.

The cover teases: "FACT: CAREER ADVICE IS ALWAYS BETTER WHEN IT COMES WITH A FREE GIFT." The brochure folds out into five sections featuring pictures of white and black soldiers adjusting things in cockpits, wearing gas masks, working on laptops, and staring at a propeller of some sort. One section has three columns:

"US ARMY: SERVE AS A FULL-TIME SOLDIER STATIONED IN THE UNITED STATES OR OVERSEAS: Up to $70,000 for college after you serve, Up to $20,000 enlistment bonus, The chance to qualify for over 150 careers. …

"ARMY RESERVE: TRAIN NEAR HOME AND SERVE WHEN NEEDED: Up to $22,000 for college, while you serve, Up to $10,000 enlistment bonus, The chance to qualify for over 120 careers. … An extra paycheck every month. …

"ROTC: RESERVE OFFICER TRAINING CORPS: TRAIN TO BECOME AN OFFICER IN THE US ARMY OR ARMY RESERVE WHILE ATTENDING COLLEGE: Entry into the Army as an Officer, Up to $20,000 scholarship a year, Up to $4,000 annual stipend, Generous textbook allowance."

On the back cover, the bold print continues: "IN THE ARMY, YOU'LL GET GUARANTEED TRAINING AND IMMEDIATE RESPONSIBILITY. NOT TO MENTION A FREE GIFT JUST FOR FINDING OUT MORE." The student is told, "Great careers start with great training, and that's what the Army is all about."

(The Army is "all about" career training?) Then comes the catch: "Return the card below to learn more, and you'll get a free US Army T-shirt. See? Your training is paying off already." Two tear-off cards are attached: One sells hard, "SEND ME MORE INFORMATION AND A FREE US ARMY T-SHIRT," while the other cries, "PLEASE SEND THIS TO A FRIEND."

At the bottom of each card in ridiculously small print (I had to get a magnifying glass to read it), an "act now!" flavor is added: "Offer expires April…" "You must be between the ages of 16 and 34…" and "The information you voluntarily provide, including your Social Security number, will be used for recruiting purposes only. Your Social Security Number will be used to analyze individual response to this mailing." (emphasis added)

APPEAL #2: Magical, immediate rescue from poverty, crime-ridden neighborhood, racism/hostility/contempt from adults, crummy school, and unemployment. All obstacles vanish as soon as the student enlists, and riches start pouring in.

Another yellow/black Army brochure is more blunt, designed for kids whose families can't afford to send them to college. The cover shouts: "LEARN HOW TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES. LIKE COLLEGE TUITION." On the next page, these are the only words: "GET UP TO $68,000 FOR COLLEGE." On the page after that, these are the only words: 3 WAYS TO EARN.

On the following drop-down pages, hip photos of an ecstatic-looking white soldier leaning on a chain-link fence; somber, intelligent-looking Asian and African-American men dressed in medical clothing and standing in an operating room; and a vulnerable-looking white woman in fatigues who's sitting on the ground holding a camera.

APPEAL #3: Buy now, pay later message: Get immediate money without even working! Don't worry about war and possible maiming or death – that's far away in the distant future. Just enjoy your free $120 every month today.

The "sales close" is headlined: "SIGN UP NOW, SERVE LATER." The text explains that with the Delayed Entry Program, you can "have your plans for after graduation all lined up. Enlist in the Army now, and the career training you select will be reserved for up to a year. Or enlist in the Army Reserve now, and you can earn over $120 a month during your school year, even before you go away to Basic Training."

APPEAL #4: Buddy system to allay realistic fears of getting wounded or killed. Free gifts allow teens to imagine being soldiers without risk, with "personalized Dog Tags" and Army gym bags. Message: If you're scared of entering the military and combat, convince your friends to enlist too: for a short time you and your buddies can have sleepovers and hang out together. It'll be fun.

"JOIN WITH A FRIEND: Buddy Team Enlistment Option: Sign up with a friend, and if you both qualify, you'll go through Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training and your first Active Duty assignment together." Then the clincher: "GET MORE INFORMATION AND A FREE ARMY GYM BAG."

In case the gym bag isn't enough, another couple of cards were mailed to my daughter at the same time, pleading: "PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH A FRIEND. Learn more about the Army and get a free personalized Dog Tag. Just send in his form. … There is no cost or obligation."

APPEAL #5: Finding (or consenting to) one's destiny; freedom from decision-making.

A Navy brochure, smaller but more colorful and hip, appeals to kids' confusion, anxiety, and the pressing need to find meaning and direction: "Sometimes you go in search of your destiny. Sometimes, it finds YOU instead. Welcome to your future."

APPEAL #6: Psychological support and flattery to boost low self-esteem/confidence.

Inside the Navy brochure, students read what they wish their parents and teachers would say – but are often too busy, stressed, or cautious to tell them: "You have one life. How far can it take you? AS FAR AS YOU WANT TO GO. Navy Advanced programs. They're not for everyone. Frankly, we don't take everyone – only certain individuals with special qualifications. Pride. Intelligence. Integrity. And guts."

APPEAL #7: Promises of excitement, adventure, macho identity, superiority to friends; immediate rescue from boredom, lack of options, and meaningless, dead-end jobs.

"In Navy Advanced Programs, you'll do more in six short years than most do in a lifetime." There are photos of young men wearing things on their heads: goggles, masks, helmets, and headphones, above which are the words: "TWO-THIRDS OF THE WORLD IS UNDERWATER. SO MUCH FOR HAVING TO ACHIEVE YOUR POTENTIAL FROM A 6' BY 8' CUBICLE." Under the photos are the words: "Brace yourself: Each advanced program is far from ordinary. Far from what your friends are probably doing. And far more meaningfully."

APPEAL #8: Promises of intellectual challenge, not just physical, macho adventure; promises of equal opportunity for minorities and women.

On the next page there are photos of an Asian man working complex controls (the word TECHNICAL is superimposed, perhaps to make sure young teens understand that working controls is technical), a Hispanic woman spraying something on a metal object, and a black person of indefinite gender fiddling with large red circular items.

APPEAL #9: Reassurance that the military offers better education than college ever could; promises of being given the responsibility and power of life-and-death decisions/actions; "adrenaline-pumping" excitement; saving time (earn-degrees-while-making money); and cash now.

The exciting caption under those photos reads: "Getting a life and getting an education don't have to be mutually exclusive. You tend to learn more when you do it, rather than hear about it. You tend to learn more when the lives of co-workers depend on your skills. You tend to learn more when your teacher weighs 97,000 tons. There's a lot to be said for having a nuclear aircraft carrier as a teacher. Not the least of which is that in two years of hands-on, adrenaline-pumping training, you'll not only have the adventure of a lifetime, you'll be just credits away from an associate's degree. All while getting paid."

APPEAL #10: Impressing friends; self-esteem boost via superiority to "most people"; tacit reassurance that training won't require academic skills or classroom success; free international travel; James Bond intrigue and adventure; power/sex appeal through identification with powerful, sexy things (warships, nuclear reactors, and beautiful on-ship women) – and, last but not least, "saving the world."

More captions: "DO MORE THAN AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS. AMAZE THE WORLD. Navy Advanced Programs take you around the world. Using equipment most people could never dream of. From working on nuclear reactors to decoding encrypted foreign communications. Where do you see yourself? Check out the possibilities…"

Next are magazine-style sound bites: "Underwater surveillance. Search-and-rescue operations. Assembling and maintaining nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. In advanced electronics, adventure, intrigue and saving the world are all in a day's work."

Photos illustrate unstated promises: An African-American man is tinkering with wires, a Latino man is steering something, and a pretty, smiling blonde woman, her silky hair blowing in the wind, is holding onto a railing of some sort. The captions read: "Get behind the most powerful warships on earth. Maintain the Navy's most advanced propulsion systems and gas turbine engines. Analyze foreign communications data. Keep the world's strongest fleet moving. And thrive on the bottomless supply of adventure."

The following page shows a man wearing mountains of gear, an oxygen tank, white gloves, and a huge helmet, doing something with a large hose. The caption beckons, "If you're into adrenaline. Welcome to your DAY JOB." On another page, a white sailor is watching a black sailor who's touching some wiring while holding a 3-ring binder: The caption reads, "What makes the Navy the world's strongest? America's smartest."

On the postage-paid reply card, another pretty adolescent girl in a shapely red sweater sits on what appears to be a naval ship. The caption asks, "What's a typical day for a Navy Sailor? What do they do in their free time? What's it like to live on a ship? Get the answers in 12 minutes. Fill out this card for your FREE, 12-minute video." The card asks for all the usual identifying information, "for recruiting purposes only."

Parents and teachers who care about kids should study each of these appeals and inoculate naïve, trusting teens against their seductive powers. Don't let the military become your child's parent by filling his or her unmet needs – fill as many of those needs as you can, before it's too late. Talk with teens about the deception and psychological tricks in glossy recruiting. To paraphrase a well-known ad campaign, "Communication: The Anti-Recruiter."



Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist and writer who works in research on leadership for Harvard University. She writes and speaks extensively on parenting issues, conducts seminars and workshops, and has participated in various radio shows in the Boston and Nashville areas. She lives in Portsmouth, Virginia.


New Jersey’s Occupied School Districts

Michelle Renee Matisons and Seth Sandronsky -

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left) and Newark school chief Cami Anderson (right) teamed up, along with former mayor (now Senator) Corey Booker to implement corporate "school reform" and the charter school attack on public education in the state's largest city.With globalization, the expansion of capitalist production has doubled the planetary work force, and U.S. elites in New Jersey and other “blue and red states” are defunding urban education services and then conveniently refunding education through private market interventions. As corporate America flexes its political power by renting lawmakers at all levels, mass incarceration of the racialized populace has been a key social policy reflecting this trend of globalized class power. Like the War on Drugs that parallels it, the War on Public Schools directs public attention to a singular cause for the class inequality inherent in the capitalist system. Both “wars” masquerade as comprehensive solutions to crime and poverty, fixating on symptoms and not root causes of social problems.

Racialized class power is found everywhere in predatory reform targeting poor urban school districts. Like the War on Drugs, it disproportionately affects poor people of color, but poor urban and rural whites are casualties in both wars too. The bipartisan War on Public Schools picks up and exacerbates social outcomes created by the bipartisan War on Drugs: urban communities continually bear the brunt of a political system unified by racialized class power. Far from withering away, contemporary U.S. capitalism increasingly relies upon the state’s regulatory powers.

America's Child Soldiers

Ann Jones -

Article image

Congress surely meant to do the right thing when, in the fall of 2008, it passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA). The law was designed to protect kids worldwide from being forced to fight the wars of Big Men. From then on, any country that coerced children into becoming soldiers was supposed to lose all U.S. military aid.

It turned out, however, that Congress -- in its rare moment of concern for the next generation -- had it all wrong. In its greater wisdom, the White House found countries like Chad and Yemen so vital to the national interest of the United States that it preferred to overlook what happened to the children in their midst.

Conversation with Rickover Cadets on Facebook

Gary Ghirardi -

Chicago military acadamiesRarely do conditions line up like this for NNOMY but a recent article that appeared in Yahoo News about Rickover public military academy, in Chicago, that included an interview with Jesus Palafox from our steering committee, got posted as a promoted post on NNOMY's Facebook page and the cadets from the school converged on the posting with their group outrage. But a conversation took place. Below are a selection of student comments to the Yahoo article including my responses done as best as I could with available time in a series of a few days. The conversation from the student side reveals more about how the education and the thinking that is coming out of the new militarized public charter schools is forming young minds. The time of the Vietnamization of war is truly over and the voices in this program represent a new generation of militarized youth. For them, the military is again an adventure, and an opportunity where no other seems available. The instinct to challenge this type of path for their lives seems not present but rather a condemnation of their generation. It reminds me, in part, of the era of my own father during the Korean War.

End Game For Corporate School Reform: Privatized Holding Tanks, Remote Ed, Military Charter Schools

Bruce Dixon -

October 15, 2007. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (center, in gold hard hat) joins (left to right) Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, Chicago Alderman Ed Balzer, CEO Arne Duncan, and retired Marine General Michael Mulqueen. Behind Daley (right) on the wall of the former elementary school is the banner of the Chicago Public Schools “Military Area Office” (which CPS claimed does not exist). To the left at ease are 9th grade students from the newly commissioned Marine Military Academy.  At the groundbreaking, Daley and Duncan announced an $8 million expansion of the “Grant Campus” (which now houses the Marine Academy and the Phoenix Military Academy, an Army program). The money for the expansion of the military campus at Adams and Western on Chicago’s West Side comes at a time when Daley and Duncan are telling public schools across Chicago that there is no money for capital improvements in the schools because the State of Illinois has refused to increase Chicago’s percentage of state education funding. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Doug Henwood, a radical economist and founder of Left Business Observer, says it as succinctly as anyone when he sums up the goal of bipartisan corporate education reform imposed on poorer neighborhoods as “...low cost privatized holding tanks leading to McDonalds jobs for the lucky, or to prison for the not so lucky...” along with classes delivered by computers rather than unionized teachers. But as useful as this summation is, it leaves out one element worth noting. You can't run a global empire without a military class, any more than you can run a prison without prison guards.

So in Chicago, widely touted as a laboratory of educational innovation, mostly because its current mayor, President Obama's former chief of staff holds dictatorial power over its public schools, one of the showpieces of education reform has been the handing over of entire high schools and even middle schools to the army, the navy and the marine corps.

Before the era of corporate reform there was at least one achievement of genuine small d democratic education reform pushed through by the administration of Chicago mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s. Since then parents in every public school have been allowed to elect parent councils, with reps from among rank and file teachers, which have veto power over title one funds and principal's contracts, which are limited to two years. The “innovative” answer of downtown bureaucrats, corporate elites and subsequent mayors to parents taking a hand in running the schools has been to simply close Chicago public schools and replace them with charters over which parents have no say.

This year, Chicago closed more public schools than any other school district in a single year in the nation's history. None were charter schools. This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was moving the middle school which had earlier been given to the marine corps into the facility of a fully functioning neighborhood school, Ames Middle School.

The fact that Ames parents and community members had testified, had met with officials and overwhelmingly rejected the closing of their school meant less than nothing, and may even have contributed the replacement of their school by a military academy. What mayor, and what alderman really wants organized parents running their own neighborhood institutions? It's bad for business if you're a privatizer, or a politician who takes cues and campaign contributions from privatizers. And ultimately habits of local democracy are bad for empire.

What Chicago, and corporate education reformers and privatizers and their contractors nationwide want, as Henwood observes, are low-cost holding tanks to funnel the well-behaved into low-wage precarious labor for the lucky and jail for the unlucky. They want distance education and computerized instruction because these are cheaper than human, potentially unionized teachers. And to Henwood's list we should add, they want a sprinkling of military charter schools. After all, you can't run an empire without soldiers, or a prison without guards.



Education as Enforcement:Militarization and Corporatization of Schools

Kenneth J. Saltman -

militarized schoolsPublic schools in the United States have increasingly come to resemble the military and prison systems with their hiring of military generals as school administrators and heavy investment in security apparatus—metal detectors, high-tech dog tag IDs, chainlink fences, and real-time Internet-based or hidden mobile surveillance cameras—plus, their school uniforms, security consultants, surprise searches, and the presence of police on campuses.1 But it would be a mistake to understand the preoccupation with security as merely a mass media-driven hysteria in the wake of Virginia Tech and other high-profile shootings, and myopic to ignore the history of public school militarization prior to September 11.

Militarized education in the United States needs to be understood in relation to the enforcement of global corporate imperatives as they expand markets through the real and symbolic violence of war. Militarism and the promotion of violence as virtue pervade foreign and domestic policy, popular culture, educational discourse, and language. A high level of comfort with rising militarism in all areas of life, particularly schooling, set the stage for the radically militarized reactions to September 11—including the institutionalization of permanent war, the suspension of civil liberties, and an active hostility from the state and mass media towards any attempt to address the underlying causes for the unprecedented attack on the United States.

I believe that militarized schooling in America encompasses two broad trends—“military education” and what may be called “education as enforcement.”

Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps—Two Agendas

Military education refers to explicit efforts to expand and legitimate military training in public schools and is exemplified by the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), the Troops to Teachers program (which places retired soldiers in schools), the trend towards hiring military generals as school superintendents or CEOs, the school uniform movement, the Lockheed Martin corporation’s public school in Georgia, and the army’s development of the biggest online education program in the world as a recruiting tool. A large number of private military schools, such as the notorious Virginia Military Institute (VMI), service the public military academies and the military itself and are considered ideals that public school militarization should strive towards. Like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, military education turns hierarchical organization, competition, group cohesion, and weaponry into fun and games. The focus on adventure activities has made these programs extremely successful at recruitment and nearly half (47 percent) of the 200,000 students in the 1,420 JROTC army programs nationwide enter military service.

In addition to promoting recruitment, military education plays a central role in fostering a social focus on discipline exemplified by the rise of militarized policing, increased powers for search and seizure, the laws against public gathering, “zero tolerance” policies, and the transformation of welfare into punishing workfare programs. This militarization of civil society has been further intensified since September 11, as conservatives and liberals alike have seized upon the “terrorist threat” to justify the passage of the USA Patriot Act.

The “education as enforcement” trend understands militarized public schooling to be part of the militarization of civil society, which in turn has to be understood as being part of the broader social, cultural, and economic movements for state-backed corporate globalization seeking to erode democratic power while expanding and enforcing corporate power at local, national, and global levels.

Neoliberalism’s Role In Education

Corporate globalization, which should be viewed as a doctrine rather than as an inevitable phenomenon, is driven by the philosophy of neoliberalism whose economic and political doctrine insists upon the virtues of privatization and liberalization of trade, while concomitantly placing its faith in the discipline of the market for the resolution of all social and individual problems.

Within the United States, neoliberal policies have been characterized by supporters as “free market policies that encourage private enterprise and consumer choice, reward personal responsibility and entrepreneurial initiative, and undermine the dead hand of the incompetent, bureaucratic, and parasitic government that can never do good even if well intended, which it rarely is.”2 Within the neoliberal view, the public sphere—schools, parks, social security, and healthcare included—should either be privatized or put into service for the private sphere, as in the case of federal subsidies for corporate agriculture, entertainment, and defense.

Ronald Reagan entered office with plans to dismantle the United States Department of Education and implement market-based voucher schemes. Both initiatives failed largely because of the teachers’ unions and the fact that public opinion was yet to be influenced by corporate-financed public relations campaigns that make neoliberal ideals appear commonsensical.3 However, during his second term as president, Reagan successfully appropriated the racial, equity-based, magnet school voucher model developed by liberals to declare that the market model (rather than authoritative federal action against racism) was responsible for the high quality of these schools.4  The real triumph of the market-based rhetoric was to shift discussion away from political concerns about the role of public education in preparing citizens for democratic participation and to redefine public schooling as a good or service, like toilet paper or soap, which students and parents consume.

Educating to Enforce Globalization

Despite a history of racial and class oppression—owing in no small part to the fact that public schooling has been tied to local property wealth and hence, unequally distributed as a resource—and the material and ideological constraints often faced by teachers and administrators, public schooling has always been a forum for democratic deliberation where communities could convene to struggle over values or envision a future far broader than the one imagined by multinational corporations. Hence, in speaking of militarized public schooling in the United States, it is not enough to identify the extent to which certain schools (particularly urban, non-white schools) increasingly resemble prisons or serve as prime recruitment grounds for the military. Instead, militarized public schooling needs to be understood in terms of the enforcement of globalization through implementation of all the policies and reforms that are guided by neoliberal ideals.

Globalization gets enforced through: (a) privatization schemes, such as vouchers, charters, performance contracting, and commercialization; (b) standards and accountability schemes that seek to enforce a uniform curriculum with emphasis on testing and quantifiable performance; and (c) assessment, accreditation (in higher education), and curricula that celebrate market values and the culture of those in power, rather than human and democratic values. The curricula are designed to avoid critical questions about the relationship between the production of knowledge and power, authority, politics, history, and ethics. Some multinational corporations, such as Disney with their Celebration School, and BP Amoco with their middle-level science curriculum, have appropriated progressive pedagogical methods that strive to promote a vision of a world best served under a benevolent corporate management.

Education as a National Security Issue

The Hart-Rudman commission in 2000 called for education to be classified as an issue of national security, hence requiring increased federal funding for school security at the cost of community policing, and the continuation of the Troops to Teachers program. This kind of thinking is characteristic of the antifederalist aspect of neoliberalism—a politics of containment rather than investment—and efficacious in keeping large segments of the population uneducated or undereducated, and encouraging the flow of funds to the defense and high-tech sectors and away from populations deemed to be of little use to capital. Most importantly, those employed in low-skill, low-paying service sector jobs, would likely complain or even organize if they were encouraged to question and think too much.

Education and literacy are tied to political participation. Participation might mean educated elites demanding social investment in public projects, or at least projects that might benefit most people. That is the real reason why the federal government wants soldiers rather than unemployed Ph.Ds in the classrooms. Additionally, corporate globalization initiatives, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), seek to allow corporate competition in the public sector at an unprecedented level. In theory, public schools would have to compete with for-profit schooling initiatives from any corporation in the world. But by redefining public schooling as a national security issue, it can be exempt from the purview that agreements, such as the FTAA, impose on nations. Consistent with the trend, education as national security defines the public interest through reforms that inhibit teaching as a critical and intellectual endeavor that aims to make a participatory citizenry capable of building the public sphere.

Transforming the War Economy

In his book, After Capitalism, Seymour Melman argues that a central task of the future is the transformation of a war economy into a civilian one—not only for former Soviet states but also for the United States.

Considering the ways that the global financial system maintains poverty and the military system produces war, a key task for educators is to imagine education as a means of mobilizing citizens to understand these systems and steer them toward a goal of global democracy and justice. Militarized schooling can be resisted at the local level. Kevin Ramirez, for example, started and runs the “Military Out of our Schools” campaign that seeks to eject JROTC programs from public schools. Ramirez points out to parents, teachers, administrators, and newspaper reporters that school violence is an extension of social violence, which is taught through programs like the JROTC.

I have argued that militarized education in the United States needs to be understood in relation to the enforcement of corporate economic imperatives and a rising trend towards “law and order” that pervades popular culture, educational discourse, foreign policy, and language. Therefore, the movement against militarism in education must go beyond the schools and challenge the many ways that militarism as a cultural logic enforces the expansion of corporate power and decimates public power. Such a movement must include the practice of critical pedagogy and ideally, also link with other movements against oppression, such as the anti-globalization, feminist, labor, environmental, and anti-racism movements. Together, we can form the basis for imagining and implementing a just future.

1.    Chang, Nancy. Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11 Anti-terrorism Measures Threaten Our Civil Liberties (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002).
2.    McChesney, Robert W. Introduction to Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999). Pp: 7.
3.    Ibid.
4.    Henig, Jeffrey. Rethinking School Choice, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994).

Kenneth J. Saltman is an assistant professor in Social and Cultural Foundations in Education at DePaul University. He is the author of Collateral Damage: Corporatizing Public Schools—A Threat to Democracy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001) and Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Schools (Paradigm Publishers, 2007).

Download or view a pdf of this article (243KB).


Subscribe to NNOMY Newsletter

NNOMYnews reports on the growing intrusions by the Department of Defense into our public schools in a campaign to normalize perpetual wars with our youth and to promote the recruitment efforts of the Pentagon.


Search Articles



This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues connected with militarism and resistance. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Donate to NNOMY

Your donation to NNOMY works to balance the military's message in our public schools. Our national network of activists go into schools and inform youth considering military service the risks about military service that recruiters leave out.