Henry Giroux on the Militarization of Public Pedagogy

by Seth Kershner -

Critique is Not Enough

Critique is not enoughAs a counterpoint to the current hand-wringing over public education in the U.S., it may be helpful to remember that we will spend a comparatively small amount of time during our lives as students in the classroom.  That the focus thus far has been on teachers and tests should not surprise us, however.  These are tangible, and measurable, aspects of education.  It happens to be much harder to reform – or even to keep track of – the educational force of culture. What does that force look like?  As C. Wright Mills put it in his famous BBC address, “The Cultural Apparatus,” we base our understanding of the world around us not only on schools but also on “the observation posts, the interpretation centers” and “presentation depots” of the mass media and entertainment industry (Mills 406).  “Taken as a whole,” Mills continued, “the cultural apparatus is the lens of mankind through which men see; the medium by which they interpret and report what they see” (Mills 406).  The media’s overpowering influence in our lives and the fact that we never actually confront pristine reality (only a mediated version thereof), raises the question: Could the cultural apparatus be the most influential teacher we ever have?

Sustainable Options for Youth: First Fall Visit to Austin High School

Jeff Webster and Susan Van Haitsma -

Ben and Tami at SOY tableLast week, we made our first SOY visit of the new school year to Austin High School.  Tami and I were pleased to be joined by Ben, a Marine Corps veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who recently moved to Austin.  While Ben was a student at the University of North Texas, he did organizing with Rising Tide North America, an environmental group addressing fracking and the tar sands pipeline.  It was great to have Ben with us and to be able to stretch out our table of materials so that 3 of us could interact with students.  Photos at

Here are our takes on the day:

From Ben:

Tabling with SOY was a great perspective-building experience for me.  Over 12 years ago, while I was a junior, I remember speaking with a Marine recruiter and a former classmate who had just finished boot camp at my high school, after I had already made the decision to enlist.  It was empowering to come back into that situation now as a veteran for peace and have the opportunity to share my perspective now, having seen the reality of war, with a new generation of kids growing up in a country engaged in permanent war.  War affects everyone, abroad and at home, and the economic draft is alive and well in our schools.  I was honored to have the chance to help kids find a more peaceful and rewarding path coming out of high school.  This is important work, and I hope to see it continue to grow in Austin.

Questioning the Ethics of Military Recruitment at Fordham

Nick Haggerty -

Uncle Sam may or may not be watching you while you sleep

War Memorial doors restored at Fordham UniversityI started receiving recruitment emails from a Marine captain with the clockwork regularity characteristic of the military in the beginning of my first semester at Fordham. The Marine captain was vague on most details, but he explicitly listed the benefits of enlisting in colloquial English: “There is no obligation on behalf of the student. You attend during the summer, you get paid. You’ll return to school knowing you have a job opportunity waiting at graduation (15?, 16?) if you wish to accept your commission.” I could easily picture myself without a summer job, and therefore deciding to spend a few weeks in Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia seemed appealing. I did not intend to enlist in the Marines, but if they were willing to pay me to go to this training school, the idea of attending did not seem ridiculous. I never considered unsubscribing from the emails, let alone doing anything about the military’s privileged access to students.

There was no “Aha!” moment that led to my decision to do something about these recruitment emails. Maybe it was the same attitude of self-interest and self-protection I had in considering the Marine captain’s monetary offer that prompted me to wonder about how they acquired my contact information. This initial questioning of how the Marines obtained my contact information led me back to more scrutiny of the content within these emails. The more closely I read them, the more unsettled I became with the Marine captain’s promises of economic freedom and self-actualization. By the time I received the January recruitment email, it was clear to me that these emails instill fear and anxiety and exploit the vulnerabilities of me and my peers, in order to promote enlisting as a Marine. The fears, rational and irrational, of not having a job or even a purpose after graduation are real thoughts that can stoke anxiety in me and in other undergraduate students. The recruitment emails reinforce these fears of finding a job and direction in life by presenting a clear-cut solution to both problems: enlisting in the Marine Corps.

I decided to act on this issue. I wrote to both the Marine captain and the freshman Dean in late January to find out how the Marines obtained my contact information, and to make known my disapproval of the recruitment emails’ content: “If an organization, such as the Marine Corps, has the blessing of Fordham to recruit its students by directly, and repeatedly, contacting them, why are non-military public service organizations not granted this privilege as well? Would you not agree that one could find ‘pride and purpose’ through non-military public service?” I never received a response from the Marine captain. After calling and going directly to my Dean’s office, another Dean contacted me a few weeks later to address my privacy concerns. He referred me to the Solomon Amendment of 1996, which is a federal law under which Fordham is required to provide directory information to recruiters such as the Marine captain that was contacting me. The Dean did mention that I could request to be omitted from the lists provided to recruiters, but that would prevent Fordham from communicating with my parents or anyone else. At this point, I began asking my friends about how I should respond to this roadblock.

A response I sometimes hear from peers when I tell them about this situation is: If you don’t want to get emails from the Marines, just unsubscribe or tell them to stop. Why does it bother you if other students, who may be interested in enlisting, receive these emails? My problem with the Marines sending these emails to Fordham students is twofold. First, there are undoubtedly risks inherent in sharing student information to any military organization that makes a request. What limits do the Marines have on sharing student information with other military and non-military organizations? What information, besides email, is also readily available to these recruiters? Oftentimes, students do not realize that their information has been given out with their implicit permission until a recruiter contacts them. While this action is apparently legal, I believe that assuming a student’s permission to give away contact information is not an ethical practice and a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy. Students should be able to opt-into this system, if they choose, and not be stuck with opting out when it is too late.

Second, and perhaps paramount, are the recruitment actions of the Marines themselves. Of course, it would be nice to see Fordham take a stand against facilitating military recruitment to uphold its values of men and women for others and cura personalis, but the University is obliged by the law to submit to recruiter requests for information. However, I do hold the Marines fully accountable for their messages with the lure of money to those in need. It was the monetary rewards proffered by the Marine captain that were of most interest to me, and I am as anxious as any other college student about finding a job after I graduate. This emphasis placed on the financial benefits of enlisting in the Marines—the Marine captain mentions the rewards in the first paragraph of every email—plays on the typical fears and anxieties of college students taking out loans or worried about finding a job after graduation, and unjustly targets students who are the most economically underprivileged. Combined with emotionally potent slogans and a vagueness about the responsibilities students have once they sign up, this emphasis on the financial rewards of joining form the basis for the unethical recruitment emails.

There is no easy solution to the issue of military recruitment at Fordham. The actions of both the University and the Marines are legal. However, there is an important distinction to be made between actions that are legal and actions that are moral. I believe in the basic value of following one’s moral obligation over one’s legal obligation. I hope to fulfill the moral obligation I feel to question the military recruitment practices at Fordham by raising student awareness and advocating for changing the policy of default disclosure of contact information.


Marquette and ROTC: an unholy alliance

Daniel C. Maguire -

PROFESSOR DANIEL C. MAGUIREAt Marquette University, there are two contradictory schools of thought on war and both are — confusingly — taught to our students. One is based on the Judeo-Christian, Catholic, Jesuit moral tradition, and it is encapsulated in what is called "the Catholic just war theory." That theory puts the burden of proof on the warrior, not on the conscientious objector.

The theory states several conditions that must be met for a war to be called "justifiable." If a single condition is violated, the war is unjust and is nothing more than collective murder. As a purveyor of this Catholic "just war theory," the Jesuit John Courtney Murray said that there is no time when citizens should be more vocal than when their government is killing people in their name.

The other school of thought taught at Marquette is called the ROTC. ROTC does not accept or include in its independent curriculum the "Catholic just war theory," which defends the right of "selective conscientious objection to particular wars" for soldiers. Neither does its curriculum require course work on the biblical teaching of peace-making.

ROTC students are taught exactly what American law says, i.e., that when you swear into military service, you have surrendered your right to have moral objections to any war to which you are assigned. ROTC students are taught that the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which claimed more than the population of Milwaukee in lost and displaced lives, are beyond the criticisms of "the Catholic just war theory."

Militarism in the Land, the Water and the Schools

Michael Lujan Bevacqua  -
I am constantly surprised at the ways in which people are surprised at things.

I suppose that anywhere, you go, you can find things which are normal there and abnormal or incomprehensible elsewhere. Coming from Guam, a pretty little American territory/colony in the Western Pacific, I find alot of things which "shock" regular Americans, aren't so strange to me.

Often times, when people remark that Guam is so gof gof suette because we don't have to pay Federal income taxes, my response is a very sincere request that our positions be changed then. That this person I am talking to and whatever state they call home, switch its political status so that it becomes like that of Guam. So yes, by all means, take the no Federal income tax rule, but, you simply can't just take this benefit alone, you also have to accept with it, the overall dinimalas of being a colony. You have to take the lack of a voting Congressional representative, and also regardless of your population, no representation in the Senate whatsoever.

What generally shocks people, however and makes them realize the unsavoriness of becoming like Guam, is the fact that, then your state must give up 30% of its area to the United States military to be transformed into Air Force, Navy and soon to be built Marine Corps bases. Most of these people, who think very simplistically about the fortune of being the colony of Guam, never make it to considering this point, and even if they are patriotic, flag waving Americans, who profess a profound love and respect for the troops, this idea of having 1/3 of their states controlled by the military, tends to shake them to their very core.

It is almost as if, they are forced to see past their rhetoric, their illusions, and confront what they truly feel about something. That while the military defends, protects, it is also a fearsome creature, in many ways what Giles Delueze called the war machine (i makinan gera). In addition to protecting life, the military destroys life, and not just the enemies lives, but the lives of those it protects as well. The military sucks away resources, and rarely in very balanced or well managed ways. For instance, in my department, someone has on the door of their office a cartoon that wishes for the day when public schools will be well funded, and the military will have to hold bake sales. This is the sort of illusion that the military actively engineers in order to protect itself, and to keep its image positive.

In high schools for instance in California, JROTC programs are advertised as bringing in income and money to schools. They are advertised as being important programs for getting kids into college as well. Both of these points however are rarely true. In fact, JROTC programs can end up costing schools far more than they bring in, because of the gap in what the Department of Defense reimburses the school, and what they require the school pay in order to set up the program. Furthermore, in the California state college system, military science courses taken through JROTC do not count towards college. As if to make things worse, the money put up to establish JROTC in schools, tends to get taken away from actual college prepatory programs.

In Guam, we have the idea that the United States military is an "environmental steward," or a good and loving caretaker of the environment. While in some ways, we can see this, as certain pet projects such as the eradication of the brown tree snake or the protection of endangered species on Guam become central to the public relations campaigns of the military. We also get this impression of the military as being better at watching out for the environment because of dikike' na kosas, such as the pristine conditions of their lawns, the lack of abandoned cars by the roadsides in their bases, and in an almost ridiculous way, the better paint jobs on their houses.

All of this evidence in favor of the idea that the military is simply mampos kapas gi i umadadahi i tano', i tasi yan i aire, is nonetheless contradicted by the actual poisoning of the earth the military perpetuates in times of war and peace. Agent Orange, Depleted Uranium, Nuclear Fallout, Toxic Waste, Mustard Gas, these are all weapons of mass destruction of chemical warfare which have been brought to Guam and affected the health of its residents, and as some cancer research indicates, has affected our health and environment in catastrophic ways.

I think that when I ask people to imagine what it would be like if 30% of California or Oregon or New York was military bases, it shatters that sort of positive illusion that surrounds the military, and forces these people to think about what the military means in their lives, and to think beyond the platitudes about defense, and also see what other less "patriotic" impacts it can have.

Recently, as I've become involved with the group Project on Youth Alternatives and Non-Military Options or Project YANO, I have found another point which can shock people into rethinking what the military means in daily life.

For instance, when I tell people that in San Diego the JROTC has built and is building firing ranges at San Diego high schools, most people react with almost pure shock. Although these firing ranges aren't using real weapons, but just air powered rifles, the idea that young high school students are being trained to handle weapons, forces people to recognize not just the violent aspects of militarism, but more so the predatory aspects of it, which we see through the recruitment of students at increasingly young ages in order to meet recruitment targets.

In order to build these firing ranges and fund the JROTC programs, money has been taken away from college prep courses such as AVID and Advanced Placement. In addition, in the hopes of giving the impression of enthusiastic student support for JROTC, at Mission Bay and Lincoln High Schools, students were enrolled in JROTC without their or their parents' consent.

For the past few months, The Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft has been conducting public meetings in order to gauge community outrage over the firing range issue, and has ciruclated petitions, held protests and built up a diverse coalition, with the hopes of addressing the following issues:

  1. Removing the firing ranges from San Diego high schools (since they violate the no weapons ban in schools)
  2. Stop the violations of California Education Code 51750, which prohibits involuntary enrollment in military science classes.
  3. The inadequate offering of college prep classes and academic electives that students can take instead of JROTC, and require that parents and students be informed that military sciences classes do not count towards college admissions.

On Feb. 12th, San Diego parents, students and teachers held a protest as the city school board met, hoping to receive a full and fair hearing on this issue, and that their concerns be addressed. I'm pasting below photos from the protest:

On Feb. 12th, San Diego parents, students and teachers held a protest as the city school board met, hoping to receive a full and fair hearing on this issue, and that their concerns be addressed. I'm pasting below photos from the protest:

Direct Action against Militarism

Owen Everett - Based on a piece by Cecil Arndt

N.E.A.T.In different countries, war and militarisation take on very different meanings and have different effects, depending not only on the presence or absence of direct acts of war but also on country's political, economic, and social circumstances, and its history and traditions. As these factors define not only to the types, levels, and effects of militarisation but also the ways in which it can be effectively resisted, the scope of this article is inevitably limited; it can only provide a Western, European, largely German perspective on the use of direct action to oppose the militarisation of youth, although it explores possibilities in other countries nonetheless.

Militarisation, in whatever form it takes, must be understood as always being directed at young people. The militarisation of youth relies not only on their direct recruitment into the armed forces, but on the widely growing intrusion of the military into the lives and minds of people of all ages. This intrusion influences individual daily routines, preferences and choices, as well as general perceptions. The common theme is the normalising of war and the military.

Violence, USA

The Warfare State and the Hardening of Everyday Life

Henry A. Giroux -

CorpoUSASince 9/11, the war on terror and the campaign for homeland security have increasingly mimicked the tactics of the enemies they sought to crush. Violence and punishment as both a media spectacle and a bone-crushing reality have become prominent and influential forces shaping U.S. society. As the boundaries between “the realms of war and civil life have collapsed,” social relations and the public services needed to make them viable have been increasingly privatized and militarized.1 The logic of profitability works its magic in channeling the public funding of warfare and organized violence into universities, market-based service providers, Hollywood cinema, cable television, and deregulated contractors. The metaphysics of war and associated forms of violence now creep into every aspect of U.S. society.

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