Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Military recruiters in high schools

David Schaefer blows the whistle on the spokeswoman for the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools, which opposes military recruitment in high schools. Turns out there may be more than meets the eye.

Discussions - 34 Comments

Wow, that was some serious drivel action in the CAMS ’End of Year Reflections’ article. Somehow, I managed to keep down my lunch.

Drivel aside (and drivel it seemed!) this does tend to remind us of the hidden meaning of "No Child Left Behind," doesn’t it? When parents must actively remove their children from lists of potential recruits, and when only wealthy school districts can afford to refuse compliance, then we have a problem.


Can you please clarify your comments. I read the first article, though not the second, so maybe I lack the necessary background.

I do not think it is odd that all children are considered recruitable, nor do I think it is a problem. I am also unsure why any school district should or can refuse to participate in any such programs. The constitution allows Congress to pass laws relating to the military: indeed it is one of the oldest subjects of legislation, and the courts tend to defer to Congress’ judgment in such matters because of the very clear grant of power the constitution gives Congress.

I find it inconsistent (though not surprising) that you would think school is an appropriate place to gather data for sociological research, but not an appropriate place to set up a table and talk to kids about serving their country in a profound way. National defense is more important than conducting surveys about children’s sexual knowledge or sexual feelings.

Steve - One of the clauses of the "No Child Left Behind" Law" is the one that I referred to. That is, unless parents actively remove their Juniors and Seniors from the list, their children are fair targets of recruiters. This is not so that recruiters can set up a table out in the open. Instead, it sends them the kids’ grades, records, phone numbers, and such, so that they can be contacted after being weeded out (the high achievers from the less successful).

I understand the need to recruit, but this is a sneaky way to exploit kids, and many parents only find out about this through word of mouth, or from reading the small print in school publications.

As for our earlier dicussion regarding data collection from schools, I stated very clearly that THAT should ethically only occurr with the fully informed consent of the parents, and with the approval of an institutional review board (IRB).

So, the right to recruit? Of course. The right to institute a draft? Yes, but that would be very unpopular, and so they try to sneak past parents, and do it this way.

"As for our earlier dicussion regarding data collection from schools, I stated very clearly that THAT should ethically only occurr with the fully informed consent of the parents, and with the approval of an institutional review board (IRB)."-Fung

Should this standard also apply to teenage abortion; specifically to parental consent? If parents need to know about the "dangers" of military recruitment, then should they not also know of the dangers of abortion without parental consent?

Do these....uh ......."educators" have some responsibility to the children and their parents?

That CAMS lady sounds like she’s not all there, sure, but why exactly do the recruiters need to come to the school? I remember when I was in high school, the recruiters would just send a bunch of promotional posters and brochures, and our "education and career advisor" would post them on the school bulletin boards. Every kid who might be interested would usually go visit during their junior year or early in their senior year - this is how I signed up. We know that students can go see their recruiters, so why do they have to come to the schools, and take away from class time? (I’m still curious, after we read the story of the recruiter visit, if John chose the Marines or the Air Force)

Jesse-That’s a good question. Unlike many of my left-wing friends, I am not at all solid about the right-to-life issue.

On the other hand, there are some differences, here that seem relevant, though not in such a way that I feel I have trumped your argument. First, most "educators" regarding sex assume (a) that kids who abstain are out of danger, and therefore out of the equation, (b) the kids who do not abstain need to know about safe, effective protection from STDs and from pregnancy, and (c) failing that, kids need to know about safe, legal options for solving a problem that they have gotten into.

The option to volunteer to serve has some interesting parallels, but really can’t be seen as equivalent. For instance, military recruiters don’t teach kids how NOT to need them. they have one item on their agenda: recruiting. Sex educators generally see abortion as an unfortunate last recourse representing failures that have occurred earlier in the process (abstention, and then safe sex).

I find it disturbing that my old friend Steve considers a place of education an appropriate place to recruit future soldiers. Military service is the antithesis of genuine education. My opinion is influenced by a brilliant passage in Thoreau’s "Civil Disobedience":

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the free standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt.

Our military system does want men that consider the moral question at hand. The military commander does not decide if the homes, lives, and happiness of his target ought be destroyed. The mind is trained obey orders and the body is trained to kill. What makes the grass grow? Blood. Kill! Kill! Kill!

What, Steve, is profound about that?

Uh, Daniel, pssssssssst lend an ear.

ya need ta cut back on the caffeine...ah guess.


I was unclear. Sorry. I do agree that military methods are often not profound: they are about as profound and delicate as a sledgehammer.

What I did find profound is that people are willing to risk death, or serious injury, in order to obey orders which ultimately (either rightly or wrongly) they think will further their country’s best interests. I think that is a profound amount of devotion. I think the Bible talks about such a level of devotion, dying for one’s friend, and thinks it is good. I agree with the Bible in this instance. Whether they serve for good or bad causes, I think everyone can respect people willing to commit such personal resources (their lives and bodies) to accomplish what they think is good. That is probably one of the few noble things modern man has left.

I find nothing profound in Thoreau’s anti-military rant. The recruiting of young men (and women) to serve our country nobly, protecting its citizenry and defending our ideals of freedom, self-government by consent, and natural rights with courage and determination is a worthy goal. Rather than turning students into cynical, radical "activists" as the spokeswoman is advocating, we should praise military recruiters for promoting patriotism, heroism, and brotherhood among our young people in an educational environment. Those who choose not to join the military in our free society are welcome not to, but hopefully they are reading Homer, biographies about George Washington, and the greatest generation.

I find nothing profound about Thoreau’s excerpt as well. It is at best incomplete, and perhaps motivated by some thing other than its subject? However,

we should praise military recruiters for promoting patriotism, heroism, and brotherhood among our young people in an educational environment.

combined with

Our military system does (not) want men that consider the moral question at hand.,p.

is dangerous (Facism). So it would seem a liberal arts education (a real one) outside of the military to maintain that

defending our ideals of freedom, self-government by consent, and natural rights with courage and determination

is what is actually being defended, is necessary.

Thoreau was a proto-libertarian, and didn’t have the foggiest notion about how a society must be constituted...delusions about the "uselessness" of authority are common among utopian dreamers.

As for recruiters in the schools, these students will soon be legal adults. Most of them are being educated in PUBLIC schools at PUBLIC expense. The notion that some of them might be persuaded to serve their country in a very direct (and possibly dangerous) way is perfectly sensible and moral. As far as I know, you have to be 18 to join, yes? At that points the parents have NO (legal) say in the decision.

Why is it that SOME people who supposedly believe in the free exchange of ideas and values are also the ones so quick to engage in institutionalized censorship? Hmm...

I agree that a military is necessary to security of a nation. However, it is unfortunate that our soldiers join to defend the nation but then must attend any war that occurs during their enlistments.

A better model would be build a standing military that is well equipped and well paid and that only defends against an invading army. This would allow a man to commit a certain period of his life to defense without being concerned about morally questionable wars overseas. It could be full of noble men serving patriotism in a profound way.

For all other wars, the Congress ought to recruit specifically for that war. Members from the standing army could go as well as new members. Although joining the war is voluntary, one would committed to contract as he is now (i.e. no option of quitting early). This would allow men to decide the value of a war and freely choose who to kill.

The finances for the war should also be voluntarily given by the people. Going back to Thoreau, he reasoned that paying a tax to support the Mexican-American war made him as guilty as those who prosecuted the war. I agree with his assessment. Though I have not directly participated in the Iraq war, I have funded it just as an angry wife pays a hit-man to kill her husband.

I can think of two major obections to this plan:

1. Promotors of the war would be more likely to issue deceiving or exaggerated propoganda.

Answer: I agree that we would all need to be wary of the reasons given and support a press that thoroughly investigates all claims. The people would need to demand an honest government and vote out a dishonest one.

2. I can’t remember the second one... It was a good one, too. Oh well, I’m sure all of you will offer some fine criticism.

Students are gullible, and people in general are gullible.

[Too many Americans love] pure democracy too dearly; they seem not to consider that pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication, and with it a thousand mad pranks and fooleries.-John Jay

Is there a difference between freedom and liberty Mr. Kubiak? If so, what is it and which, then, is preferable?

First of all, please feel free to call me Dan.

Second, I am confident that I could ascribe some definition to ’freedom’ that was different from some definition of ’liberty’. However, that reminds me too much of the academic games we all enjoyed in the years after high school.

I am more interested in that encounter a person outside the classroom. I am interested in the real bombs that destroy real towns and the real bullets that rip through flesh and kill real lives. Sometimes this destruction is just, but sometimes it is not.

Under our current military model we exempt soldiers for taking part in an unjust war so long as their actions within the war follow a certain set of rules. Yet, is a man that participates in a war that he knows to be unjust not guilty even if he kills according to the rules of engagement? Could I justly kill Swiss babies if I happened to be in the Army when the Congress declared war against them?

What is a man to do if he is ordered to attend a war that knows to be unjust? He has sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies, but now Swiss babies have been declared an enemy. If he attends the war, then he commits unjust acts. If he refuses, he can be jailed, given a dishonorable discharge (making future gainful employment difficult if not impossible), or even be put to death under the UCMJ. So, a man must either kill innocents or allow himself to be incapable of caring for his own family. Neither choice is good.

I am proposing an admittedly radical military model. But, this model allows men who wish to serve their nation do so knowing that they will only serve in a defensive manner. And, it does allow offensive actions. (As a side note, I suspect that our current war would still have gone forward under my proposal. The excitement surrounding the WMD and Saddam would likely have produced enough recruits and money.)

A nation needs a military to defend itself, but it ought not ask its people to volunteer for any war for any reason that may occur in the next eight years (standard 4 year enlistment plus 4 years on the inactive reserves).

Your comment warrants a longer response than I can currently give (as I’m heading out the door), but for now:

Your idea seems to be based on a concern for the individual as an individual. What of the citizen of a political regime? Should individual ideas about justice be more important than the idea of justice fostered by the regime (and the regime’s purpose)?

I used the freedom/liberty distinction to point out the inividual/citizen difference. In regards to a military system like the one you advocate, I think this is very important (even outside of the "games" of a classroom). I have concerns about real bullets tearing real flesh as well, but I’m more interested about a war’s purpose when you talk about whether or not it’s just. I’m also more interested in the politcal consequences of a military system like the one you proposed would have.

I do think that the individual is more important than the nation as a whole. The regime’s purpose, in my opinion, is to protect the individual rights of its citizens.

So, the idea that a citizen should give up the right of conscience and the right to use his body as he sees fit seems completely backwards. Do you really think a good citizen needs to give over his body to State to be used as a tool without regard to that citizen’s soul?

As far a political consequences under my model, I made it clear that I support a military designed to defend against an invading army - an army that would threaten the individual rights of the citizens. This military would only be used to protect the purpose of the regime, which is to protect the individual rights of the citizens.

Dan must never have heard of "forward defense." Threats to our country don’t really entail "invasion" at this point...current threats have to do with overseas conspiracies to harm Americans and their interests, as well as out-of-control immigration. Moreover, the very last thing the military needs is personnel who cherrypick their wars based on wholly individualistic morality. Soldiers have the vote just like all other citizens...that’s where they make their choices about wars. Like EVERY OTHER UNIFORMED SERVICE, you don’t get to pick and chose how you serve.

Interesting thoughts Dan, you are in danger of sounding like your old roomate.

I disagree with you, I think that when join you make a convenant. The nature of covenants are rather troubling, but this is another issue for another time. The Army (in my case) takes care of me, and in exchange I do whatever I am told to do, or I don’t. We have a saying in the Army: "Do what your collar can handle"(we need a new saying now that we have gone to the ACU’s) Of course most of the time people refuse to do stuff out of laziness or frustration and not because of any moral qualms. We aren’t in any danger of killing swiss babies, or any other babies unless they cross the road unattended and we happen to run them over with our HET’s. The risk of running over swiss babies might make its way unto the risk assesement before the convoy brief under the heading of: Highly unlikely, nevertheless we would probably be advised to do something to mitigate against it: probably something along the lines of: Drink water, take asprin, make sure your TC is alert, make sure your driver is alert.

In any case I agree with you that the additional 4 years of innactive reserve is evil. If you do four years and choose not to re-up, the contract should be over.

"Threats to our country don’t really entail "invasion" at this point..."

This is a very strong assumption. It seems that you either think that we are innocent participants in this War on Terror or that our government is obligated to protect overseas interests of its citizens. Perhaps you could elaborate.

that’s where they make their choices about wars.

Keep in mind that Bush was elected while supporting a more modest foreign policy and bringing troops home from Kosovo. A lot can change very quickly.


That is exactly my point. Every uniformed service has it wrong. You need to get your mind out of puzzles we can play with logic and deductive reasoning. Consider reality. Can you truly justify killing Swiss babies because the war and your participation is just like everybody else? I am not talking about arguments that can be proven valid by our methods learned in the classroom. I have seen valid (in the logical sense of the term) arguments for killing retarded children and using their parts in the organ trade. I do not want to convince myself that I am doing the right thing, I actually want to do the right. It would be nice if, in the end, my Creator agreed.

JOHN: How the hell did you end up in the army?!? By the way, those new uniforms are just a copy of my beloved Corps.

"Threats to our country don’t really entail "invasion" at this point..."

Remember that it is still possible to address potential overseas threats with my model. Simply demonstrate the threat and collect your recruits and money. For John’s concern, I agree that once committed to that war, the volunteers would be committed as they are now.

Anyway, that "No Child Left Behind" title was pretty ironic, wasn’t it? Get it? No Child left behind? Unless their parents are diligent enough to detect the small print?

Dan, if humans were predictable and fundamentally good (not that they’re fundamentally bad), that would be a super idea.

Here’s an idea--how about a constitutional amendment mandating a nationwide referendum before the country can go to war? This had lots of supporters in the 1930s (although FDR adamantly opposed it), and came within a few votes of being sent to the states for ratification.

I think Dan’s idea, namely, that a soldier have to agree to every single engagement is a bit problematic. Here is why. Clearly the military is (and probably has to be) somewhat disanalagous to any other sort of "job." That being said, in my current position (career), I am under contract with my employer. I am obligated to do what my contract outlines vis a vis my responsibilities -- which also includes generic "course of business" language. My industry is further regulated by the laws of this state and the ethics codes adopted within the profession. When my boss tells me to do something, I have to do it, even if I do not personally agree. If I do not, I can be fired. Now, if my boss is asking me to do something illegal or unethical, I would refuse to do it. I might be fired (remember, I am under contract, so I can’t just quit -- although I realize that military law has consequences above that of breaking a contract with a firm I am employed by).

Perhaps Dan’s position that the military is the antithesis of education is a bit knee-jerk. Perhaps military service is not entirely compatible to being liberally educated, although I am not convinced that is true. But, it is also true that most high schools do not educate students in anything more than the fundamentals (and even that is suspect -- a report just released shows that 41% of Ohio students require remedial education in basic coursework in their first year of college). High school students (unfortunately) are not being taught to consider the great ethical questions or form opinions on the ends of human nature; they are struggling to pass figure out the quadratic formula and basic grammar. And lets face it, colleges should be preparing students well enough that they can decide on their own whether or not they would like to enter the military.

But back to our previous conversation. In any profession, one is going to be asked to do things he or she disagrees with. Perhaps it is the pro-life pharmacist who is required to dispense RU 486 or lose his license/job, or perhaps it is the police officer who must arrest the dad who murdered the drug-addict-pedophile that molested his child. Or maybe it is the black firefighter who must go to put out the fire at the house owned by a member of the KKK.

Within certain parameters, one should certainly make a stand against doing something that one is "obligated" to do -- even at great personal cost. But, doesn’t that mean that the individual should also do so with a willingness to accept the consequences.

I’m not by any means an expert on the military, but certainly the military code of conduct allows a soldier (or even compels) to refuse an order when it is clearly unethical (as killing a swiss baby for the H#ll of it would be).

And, since my two cents has turned into two dollars, I shall go for now.

Dan, I enlisted in the Army because I supported the war on terror. I got stuck at Fort Sill in the field artillery. The unit deployed in search of WMD, then more recently as HET drivers(large trucks that carry Abrams and other heavy loads) based out of Camp Arifjan where I am currently stationed. So basically, I drive trucks and except for an occational I.E.D. (I have yet to experience one) things are calm. In fact I have a lot of extra time to sit back read and reflect, play video games, or work out.

In general moral is about as good as it could be, considering most people would rather be home. We have hot showers, TV, internet, starbucks, Pizza Hut, a pool, two weightrooms open 24/7, you get the picture. But a video game is more than just its graphics.

There are a lot of problems in the military, a lot of troubled people, a lot of different belief structures and cultures. A lot of problems stem from stop loss, and the innactive reserve portions of contracts, that I believe unfairly go beyond the limits of covenant making. There isn’t any one true answer to how things are going, or if morale is good or bad. Some love it, some hate it, some people grow from injuries others shrivel, some people are in it for money, some for honor, some just to get away. The armed forces is as diverse as the american people. Most soldiers however don’t pay much attention to anything other than the next day’s mission or the newest MP3 player or season of Stargate, or whatever they are going to spend their checks on.

I think that it would be foolish to limit executive power over war making decisions, and questions of national defense in general.

That said if we simply worked to ensure that our military force remains voluntary then we would do well. If the cause is just and the American interests clear, there will be no shortage of enlistments. This is why the idea of a draft is bad, a volunteer force helps make sure that soldiers do battle only when serious threats to our interests are at stake. The number of people fleeing the Army (or attempting to do so) is a natural market phenomenon that occurs because people in it no longer believe in(a whole host of things...) including on the most basic level that the cost to them is worth the reward, perhaps they also believe that the economy is better, or that they are married and want to move on, or a whole host of personal issues (army folks are regular people). Also we are probably overworking the poor reserves and national guard folks, but since they hear this all the time a lot of them are rather defensive and loudly patriotic...

As it pertains to the original post this diatribe indicates that enlistment is only a hot issue because the war is unpopular. But because it is unpopular, the army is suffering for recruits. Of course this is a simplistic rendering, to put a somewhat conservative spin on it one could explain that recruiting is down because the economy is doing well. Obviously if the economy was in worse shape the army would have an easier time getting recruits. Of course the dems would counter that the army only recruits the disadvantaged.... If the dems explantion is 100% correct that the army recruits the disadvantaged then the economy is better than it really is, and if the republican explanation that the army recruits patriotic people with a choice is correct then the war is less popular and less clearly in our interests than they would like to admit.

No, Andy, if humans were fundamentally good and predictable, it would still not be enough. Dan wants base his decision based on what he understands to be an individual’s right to conscience. He also posits that the purpose of government is to "protect the individual rights of its citizens." Accordingly, his model should be implemented, right? (Though it is strange he has such disdain for logic and its apparent necessary conflict with reality when his reasoning is based on logic. There is a difference between a valid argument and a sound argument, and logic is not discarded by valid immoral arguments.)

If the purpose of a regime is to protect individual, natural rights, then those rights need to be recognized. In America, those rights are established by the Declaration and given a positive definition in the Constitution. Dan thinks he is able to sidestep the normal response of "We need to have an army to maintain the government that protects those rights," by using his "unless an invasion" provision. It seems, then, that Dan believes an actual invasion is the only real national securtiy threat to our government’s ability to protect man’s individual, natural rights. I don’t think this is true. The only way in which his model would be viable, is if man is more than fundamentally good, but also infallible (each conscience inherently tied to the truth so far as morality is concerned. The thing is, if that were the case, there would be no need for government (there would be no disagreement at all). Men, however, are not angels.


Dan wants base his decision based on what he understands to be an individual’s right to conscience

should read: "Dan wants to base his decision on what he understands to be an individual’s right to conscience."

John Lewis - I like the way you think and write. It is thoughtful, complex, and you refuse to stereotype.

RE: Comment 29

John, the word you use in the first sentence of your 2nd paragraph to describe - I presume - "the state of mind of a person or group as exhibited by confidence, cheerfulness, and discipline" is moralE, with an e at the end, NOT "moral." There’s a big difference! Considering the situation with the prisons and the torture over there, I’m not sure one could rightfully (or grammatically) say that "moral is about as good as it could be."


What was it like to be taught by a grammar nazi?

(Note to John Lewis’s Old Teacer: the "o" and "t" in the title should not be capitalized because they are not a part of a proper name, and "Considering the situation with the prisons and the torture over there,..." is sloppy grammar.)

Ew, this thread has gone off the Libertarian deep-end. I can see it now. "Ok, men, let’s charge the hill. All those in favor, say aye!"

Militaries cannot afford collective action problems. They are therefore not democratic, nor can they be and remain effective. The notion of a "stay at home" vs. "overseas" plan is pretty silly. If a person has a problem with military service then stay the hell out of it. Nothing could be simpler, particularly since there is no draft. This is a Republic folks, and the whole "individual as the bedrock of society" is a Libertarian fantasy. Spreading such dumb ideas to our military would be the kiss of death.

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