Army recruiting students?
August 16, 2006 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Military recruiting in schools?

Okay.. I was watching a little bit of BBC Four's High School Prom, and I saw something that kind of shocked me: college students marching through school hallways with (fake) rifles...

Does the US Army really recruit in high schools? The whole idea of any military organization influencing and enlisting young people like that scares me. Can anyone clarify this for me? Is it normal, or is it some controversial issue?
posted by Harry to Law & Government (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes. At my public (state-funded) high school in the mid 1990s, every day at lunch there was a table with a military recruiter. They normally just sat there.

Have you see Farenheit 9/11? It discusses this and similar recruiting practices.
posted by k8t at 2:52 PM on August 16, 2006

Maybe this is some kind of assumption on my part, but aren't the schools funded by the government?

I'd have to say it's 100% normal to recruit in schools. I grew up in a heavily democratic state and there were Marines outside the lunchroom many a spring afternoon .
posted by shownomercy at 2:53 PM on August 16, 2006

In Montreal, they do it in the Metro. You're running to catch the Metro and they're all sitting there like, "Come fight da good fight, tabarnak!" and I always think, "Wait. Yeah. The military. Okay. Forget work."
posted by jon_kill at 2:59 PM on August 16, 2006

People marching through high schools with fake rifles would seem more likely to be cadets than military recruits. Where cadets in this case refers to quasi-militaristic boy scout like organizations for teaching teenagers leadership and knot-tying.

For what it's worth, I went to high school in Canada, and we had a military recruiter in once a year. They came, gave a speech about ROTC to, I think the 11th graders, and then went away again.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:00 PM on August 16, 2006

The military recruiters go where the teenagers are, Harry. In my (moderately affluent) public high school, their work was mostly limited to an ROTC chapter and Air Force Academy advertisements, but it was there. The Marines did once set up an inflatable obstacle course in the gym and gave people pamphlets advertising G.I. scholarships once they came out on the other side--that was probably the most blatant military advertising I saw at my high school.

I assume that in less well-off schools--out of which recruits are most likely to come--the pressure was much more direct. And in the three years since I've been out of high school, the military has only become more desperate for new meat. I can only imagine what it's like now...
posted by Iridic at 3:02 PM on August 16, 2006

I live in the UK and remember a year 11 career fair where the Army came and set up a stand where you could go and get info about enlisting when you left school. What's the difference?
posted by afx237vi at 3:11 PM on August 16, 2006

from here:

"Today the military has access to high school students because of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Schools receiving federal funds must give the military the same access that college and career counselors have or risk losing their federal money."

To put it more bluntly, US high schools are *required* to hand over student's names, addresses and home phone numbers to military recruiters.

Certainly in parts of my state, this practice has been met with controversy. Parents can request their child's school not release home phone numbers and addresses but parents must specifically request that and not all are aware that is an available option.
posted by jamaro at 3:14 PM on August 16, 2006

According to the anti-enlistment sites, there's a US federal school funding bill (No Child Left Behind?) that requires all federally funded schools to submit all students' contact info to US military recruiters. Here's an article from Mother Jones. (which, for those not in the know, is a reputable, but left-leaning magazine).

Believe it or not, it's hard to get enough people to sign up for the US military.
posted by GuyZero at 3:16 PM on August 16, 2006

It's perfectly standard. My junior year (um, a long time ago), the school gave us the military aptitude test, whatever it's called. There have been local efforts to keep recruiters out, though, or to enforce opt-out papers from parents requesting that recruiters not contact their kids.

When I was in high school, they'd call you at home and make absolute pains of themselves trying to get you to sign up, and there wasn't even a war on then.
posted by dilettante at 3:19 PM on August 16, 2006

Re: is it normal, it's hard to grasp just how militarized US society is without living here for a while. It reaches everywhere. Obviously it seems normal (and so somewhat invisible) to people who grew up there, but it's pretty freaky if you're from most other western nations. This place is built on war, built for war, and the depth of the extent of that doesn't really come through at first.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:19 PM on August 16, 2006

Yes, the army does recruit in high schools. I'll be a senior this fall - the recruiters are there every year. I believe it occurs because school systems (public) receive money for allowing the recruiters to come in.

There's a huge amount of student and teacher anger towards the recruiters, but they're there nonetheless.

An interesting fact - special forms need to be signed and turned in to stop the recruiters from accessing your phone number and calling you / mailing you.
posted by Camel of Space at 3:20 PM on August 16, 2006

Yes. I went to arguably one of the most left-leaning and affluent public highschools in the country. We were the least likely target for recruiters (they prey on conservative/poor districts) and we had a regular military presence and a few kids who wore ROTC uniforms.
posted by phrontist at 3:21 PM on August 16, 2006

It's not just the schools, it's outside as well -- once a recruiter has your name and phone number, whether it's from a sponsored test or just a meet-and-greet or even from your selective service registration (draft eligibility), they'll call you near-constantly trying to recruit you. It gets pretty obnoxious, since even saying you've been accepted to a college just means they'll tell you how they can "help with tuition."
posted by mikeh at 3:27 PM on August 16, 2006

The Air Force ROTC is shockingly popular at my local high school. I'm always surprised at the 50-60 students they have marching at the Memorial Day parade.

And this is in Connecticut.
posted by smackfu at 3:32 PM on August 16, 2006

You probably saw a ROTC organization, like others had said.

It's part recruiting, part... well, trade group. They practice sharp shooting, drilling, marching, etc. Many schools have them - it's pretty normal.

I went to high school in the early 90's. It wasn't controversial - it was treated like any other extra-curricular group. I recall teasing them that they'd be out of work after the Wall fell.


posted by unixrat at 3:33 PM on August 16, 2006

Parents can request their child's school not release home phone numbers and addresses but parents must specifically request that and not all are aware that is an available option.

We "opted out" for my son after recruiters just showed up at the house uninvited because they "were visiting the neighbor down the street", unfortunately it was too late and we spent his senior year rebuffing recruiters' phone calls and emails.
posted by hollygoheavy at 3:38 PM on August 16, 2006

Maybe this is some kind of assumption on my part, but aren't the schools funded by the government? - shownomercy

Speaking for Canada, school funding comes partly from the school boards directly levying property taxes, and partly from provincial funding (the proportions depend on the province).

But here the schools don't give names or any other info to military recruiters. The military shows up and displays a booth on career day, just like many major companies do.
posted by raedyn at 3:55 PM on August 16, 2006

Of course the military recruits in SCHOOL. Most enlistees are 18, just graduated from high school. How do you think they hear about the military??? Why do you think the military has "we'll pay for college" programs...because they recruit high school students. Duh.

And do you know what else?? Colleges sometimes recruit high school kids JUST for their athletic ability!! Where will it end?!
posted by clh at 3:57 PM on August 16, 2006

Here's a story about how it's done in Kentucky from the Louisville Eccentric Observer, a local weekly.
posted by cior at 4:01 PM on August 16, 2006

It's normal, but it is controversial.

At my high school (in Canada) we were offered all sorts of summer "paid internships" in the services. The pay was awesome, you would have a summer job for your entire high school carreer, then you would be expected to join the college/university program that would pay for your education... as long as you remained in the service afterwards.

A relative of mine in the US was taken from his high school, in the middle of the day, on his birthday to be recruited without talking with his family first. The recruiters had only been at the school for a couple of days. They implied to him that they wouldn't accept him if he had to discuss such a life-changing idea with his parents (or at least that's what he told them).

(Personally, I don't like it. Go ahead and advertise at the career days, like the universities and colleges do. But don't do it during school hours.)
posted by cathoo at 4:02 PM on August 16, 2006

Considering that many E.U. countries have conscription, I fail to see how voluntary military recruiting is abnormal in western nations.
posted by PissOnYourParade at 4:03 PM on August 16, 2006

The practice feels absurd to me, too. But yes, they recruit in some schools. I went to high school in an affluent neighborhood, so we saw the Armed Forces recruiters on exactly one day--the day all the other colleges came. They set up booths in the gym along with the "real" colleges and did their best, though nearly everyone just walked by them like they weren't there.

On the other hand...

When I lived in Nebraska, I worked with a non-profit leadership development group, and got to visit some really small towns in some really poor counties. One town in particular had a graduating class of 8. Yet the Air Force flew in a general to their graduation ceremony (he landed in the middle of the ceremonies in an Apache AH-64 attack helicopter). Quite a spectacle. The armed forces know where their recruits come from, and know when to put on a good show.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:06 PM on August 16, 2006

Recruiters had access to high school records long before NCLB.
The Army called almost everyone in my graduating class, and that was quite a while before NCLB.

I imagine what you saw (if it was high school) was Junior ROTC, which is sort of like the Sea Cadets over there, I suppose.
The main benefit of JROTC is that if you enlist in the military, you can get advanced enlisted rank when you join.

If it was college, it was almost certainly ROTC, which gets you a commisioned rank on entering the military.
posted by madajb at 4:11 PM on August 16, 2006

I live in a red, red state and went to a private high school. I remember them there once and they had a little setup where you could see how many times you could do chin-ups. Only the most meathead of the meathead jocks did it. I received also only one phone call that was the most low pressure phone call ever (he didn't even give me a number to call if I could change my mind). It was seriously, "Have you thought about the military?" "No" "Alright thanks for your time"

They must profile demographics to see which kids are most likely to join the military and which aren't. I think we had one kid go to West Point. The only other person I even know went into the Navy to avoid jailtime for some marijuana bust.
posted by geoff. at 4:24 PM on August 16, 2006

Recruiters had access to high school records long before NCLB.

True, some schools always were free with their records. The critical difference was pre-NCLB, a school could continue to receive federal funding even if they had a school or district-wide ban on ROTC and/or on-campus military recruiting programs. Post-NCLB, that is no longer permitted.

We "opted out" for my son after recruiters just showed up at the house uninvited

The opting out only protects your child's records from being released by the school to the military. The military doesn't rely solely upon those records nor does opting out put your child on a "Do Not Contact" list.

The other thing about the HS record opt out is the request must be resubmitted annually.
posted by jamaro at 4:47 PM on August 16, 2006

Once again, in Canada, recruiters are not a completely unfamiliar sight in high schools. In an interesting twist, they actually show up at my private Catholic High School. They didn't have much sucess mind you, (schools full of devout Catholics and hippy-athiests arn't always good fightin' men) but I recall being particularaly shocked at their presence at the time.
posted by billy_the_punk at 4:54 PM on August 16, 2006

OP:The whole idea of any military organization influencing and enlisting young people like that scares me.

posted by davidmsc at 5:04 PM on August 16, 2006

-harlequin- writes "This place is built on war, built for war, and the depth of the extent of that doesn't really come through at first."

We're like the Spartans, but with less gay stuff, and not as witty.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:23 PM on August 16, 2006

In the late eighties in suburban MD we had recruiters come in every year. The schools get money for permitting it. Most of us ignored them, the couple of gung-ho guys who always wanted to join up would talk the recruiters ears off...then again, we also always had a not-insignficant number of kids who went straight into the Naval Academy, West Point, or the Air Force Academy.

(Of course, we were conveniently located in an area where NSA made it clear to guidance counselors that they were looking for good secretary/admin assistant prospects, too.)
posted by desuetude at 5:27 PM on August 16, 2006

There are quite a few programs that American High Schools participate in:

Army Junior ROTC
Air Force Junior ROTC
Navy Junior ROTC
Coast Guard Junior ROTC
Civil Air Patrol

There are also rifle drill teams that aren't associated with a mil organization that compete in national drill competitions (but those are few and far between.) And these are the programs that aren't overtly aimed at recruiting kids.

I think alot of people here are confusing the US military with US politics. Unlike alot of european countries, our military is an all volunteer force, and those recruiters have to work their asses of to get folks to join. There are many democrats and other left leaning folks who are in the military. To assume that all people in the military are die hard blue republican etc. is just wrong. It's ok to volunteer to defend your country. It's ok to be a patriot. It's wrong, so very wrong to assume that our military is about defending republican ideals. It's about defending american ideals.

Now many military members probably disagree with the current administration's military actoins. Unfortunately right now we are in an undesirable position to have this happen quite regularly. But the beauty of the US military that they do what they are told to do whether they agree with the orders or not. They are professionals, so personal politics shouldn't enter into professional decisions. So they obey orders.
posted by bigmusic at 5:37 PM on August 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

My junior year (um, a long time ago), the school gave us the military aptitude test, whatever it's called.

It's called the ASVAB, and all the smart kids in my high school knew to be "sick" on the day it was administered. I actually really was sick that day, although I knew not to do well on it if I had been there.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 6:20 PM on August 16, 2006

ROTC is common. We have it at my large, affluent public high school in Texas and most people do it because it looks good to colleges. Now that people know that military service (probably) equals Iraq and sine the war needs so many people, the military has had a really hard time recruiting people and has seriously stepped up its recruitment efforts (and with this, irregularities have occured more frequently).
posted by MadamM at 7:12 PM on August 16, 2006

That is amusing, mbd1mbd1; I did just the opposite. At my high school, you had to leave class to take the test. It was voluntary. To me, sitting down and taking a test was far preferable to sit bored in class. I took the ASVAB, and scored well on it. The Navy said they wanted to see I'd do well on another test. I said I'd take it. They took me out of school, feed me, and had me take the test. I passed.

My mom knew I wasn't too serious about it, so I think that is why she let me go. About that time, all of my brother's friends (who were in the military at the time) all approached me to tell me how the military sucked. I don't think it was a coincidence.
posted by Monday at 7:21 PM on August 16, 2006

Keep in mind, being a military recruiter these days is no picnic.

[snipped from the linked article]
"The recruiter in Texas, for one... said he would prefer to be in Iraq."

My brother-in-law was an Air Force recruiter for a long time (retired just before Gulf War II), and even in the pre-September 11 days, it was a very difficult job. He built up real relationships with some of the kids he recruited (and their families), knowing full well that there was a chance he was sending them off to die. The pressure to meet quotas from above is intense, and failure can cost you a career.

As jamaro said, they go where the teenagers are -- I've seen a recruiting office spring up right by the food court in the local mall (now that is brilliant).
posted by Rock Steady at 9:08 PM on August 16, 2006

it's pretty freaky if you're from most other western nations.

Not really. Army recruitment is a necessary consequence of service being voluntary, which (to me, at least) seems far preferable to the mandatory military service in many Western European countries (even those we tend to think of as relatively progressive, such as Denmark). It's not necessary to recruit students in those countries because they don't have a choice in the first place.
posted by Ø at 9:28 PM on August 16, 2006

It's not necessary to recruit students in those countries because they don't have a choice in the first place.

Not entirely correct.

In most countries, you can opt to do something called Civil Service instead, which is usually social work of some kind (hospitals, youth projects, environmental work, etc.) for the same duration and pay as military service. My experience is Germany, but I know there are very similar options in other European countries.

This was originally tied to a rather elaborate process of convincing a jury that you are a conscientious objector, but has been watered down to a simple matter of choice in the last two decades.

So you have to serve, but you do not need to join the military. The ratio has been pretty balanced between people choosing one or the other in the last years.
posted by uncle harold at 2:13 AM on August 17, 2006

Addendum: You have to do the physical and psychological recruitment test regardless, btw. I qualified as T1 (best score, basic clearance for any job in the military), and even then all the recruiter had to say to my Civil Service choice was "You sure? kthx".
posted by uncle harold at 2:17 AM on August 17, 2006

In my Junior year we were required to take the ASVAB at my high school. For the next 3 years, I got called by recruiters, no matter how many times I told them I was not interested and wouldn't fit the physical requirements, anyway.

There were recruiters at my school a lot. Much more so than people I knew from richer areas. The recruiters knew that my county was poor and most graduates have to leave the area to make a decent living. They pushed the military as a way to get out and make a living.

This was in the early 90s and I can just imagine it is even worse now.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:39 AM on August 17, 2006

Back in high school, we had recruiters hanging out in the lunchroom every day. Sometimes, there were several of them. I never viewed them being in school as a huge issue like they have in some places, but the most annoying issue was the full court press that they made to get people in to the service, up to and including visiting your house to try and sell it to your folks.
posted by richter_x at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2006

I'm guessing you are from the UK Harry (my apologies if you're not) and am surprised that you didn't know that the British Army also stages recruiting events at schools as well. I went two at at least two different schools and colleges that had recruiters in.
posted by longbaugh at 10:51 AM on August 17, 2006

I went to school in southern CA in the very early '90s and don't recall ever running into a recruiter. That's not to say that they weren't around, but they certainly didn't have a very high profile. When I taught high school for several years in kind of an inner-city area in Miami, there was a huge JROTC program and recruiters were very visible. To my chagrin they seemed to be highly successful.
posted by the_bone at 10:39 PM on August 17, 2006

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