Posted by andreas from p3EE3C575.dip.t-dialin.net (188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, December 10, 2002 at 9:14AM :
Parents furious as Pentagon slides recruiting officers into classrooms
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Thursday December 5, 2002
US military recruiters have established a beachhead in the country's classrooms under a little-known law which lets them look for talent in secondary schools.
An obscure rider in President Bush's sweeping overhaul of the education system requires the heads of 22,000 schools which receive federal funds to give every branch of the armed forces the same access to students as university and business talent scouts.
That includes providing unlisted phone numbers and other contact information for students in their final two years.
The urgency of the mission is not immediately apparent, since the outpouring of patriotism after September 11 has increased recruitment and the army's quota of 79,500 recruits this year was oversubscribed by October.
But Pentagon officials complain that school guidance counsellors are not doing a good job of presenting the military as an attractive option and more students are enrolling for higher eduction.
"Many of those best able to advise youth about post-high school options have little first-hand experience [of] today's military," a Pentagon official said.
"Adult influencers may underestimate the military's value as a powerful foundation for success in any endeavour."
The Pentagon also says that recruitment has become more expensive in the past 10 years, and letting its 4,000 recruitment officers have the names and phone numbers of students could keep costs down.
Appalled parents and teachers in liberal areas have accused the Pentagon of attempting to brainwash children. Civil rights organisations say that gathering personal information clearly violates students' privacy.
Officially, schools and parents have the right to block the release of names and numbers, but their reluctance to do so, critics say, shows the degree of confusion and school officials' fear of losing their funding. Before the law went into effect in July, 859 schools banned military recruiters. By October 31 the number was down to 35.
The pressure comes from the highest levels. In October the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and the education secretary, Rod Paige, wrote jointly to school officials telling them that maintaining present recruitment levels "requires the active support of public institutions in presenting military opportunities to our young people for their consideration".
"For some of our students, this may be the best opportunity they have to get a college education."
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