Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Moving beyond Slogans: Possibilities for a More Connected and Humanizing "Counter-Recruitment" Pedagogy in Highly Militarized Urban Schools

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Moving beyond Slogans: Possibilities for a More Connected and Humanizing "Counter-Recruitment" Pedagogy in Highly Militarized Urban Schools

Article excerpt

WE ARRIVED AT MADISON HIGH SCHOOL1 EARLY, before the morning rush. There were about ten of us activists-some retired individuals, a few educators and also a few undergraduate and graduate students. Armed with pamphlets and informational materials we took our positions on the sidewalk, in front of the main entrance, waiting to catch students before they entered the campus. Our mission was to warn, inform and educate them about the realities of military service and war. Madison was an urban school in Los Angeles serving predominantly low-income Latin@ students. The school did not have a performing arts department or wellresourced sports programs but it did have a large and growing Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program. A few days prior to this event we were warned by one of our teacher allies that the school was expecting a visit from military recruiters. We wanted to be present, on the same day, to provide a counter-perspective and make sure that students heard the other side of the story. As it approached 8:00 a.m., the rush of students overwhelmed us while we frantically passed out flyers and cautioned as many of them as we could to beware of the half truths and misinformation spread by military recruiters.

During this action, one of our leaders was confronted by the vice principal who asked her to step away from the entrance of the school. Our leader, in turn, insisted that the sidewalk was public space and it was her right to be there. This was the extent in which we were able to engage with students at Madison High School. The vice principal at this particular site had a history of denying counter-recruitment activists access to the school campus while at the same time inviting and welcoming recruiters on a regular basis. On some campuses, we encountered a warmer welcome and were allowed to be present at career fairs and set up informational booths. On rare occasions we were invited to speak in classrooms, at assemblies and other school events.

Our actions and campaigns were coordinated through a local community organization that was dedicated to the project of demilitarizing schools. Post 9/11 and with the advent of the "Global War on Terror," schools serving predominantly low-income students of color had become increasingly militarized spaces (Ayers, 2006; Mariscal, 2005) through policies such as the section §9528 of the No Child LeftBehind Act (NCLB)2 that gave military recruiters unprecedented access to these school campuses and to students' private information (Furumoto, 2005; Holm, 2007; Schroeder, 2004). Also contributing to the militarization of urban schools was the increased funding and prevalence of Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programs in conjunction with the lack of enrichment programs within these schools (Ayers, 2006; Berlowitz & Long, 2003; Galaviz, Palafox, Meiners, & Quinn, 2011). Although the rapid expansion of JROTC programs began in the mid 1990's, this trend continued in the decade post 9/11. In 2012, according to the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY) website, there were "3429 JROTC units and over half a million cadets in addition to an unknown number of students in the Middle School Cadet Corps (MSCC) across the country" (Abajian, 2013, p. 26). The increased militarization of schools over the past decade was taking place within the context of an increasingly militarized culture within the United States (Giroux, 2004; Turse, 2008) where patriotism and war were constantly promoted through the aggressive advertising and public relations campaigns of the military (Saltman & Gabbard, 2003), such as the Army Strong campaign,3 and affirmed through mainstream media outlets.

As a response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increasing militarization of schools, certain community organizations and anti-war activists began launching counterrecruitment campaigns to educate and inform students and communities about the realities of military service and "recruit" students away from the military. …

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