Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Halt the Military Invasion of Catholic Schools

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Halt the Military Invasion of Catholic Schools

Article excerpt

Military recruiters count on high schools to strategically target teens who may want to enlist. But Catholic high schools are no place for recruiting.

During the Second Battle of Fallujah in November 2004, 1st Lt. Jesse A. Grapes saved the lives of three wounded marines in his platoon by entering a burning house, where he encountered the enemy soldier who had been firing at his troops. Six years later Grapes was named headmaster of Benedictine College Preparatory, a Catholic military school in Richmond, Virginia. The June 2010 issue of the school's newspaper, The New Chevron, called Grapes a "patriotic war hero."

In describing Grapes' Iraq War exploits, Benedictine's student newspaper dismissed the fact he was accused of ordering marines under his command to shoot four captured prisoners. Grapes refused to talk to government investigators, citing his Fifth Amendment rights.

It's quite a lesson for students at Benedictine, which is kind of a poster child for the modern militarized Catholic school. Every year Benedictine requires all juniors to take the military entrance exam. The school operates an Army JROTC program and has a student organization that teaches students how to use small arms. Of course, these are expected activities in a military school. The question is whether these activities are appropriate in a Catholic school.

Military recruiters typically don't frequent high schools such as Benedictine because the school does their work for them, in this case, by providing the military with young men who become officers. Many Benedictine Cadets pursue their college education at service academies or schools such as Virginia Military Institute or The Citadel in South Carolina. A surprising number of Catholic schools nationwide have opened their doors to military recruiters and--whether they realize it or not--share private information about students that makes them vulnerable to recruiting efforts.

Recruiting is an insidious psychological game. The United States Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) collects data from hundreds of sources and develops a highly sophisticated virtual, psychological portrait of each student before first contact. The Department of Defense operates a database for recruiters called the Joint Advertising Market, Research & Studies (JAMRS), which according to the DOD website explores "the perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes of American youth as they relate to joining the military."

The database contains personal information about millions of Americans ages 16 to 25. The military collects information that individuals voluntarily contribute on recruitment brochures or questionnaires and buys information from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Selective Service System, the College Board, and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. It is even allowed to request directory information for recruitment purposes under the No Child Left Behind Act.

A November 2007 article in the Recruiter Journal detailed the Army Custom Segmentation System, a data system that helps recruiters target local populations and even individuals. Military recruiting services know what's in Johnny's head and what his goals are. They know Johnny plays Call of Duty on his Xbox 360, weighs 150, and drives a 15-year-old Toyota Camry.

American Catholic schools are the most military-friendly Catholic schools in the world. Nowhere is the cultural divide between the American church and the Vatican more apparent. In 2001, the Vatican ratified the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The treaty requires that recruitment practices involving minors must be voluntary and carried out with the informed consent of the child's parents or legal guardian. It doesn't appear that many of America's Catholic high schools are upholding the Vatican's end of the deal. …

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