Who�s really preying on teenagers?
By David Howard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 10, 2006, 00:30

The scandal of former US Representative Mark Foley hitting on teenage boys pales in comparison to the Pentagon�s serial penetration of our high schools and the Armed Forces� barely-legal attempted seduction of every 16 to 18-year-old male and female, Congressional page or not.

By virtue of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, military recruiters get the names, addresses and phone numbers of all high school juniors and seniors, unless they or their parents explicitly object.

Military recruiters are also lurking in cyberspace 24/7, using technology like MySpace and Podcasts, and they�re luring unwitting children into lethally dangerous combat liaisons by inducing them to play interactive, first-person-shooter war games on

On the America�s Army website any child still left unrecruited can obtain �hands-on support from army recruiters,� free t-shirts and game discs, or engage in �simulated missions in the war on terror.�

And if that�s not an alluring enough fatal attraction, your unprotected child in cyberspace is just a click away from America�s Army�s �Virtual Recruiting Center.�

All this hi-tech glitter, dazzle, blood and gore costs American taxpayers a good chunk of the $3 billion spent annually on recruitment.

Child recruitment does not lead to Mark Foleyesque Instant Message hookups, but rather to piles of 18 and 19 year-old soldier corpses in Iraq, where the most likely hook-up is to life support equipment and prosthetic devices.

If we don�t let Rep. Foley IM our children, why do we give their cell phone numbers to a recruiter with a rap sheet?

According to the Associated Press, "More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. . . . One out of 200 frontline recruiters -- the ones who deal directly with young people -- was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year."

So if your child is really unlucky, she can run into a recruiter who is both a slick, misleading sales rep and a sexual predator.

The No Child Left Behind stealth recruitment requirement conveniently took effect in December of 2002, a year and a quarter before shock, awe and occupation led to a current death toll of 2,748 American men and women and perhaps 100,000 or more distinctly unsimulated Iraqis.

Since public schools face an ultimatum of complying with recruitment abuse or losing all federal funds, it�s virtually impossible to challenge NCLB and survive as an administrator. The only recourse children�s rights advocates have is to interpret the opt-out feature of the law with integrity and care and to restrict recruiters� advances on our children.

Some school districts make the NCLB opt-out form user-friendly, but at the other end of the spectrum administrators bury opt-out in a stack of bureaucratic gibberish that few parents or students will ever read. Some institutions restrict military recruiters to closely supervised once-a-year presentations at career day, but others let anyone with a snazzy uniform randomly chat up the kids at lunch and recess.

School administrators are up against a very slick, cynical and well-funded operation. Here are a few recruiter tips from an Army handbook published in fall of 2004:

  • "Cultivate coaches, librarians, administrative staff and teachers."

  • "Know your student influencers. Students such as class officers, newspaper and yearbook editors, and athletes can help build interest in the Army.�

  • "Coordinate with school officials to eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times each month."

  • "Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month."

  • "Get involved with the local Boy Scouts.�

  • "Order personal presentation items (pens, bags, mousepads, mugs) as needed.�

How can we keep the Pentagon from preying on our children? It won�t be easy. The American Friends Service Committee has been working on constructive alternatives to the military since 1917. Their web page provides an excellent start for youth, educators and activists.

But if the idea of your school being obliged to pimp for the Army disturbs you as much as it disturbs me, you probably won�t rest until the recruitment provision of NCLB is repealed and we all acknowledge that child recruitment is as obscene as child pornography.

David Howard is a member of the Board of Directors of Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

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