Sunday Late Night: Portland Peaceniks Given Equal Recruiting Access to Impressionable Youth

The Portland (OR) school board kicked military recruiters off high school campuses in 1995 because of the, you know, Asking and Telling. Like many higher education institutions with equal-opportunity policies, Portland schools said if the military wanted access to recruit high schoolers, they mustn’t discriminate against Teh Gays.

This kept US military recruiters off high school campuses until No Child Left Behind, which provided that public schools that wanted federal funding (all of them) had to provide student records and contact information to military recruiters, same as they did to colleges. Portland schools complied; the federal funding was too great to leave on the table over a principle like equal access regardless of sexual orientation, I guess.

But the hippies weren’t happy. They demonstrated, as hippies do when their peacenik desires are thwarted. They set up protests outside the high schools when the military came to recruit, and provided information to students about the war machine. They thought it was unfair the military could access their children freely, with the Military-Industrial Complex’s lies and ill-painted word pictures unchallenged by an alternative view of a country that didn’t spend more than the whole rest of the planet on war. Using widely available strategies, Portland peaceniks developed counter-recruiting to reach students being unfairly and solely pitched by the US military.

Now, it seems, the pro-peace recruiters are about to get their way:

The Portland school board is set to adopt a rule Monday to give “counter-recruiters” skeptical about the value of joining the military the same access to high school students that military recruiters enjoy under federal law.

Instead of standing out on the school sidewalk waving signs and offering fliers, as they have done regularly outside Portland high schools, anti-war activists will be able to staff recruiting tables and hand out pamphlets in the school career center or cafeteria, just like military recruiters in uniform.

So, if your high schooler comes home one day smelling of patchouli and wearing a peace sign amulet, and blames it on “the recruiters” — don’t worry, it’s not the Air Force Academy going soft. It’s simply the Army of One Hippie: the Peace Recruiters will provide a view of an alternative lifestyle to the video-game, shoot-em-up, go-to-war, get-your-education-paid-for, (did-I-mention-lose-your-legs?) United States Military recruiters.

Do the recruiters fight over high school kids or get hostile over their competing messages?

Kathy Barker, a PTA leader from Seattle’s Garfield High who was a prime force behind Seattle schools’ 2007 adoption of a peace-recruiter access policy said it doesn’t get ugly. Dozens of times in recent years, she’s staffed a peace recruiter table next to the military recruiter table at various Seattle high schools.

When the tables are set up in the career center, often three or fewer students come by that day, and the opposing recruiters spend the day chatting, she said.

When the tables are set up in the cafeteria, students are drawn to check out the side-by-side displays of military benefits and drawbacks, she said.

“There’s not the trouble school people thought there would be,” she said.

When your Portland high schooler comes home and asks to talk with you about a chat she had with “a recruiter at school today” be sure to ask: a war recruiter and a peace recruiter? And if you’re not in Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco, why not find out how to provide your own community’s high school students with the same kind of option? Doesn’t every high school student deserve the advantage of a balanced view of military service, an alternative to a recruiter compensated for the number of sign-ups at high school that day?

Why should the war machine have unchallenged access to our kids for their meatgrinder, without the students free to see the options side-by-side at Career Day?

For more information on counter-military recruiting, see the War Resisters League. For a model opt-out policy for your own local school system, please see Seattle’s current policy.

Exit mobile version