portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

education | imperialism & war

Recruiting Children: The Militarization of School and Play

Examines the US military recruitment of children through Channel One "educational" programming, and video games.
People in the US are frequently repulsed when they read headlines like Ugandan army recruiting children. Recruiting children into warfare seems so "uncivilized," but few people realize the insidiousness of the recruiting that is occurring at their neighborhood school - or in their own home. Military recruiters have virtually unlimited access to schools and student information as that access is written into the No Child Left Behind Act Subpart 2.

The US government is placing recruiting advertisements on Channel One. For those who are not familiar with Channel One, it is:
"a twelve-minute television news program targeted to teenagers and distributed via satellite to over 12,000 middle and high schools across the United States each school day morning. This represents an audience of over eight million students, with thousands of other schools currently on a waiting list to receive the program. Channel One became, almost from its inception, a highly controversial educational program offering, primarily because two minutes of each program are devoted to advertising." (Channel One: U.S. Proprietary Programming Service)

Between the use of the primary school educational channel, and virtually unfettered access to schools and information under the vaunted No Child Left Behind Act, recruiting children is like capturing fish in a barrel. Channel One is shown in many schools and there are certainly incentives for schools to become "Channel One Schools." If schools sign a contract with Channel One, they get a slew of video and computer equipment (for as long as they keep the contract). This raises the issue that Channel One would be more likely to find a niche in public rather than private schools, and economically distressed rather than affluent schools. While I couldn't find any current research on the demographics of Channel One schools, Morgan's report from 1993 lends some validity to that assumption. He found:

"The schools that have signed on with Whittle Communications do not represent a typical cross-section of American schools. Rather, these "Channel One Schools" differ in some consistent, systematic, and troubling ways from other schools.

Overall, the most glaring discrepancies revolve around clusters of attributes reflecting _class, income, and race_. Channel One is disproportionately found in schools located in high poverty areas. These schools spend the least amount of money per student on instructional or other materials by far. Also, Channel One is more often found in schools with larger proportions of African-American students, while the more Asian students there are in a school, the less likely that school is to feature Channel One.

An interesting discussion of Channel One by teens on a bulletin board is illuminating. The discussion talks about brainwashing and coercion to watch Channel One, as well as other responses to the programming.

Channel One and recruiter open access to the schools are not the only recruiting vehicles. Online video gaming is rapidly ascending. You can visit America's Army, which has wargaming videos aimed at teens and is available on the web. This same game (and high tech equipment to play it) is being taken directly to the schools in specially equipped gaming trucks.

Is the game popular? You bet'cha. In fact, the game reached the top five list in 2004. Of course, the video gaming has other than recruiting potential as increasingly the Dept of Defense turns to "remote" warfare. The CBS report on video gaming and the military is illuminating.

Regardless, it is clear that the Army is explicitly targeting youth with the video game approach. In my opinion, this is probably even more insidious than the Channel One advertisements. My guess is that there is a "divide" here as well. I suspect, though I can't find any research on it, that the video game is aimed at a slightly "higher class" of recruit. Why? Because of the "digital divide" in the United States. An online video game is not accessible to those without the computers, internet access, and skills to access and play it. That means that it is also aimed at a largely white, middle class demographic.

This paints a distressing picture of both recruiting and the military of the future. What schools have to worry about "No Child Left Behind?" Primarily those schools serving the most economically disadvantaged students, with the least amount of school funds. These are also the schools that are most mandated to be accessible to recruiters, and where students have the least amount of access to college or employment opportunities. These are also the schools where the "crop" is most likely to be a captive audience to the recruiting campaign through Channel One. These children are being recruited as "cannon fodder."

On the other hand, a more sophisticated appeal is being made to higher class recruits through the video gaming venue. Check out the video clip attached to the CBS report "Uncle Sam Wants Video Gamers". The "gamers" recruited will be the "remote" operators of the "remote" military of the future. Whether that is flying spy or attack drones, taking Talon robots into combat, or flying remote craft such as helicopters and transport vehicles - or maybe even attack vehicles. Heck, the remote military might not even have to leave their stations in the US - or maybe they could just work from home. Regardless, they will not face the same hazards as those recruited into the front lines - or even the service lines (fueling and maintaining vehicles, feeding troops, etc.)

This type of inequality is nothing new. From the early days of the Revolutionary army forwards, those with the economic resources could either pay someone to take their place, or find exemptions to keep them out. But the new recruiting for the new military has a vulnerable audience regardless of class. These approaches are not acceptable, or ethical and resistance is rising. Just a couple of the organizations addressing the recruitment of children are: Not In Our Name, and Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.

Ask your children or grandchildren what they are doing in school. Have they played the Army's video game? Do they know anyone that has? Is their school a Channel One school, and what do they think of the advertisements? Are there recruiters in their schools? My guess is these are not topics that come up regularly around the dinner table, so many parents may not even know what is going on. They maybe totally surprised when their 14 to 17 year old child announces they want to sign up. Ah yes, the "volunteer" army - carefully cultivated to volunteer.

Sources & Resources
No Child Left Behind
2/23/05 Berg, Slate, Military Recruiters Have Unrivaled Access to Schools

U.S. Department of Education, No Child Left Behind. Elementary & Secondary Education - Subpart 2 ? Other Provisions

General Propaganda
2/18/05 Information Clearing House, Propaganda of US Military through our Schools

12/02 Goodman, Mother Jones, No Child Unrecruited

Channel One
Channel One

Channel One: U.S. Proprietary Programming Service

2/17/05 Whitehurst, CounterPunch, Do You Know What Your Kids Are Watching on "Educational" TV at School?

12/08/04 MacAddict Teen Bulletin Board Discussion of Channel One in Schools

7/8/98 CorpWatch, What's on Channel 1?

9/14/2000 Hays, CorpWatch, USA: New Report Examines Commercialism in Schools

12/1995 Aidman, ERIC, Advertising in the Schools.

10/93 Morgan, Unplug, Channel One in the Public Schools: Widening the Gaps

Video Recruiting
America's Army - War gaming site sponsored by the US Army.

2/08/05 CBS, Uncle Sam Wants Video Gamers

10/22/04 Petermeyer, About, Online Army Recruiting Game Reaches Top 5 List

12/20/04 Palaima, History News Network, What Military Recruiters Are Doing to Fill the Ranks

12/13/04 PBS, High School Recruiting Extended report: High School Recruiting: A look inside the Army's recruiting efforts on high school campuses

2/21/04 Gaudiosi, Wired, Army Sets Up Video-Game Studio

11/7/03 Gwin, Not In Our Name, Army targets youth with video game

2/23/05 Weill-Greenberg, TruthOut, Calling All Soldiers: Military Recruiters Face Resistance from Young Anti-War Activists

Not In Our Name

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors

homepage: homepage: http://www.uncommonthought.com/mtblog/

add a comment on this article