Stop recruiting child soldiers in the USA

This music video says about itself:

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye is a popular Irish traditional anti-war and anti-recruiting song. It is generally dated to the early 19th century, when Irish troops served the British East India Company. The original refers to the soldiers from Athy, County Kildare that fought in “Sulloon” (Ceylon – now Sri Lanka) for the East India Company.

From Atlanta Progressive News in Georgia, USA:

Georgia Bill Would Protect Minors from Aggressive Military Recruitment

By Gloria Tatum, Staff Writer, The Atlanta Progressive News (February 03, 2010)

(APN) ATLANTA–On January 28, 2010, state legislators, and advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Southeast Region, and other groups held a press conference at the State Capitol to introduce a resolution to protect Georgia children from abusive military recruiting.

The legislation, HR 1219, was authored by State Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, who represents District 85 in DeKalb County. Ten co-sponsors have signed on to the House resolution, including State Reps. Alisha Thomas Morgan, Michelle Henson, Karla Drenner, Kathy Ashe, and Simone Bell.

State Sen. Nan Orrock has introduced a companion resolution, SR 955, in the State Senate. Co-sponsors include State Sens. Gloria Butler, Horacena Tate, Valencia Seay, Vincent Fort, and Ed Harbison.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act, passed by US Congress in 2001, requires schools–among other things–to disclose 11th and 12th grade students’ records to military recruiters or lose their federal funding. Peace activists sometimes refer to this act as “No Child Left Un-Recruited.”

“As a parent, it is necessary that school children aren’t contacted by military recruiters without the parents’ knowledge and consent,” State Rep. Benfield told Atlanta Progressive News.

“To join the Armed Services is a major life-changing decision that requires parental involvement. Our school system needs to be more uniform and pro-active to give parents information up-front, regarding opt-out forms that prohibit schools from disclosing students’ records to military recruiters,” Benfield said.

“Parents are often left out of the current opt-out process.”

Specifically, the bill would do three things according to its text. First it would “Cease all current and future programs and activities designed to recruit children under the age of 17, including but not limited to military schools and Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery testing.”

Second, the bill would require that “When instituting military-related programs and activities such as military schools and Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery testing for children ages 17 or older, Georgia schools do so only upon written consent from participating students’ parents or legal guardians obtained after fully informing the students and their parents or legal guardians about the military nature of the programs or activities, the fact that participation in such is completely voluntary, and the duties generally involved in military service.”

Third, the bill would require schools to “Begin to actively provide students and parents with exemption forms and information regarding exemption forms that would prohibit the students’ schools from disclosing students’ records to military recruiters as required by the No Child Left Behind Act.”

AFSC first learned about the US military’s plan to greatly expand the militarization of US public schools in 2008 from a letter leaked to their Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, office.

ARMY SHORT OF RECRUITMENT GOALS The military has two months to make up the 14 percent difference. [USA Today]

7 thoughts on “Stop recruiting child soldiers in the USA

  1. Justice in Hackney

    The army opened a recruitment centre in Hackney, east London, at the Kingsland shopping centre last year. Hackney is one the poorest boroughs in the country – and the army uses that to recruit.

    I joined the Stop the War Coalition pickets outside the centre. Security guards tried to stop us from protesting and called the police. A month after the last protest I was walking through the shopping centre when a security guard approached me.

    He pushed me in the chest and told me “you can’t enter this building”. He said I was banned. This was clearly due to my appearance at the protests, which was later confirmed in police reports. The police were called and I was arrested for burglary, later changed to common assault. My trial lasted a day. The charges were thrown out. All accusations that I had been abusive or violent were rejected. There was no justification for my arrest. This is a victory for the right to protest.

    Ibrahim Avcil, Hackney, east London


  2. APNewsBreak: Nearly 1 in 4 fails military exam


    MILITARY TESTS AP – U.S. map shows percentage of failed aptitude tests in each state by applicants between the ages of 17 …
    By CHRISTINE ARMARIO and DORIE TURNER, Associated Press Christine Armario And Dorie Turner, Associated Press – Tue Dec 21, 9:26 pm ET

    MIAMI – Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

    The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

    “Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. “I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America’s underperforming education system.”

    The effect of the low eligibility rate might not be noticeable now — the Department of Defense says it is meeting its recruitment goals — but that could change as the economy improves, said retired Navy Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett.

    “If you can’t get the people that you need, there’s a potential for a decline in your readiness,” said Barnett, who is part of the group Mission: Readiness, a coalition of retired military leaders working to bring awareness to the high ineligibility rates.

    The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don’t get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: “If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?”

    The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don’t even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn’t graduate high school.

    Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

    “It’s surprising and shocking that we are still having students who are walking across the stage who really don’t deserve to be and haven’t earned that right,” said Tim Callahan with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group that represents more than 80,000 educators.

    Kenneth Jackson, 19, of Miami, enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He said passing the entrance exam is easy for those who paid attention in school, but blamed the education system for why more recruits aren’t able to pass the test.

    “The classes need to be tougher because people aren’t learning enough,” Jackson said.

    This is the first time that the U.S. Army has released this test data publicly, said Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based children’s advocacy group. The study examined the scores of nearly 350,000 high school graduates, ages 17 to 20, who took the ASVAB exam between 2004 and 2009. About half of the applicants went on to join the Army.

    Recruits must score at least a 31 out of 99 on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army. The Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits need higher scores.

    Further tests determine what kind of job the recruit can do with questions on mechanical maintenance, accounting, word comprehension, mathematics and science.

    The study shows wide disparities in scores among white and minority students, similar to racial gaps on other standardized tests. Nearly 40 percent of black students and 30 percent of Hispanics don’t pass, compared with 16 percent of whites. The average score for blacks is 38 and for Hispanics is 44, compared to whites’ average score of 55.

    Even those passing muster on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, usually aren’t getting scores high enough to snag the best jobs.

    “A lot of times, schools have failed to step up and challenge these young people, thinking it didn’t really matter — they’ll straighten up when they get into the military,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. “The military doesn’t think that way.”

    Entrance exams for the U.S. military date to World War I. The test has changed over time as computers and technology became more prevalent, and skills like ability to translate Morse code have fallen by the wayside.

    The test was overhauled in 2004, and the study only covers scores from 2004 through 2009. The Education Trust didn’t request examine earlier data to avoid a comparison between two versions of the test, said Christina Theokas, the author of the study. The Army did not immediately respond to requests for further information.

    Tom Loveless, an education expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the results echo those on other tests. In 2009, 26 percent of seniors performed below the ‘basic’ reading level on the National Assessment of Education Progress.

    Other tests, like the SAT, look at students who are going to college.

    “A lot of people make the charge that in this era of accountability and standardized testing, that we’ve put too much emphasis on basic skills,” Loveless said. “This study really refutes that. We have a lot of kids that graduate from high school who have not mastered basic skills.”

    The study also found disparities across states, with Wyoming having the lowest ineligibility rate, at 13 percent, and Hawaii having the highest, at 38.3 percent.

    Retired military leaders say the report’s findings are cause for concern.

    “The military is a lot more high-tech than in the past,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip. “I don’t care if you’re a soldier Marine carrying a backpack or someone sitting in a research laboratory, the things we expect out of our military members requires a very, very well educated force.”

    A Department of Defense report notes the military must recruit about 15 percent of youth, but only one-third are eligible. More high school graduates are going to college than in earlier decades, and about one-fourth are obese, making them medically ineligible.

    In 1980, by comparison, just 5 percent of youth were obese.


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