Sunday, February 05, 2006
UNCLE SAM WANTS YOUR KID
"Get em while they're young" should be the new army motto. Students and parents at one Maryland school are not happy about the latest in military recruitment tactics.
The following is from Silver Chips On Line. Silver Chips Online is an independent student newspaper of Montgomery Blair High School (www.mbhs.edu) in Silver Spring, Maryland. Silver Chips Online is run entirely by students, and works closely with print counterpart Silver Chips, which is partially sponsored by The Washington Post, Advanced Media and Fujifilm. Silver Chips Online, Silver Chips, and individual staff members have won numerous awards, many of them at the national level. Student editors make all content decisions. Silver Chips Online is a forum for community expression.
PS - I posted this yesterday, but for some reason it ain't there...so here it is again.--------------------------------------------------
Parents, protesters clash with Army Cinema Van
Recruiting methods questioned
Varun Gulati, Online Managing Editor
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Robert Goethals stood facing rows full of students, behind a poster of soldiers with assault weapons and in front of a woman openly accusing him of misusing student information for recruiting purposes.
After stopping by Gaithersburg and Magruder high schools earlier this week, the U.S. Army Cinema Van, a traveling multimedia theatre, visited Blair yesterday, Feb. 2, attracting around 80 interested students, a group of protesters and criticism.
The van's main attraction was a movie screening area, with several benches for seating and a projector set up to show videos to its visitors. During 5A lunch, shortly after 11:00 a.m., Goethals showed students videos on "American history" and "roller-coaster physics." In between, he asked students to fill in forms with personal data such as their name, date of birth, age, address and phone number, as well as optional information, including e-mail, citizenship status, ethnic background and whether they wish to be contacted.
It was at this point that Blair parent Stacey Gurian-Sherman stood up, drew all attention to herself, and questioned the motives of gathering student information. Goethals, SFC Fox, a van employee and two other personnel assured her that the information was for "accountability," survey purposes and, upon the student's request, recruiting. Goethals told Gurian-Sherman that the van staffers themselves do not do recruit and stated firmly that she was "acting hostile in my truck." Gurian-Sherman pointed out that, as a taxpayer, the truck was hers too. Goethals made an announcement to the students in the van: "I am not going to call you, recruit you, anything."
In a phone interview, Gurian-Sherman said that Goethals was initially defensive. "I think he's used to being somewhat of a bully," she said.
Around 12:30 p.m., about eight protesters arrived at Blair, according to one of the van staffers. WTOP, NBC4 and Univision reporters arrived shortly thereafter. The protesters held flags, signs and posters, chanted "Recruiters Lie, Soldiers Die" and rang cowbells at the University Boulevard-sidewalk adjacent to Blair. A police officer was stationed nearby.
"Passive recruiting in its own messed up way"
Earlier this week, Madeleine Fletcher, a member of the Committee on Recruitment Issues at Blair, posted a message on the PTSA listserv which stated that the van "is used for recruiting purposes and paints a glorified, unrealistic picture of the military."
Fox, in response to Fletcher's statement, said that she was exaggerating. "People coming in here are so anti-military, anti-government - they're going to blow this out of proportion," he said.
The van is "an opportunity for people to get information on army opportunities," according to Kelly Rowe, Baltimore Recruiting Battalion Public Affairs Officer. The videos showed in the van theater are educational but "are all related to the military," he said.
Goethals said that the videos are not related to the military but are "for education." He later stated that the video topics range from genes to the Bill of Rights and "kind of break the ice," adding that the van's purpose is to show the army in a different light. "It's kind of like passive recruiting in its own messed up way," he said.
Gurian-Sherman disapproved of the videos and said that the discussion after each video was not educational. She cited one example where Goethals related the "real rush" from the roller-coaster video to a first-person army experience of the "real rush" of parachuting. "I think that equating the fun and risk of the military with roller coasters was disingenuous," she said, adding that there was a difference between "parachuting for pleasure and parachuting onto oncoming bullets."
Fletcher questioned the context of the video. "Class time should not be taken up for a presentation that is pitched as being of educational value, while really geared to promoting the military." Gurian-Sherman supported Fletcher's concern, calling the presentation "the notion of an educational video on the pretext of marketing."
Fletcher admonished Blair administration for allowing the van of "dubious educational value" to come to Blair. "School administrators are not required to allow these vans to come; federal law only requires same access for all recruiters."
Gurian-Sherman's father, a veteran, helped load wounded soldiers into helicopters during the Korean War. "The sacrifice is formidable. They have a lack of civil liberties," she said. "I think it demeans the military to minimize the risk there is in it."
Fletcher raised a concern in her listserv e-mail that the van offered battle-simulation computer games to students. There was a game station in the back of the van, according to Goethals, but the video games are used at different events, such as NASCAR races and air shows, and have been offered to high-school students only three times in the past, with full approval from the local school board. The games, he said, teach the player to use a 9 mm laser gun to shoot still and moving virtual targets, not humans.
Gurian-Sherman did not believe the recruiting to be passive, as students were required to fill out the form, which read, "The information you voluntarily provide will be used for recruiting purposes only," in small print at the bottom of the card. "For accountability purposes, they just need a headcount," she said. "This is nothing but a slick marketing tool."
The motto of the van was, "Stay in school, stay out of drugs," Goethals asserted.
Gurian-Sherman agreed with the message, but said that the van's methods backfired on its motto. "I think that it's a terrific message, but if you're recruiting people to join the army at 17, you're not telling them to stay in school," she said.
Gurian-Sherman disapproved of the army van as a whole. "They do a disservice to the men and women who put on the uniform," she said.
Additional reporting by Jeff Lautenberger.