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Do You Know What Your Kids Are Watching on "Educational" TV at School?

“A parent who’s too busy or doesn’t realize the importance of tuning in to his or her child often expresses surprise when the child gets into trouble or drops out of school. The child knows, but can’t explain, that those “bad kids” he or she hangs out with are alike a lifeline. This is the secret pullall the unpleasantness and risk in the world is worth the feeling of being seen and heard by someone.”

from Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles that Will Transform Your Family

I learned something new yesterday. Channel One News, the “educational” TV show that my daughter Isa and millions of other American kids watch every morning at school, is busy recruiting our teenagers into the military.

“Mom, they’re really aiming at the black kids, and the Hispanic kids too. I’m so sick of seeing those military ads everyday. “The Power of One”, and all that lots of my friends are falling for it!”

This is especially upsetting to Isa because several of her black friends, 18, 19 and 20 years old, have been shipped to Iraq. Some were promised they wouldn’t have to be in combat, but would be doing “mechanical work”, “communications”, or “wiring”.

It seems doubtful that, when push comes to shove, kids who’ve been promised such jobs will be allowed to avoid combat. One of her friends has already been shot “in an embarrassing place”; he’s being treated overseas instead of the US so that he can be sent quickly back into combat in Iraq. Mr. Bush’s military needs warm bodies, able or not.

I stopped the car and asked, “Wait a minute. What do you mean when you say you’re “seeing those military ads every day”?”

“We have to watch this short thing every morning in homeroom called “Channel One News”,” Isa explained with a weary tone. “It’s educational, supposedly. You know, the day’s news, so we’ll be up on current events. But in between the stories, there are more and more ads for the Army and the Marines.”

I thought about “No Child Left Behind” and the malignant purpose behind that sweet-sounding act that Mr. Bush and his men (and at least one journalist paid $250,000 by the White House) have continuously promoted to trusting parents across the US. After catching my breath I asked,

“Are you saying you’re being recruited through the TV you watch during homeroom?” She nodded. I asked again, “What do your teachers think about this? What about Mr. Hitchens (not his real name), who told you privately that he’s antiwar? Doesn’t he say anything against it?”

 

Persuaded Away from College, Towards the Military

“No, I think the teachers and the kids are so used to it at my school that they don’t even notice anymore. I mean, the other day I was walking to Sociology class and heard the ROTC instructor telling the kids, “Okay, this is how you hold your M-16″. The whole culture of the school is military these days, so nobody notices anything unusual about this. And I think the few teachers who aren’t prowar or proBush are afraid to get in trouble if they say anything that doesn’t sound pro-military.”

As noted in my recent articles on military recruitment and the coming draft, for two years my daughter and I have been fighting the aggressive and often sneaky efforts of military recruiters to sign her up. Certainly they don’t want her for her physical prowess-she weighs 98 pounds-so I can only assume they want her for other reasons. Either they’ve seen her high verbal scores, or they just want young bodies-even a tiny one-to serve as cannon fodder.

With a military recruiter present every day in the cafeteria, military “speakers” visiting classrooms, and huge recruiting posters in the guidance office, perhaps it’s not surprising that teachers and even guidance counselors have been influenced by the constant hum of “enlist, enlist, enlist”. Students at Isa’s school are told that, yes, they could consider college, but that it’s “very expensive” and “may not guarantee you a job”, while the military “will pay for college” and “practically guarantees you’ll have a great career”. Oh, and “a big cash bonus right now if you sign up today!”

Joining the military is presented as the one and only path of honor, heroism, and service to one’s country. Many students, not surprisingly, want to be heroes or get out of poverty, so they’re signing up in droves. College recruiting is a rarity at this school, and at her previous school, as well. Ah, but military recruiters are constantly lurking around, spending quality time with fatherless boys, handing out materials, giving “aptitude tests” (played down as “just helping you figure out what you’re really good at”), handing out Marine bumper stickers, and otherwise making their smartly-uniformed presence known.

“It’s just everywhere”, Isa continued. “Here’s an example: In gym we don’t exercise or play sports like we used to do-now we “sound off”, just like in the military, while running and doing jumping jacks, push-ups, and pull-ups. The freshmen are told to shout, “one, two!”, then the sophomores are supposed to answer, “three, four!”, and then the whole group of us has to say “Sound off!” I mean it’s ridiculous Mom! How are you supposed to exercise while you’re shouting at the top of your lungs?”

As I started driving again, I took a moment to reflect on this “military culture” that’s replacing the educational culture in America’s public schools. Surely Channel One News, which parents and educators have criticized from the start as nothing more than a way to let corporations advertise their products directly to kids without their parents’ knowledge, wouldn’t go so far as to market the military to children as a (better, more heroic, more exciting) alternative to college? Surely they wouldn’t override Mom and Dad by sneakily recruiting through “educational” TV at school? Would they? Could they?

To be continued in, “Military Recruiting Commercials on “Educational” TV in Public Schools: Day after Day, Military Ads Target Children-Especially Hispanics and Blacks-On Channel One News in Schools Across the Nation”

Dr. TERESA WHITEHURST is a clinical psychologist and writer. Her most recent book describes the nonviolent guidance of children,Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles that Will Transform Your Family, Baker Books, 9/2004.

You can contact her at DrTeresa@JesusontheFamily.org

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