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Let's Play War: How Militarism is Marketed to Children
August 25, 2005 By Lucinda Marshall
My friend Loretta is hopping mad about the mail that her nine year old grandsonis receiving. While military recruiters cannot 'recruit' children underseventeen years of age, there is nothing stopping them from waging a marketingcampaign to win the hearts and minds of much younger children such as Loretta'sgrandson. She tells me that he just received a mailing from the Marines labeled"Required Summer Reading" that offers him limited edition posters. As any parentwell knows, anything labeled as 'limited edition' is irresistible to kids ofthat age.
Parents are becoming more aware of the presence of military recruiters in highschools because of the No Child Left Behind Act which requires schools to turnover contact information on students to the military unless the students requestthat their records not be shared. While this is an easy way for the military toobtain information on prospective recruits, it is only one of many ways in whichthe military can make a sales pitch to children.
Each branch of the military runs its own JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer TrainingCorps) programs. The Air Force alone runs 746 JROTC programs throughout the U.S.with plans start more this year. The programs enroll more than 100,000 students.According to the American Friends Service Committee, each program costs schooldistricts an average of $76,000, effectively putting cash-strapped schools inthe position of subsidizing the military. It is important to note that JROTCprograms routinely bring weapons into schools (and teach children how to usethem) and there are numerous reports of JROTC-related violence, includingmurder.
The programs claim that they are not geared towards recruiting, that theirpurpose is to teach leadership and discipline. But as former defense secretaryWilliam Cohen told Congress in 2000, JROTC is "one of the best recruitingdevices we have." (1)
When now Vice President Cheney served as Secretary of Defense, he summarized thepurpose of the military quite accurately, "The reason to have a military is tobe prepared to fight and win wars. That is our basic fundamental mission. Themilitary is not a social welfare agency, it's not a jobs program." Yetrecruiters and JROTC programs as well as television ads routinely hawk theeducational and job benefits of joining the military.