"Many parents have experienced the eerie intuition that tells them
their child is in danger."
"Mom, there's this test we're supposed to
take tomorrow," my daughter told me one night last year, "but I have
a funny feeling about it. Our guidance counselor came in and said that the school
would be giving all juniors a special career-aptitude test, to show us where
our talents are. It sounded good, but then a military recruiter came in and
said that this test, called the ASVAB, could help us choose the best career
"He said, 'any personal information will be kept strictly confidential.'
I asked if the military would keep our names and numbers, and he just repeated
that it's 'confidential.' That was when I knew something was wrong – why make
such a big deal about getting our personal information, unless that's the point
of the whole thing?"
The guidance counselor reassured one boy who asked a very good question that
no, the ASVAB had nothing to do with the military or the possibility of being
drafted. No, the names and information would never be used in the event of a
Unconvinced, that boy and my daughter talked after class and decided to ask
if they could refuse to take the test. They were the only students who opted
out – the others were scared not to take it. One friend simply said he was taking
the test because he didn't want to "get in trouble." Another classmate
said, "Well I don't want to take it, but if we don't, the school might
not let us graduate!"
Notice that even the two most skeptical children felt they had to ask for permission
not to take the test: they'd been given to understand that the test was mandatory
because the guidance counselor had announced that "all juniors will be
taking the ASVAB tomorrow."
Whatever Happened to Parental Consent?
Parents, if you want to protect your child from
military recruiters and the coming draft, you'd better speak up and speak up
now. If you think your child is safe at school, think again – now that
Mr. Bush's wars are in full swing, he needs a steady stream of warm bodies for
the battlefields. And the easiest warm bodies to get, of course, are the young
Kids are so much easier than mature adults to dupe with glorious words of manhood,
honor, sacrifice, and heroism. That's why the military is focusing so heavily
on getting them at school, where their parents can't see what's going on.
I'm sorry to say that, with a
few admirable exceptions, American schools are no longer safe places for
learning: they've become essential tools in the Pentagon's toolbox, allowing
recruiters (and future draft boards) easy access to the children in their care.
The ASVAB "aptitude" test was news to me; I'd never even heard of
it, and the school never asked for parental consent before administering it.
None of the parents I knew had any warning about the test or when it
would be given. When they did hear about it, most of them believed that this
was just another standardized test, or that kids refusing to take it would be
penalized in some way.
Isn't it just the perfect setup? So much can be said without actually saying
it. The official tone of the announcement, the introduction of the test by a
trusted guidance counselor, the disavowal of any ties to the military: these
routine-sounding aspects of the ASVAB convince teens and parents that every
student must take it.
Support Our Children
To keep the military's hands off
your child, just say no to the ASVAB. Here's how:
Call your child's school and ask if and when the ASVAB will be given.
If the answer is yes, ask what the consequences will be for students who
refuse to take it (there shouldn't be any).
Ask if the school will require written parental consent before students
can take this military "aptitude" test, the way it does for field
trips to museums, etc.
Ask what arrangements are provided for students not taking the test (what
they'll be doing during the time when the test is being administered). The
school should have an interesting learning or recreational experience planned
for opt-out students, not something that feels like (and is) punishment
(going to the office, sitting silently while others take the test, or being
given busy work).
Ask what the procedure is for "opting out." Some schools require
that the student go to the guidance office to sign an "opt out"
statement. Students usually have to sign something stating their refusal
to take the ASVAB, which may be accompanied by legal-sounding words, written
or stated, such as "I hereby state that I am refusing to take the ASVAB
aptitude test…." At some schools, the burden is on the parents ("let
the buyer (parent) beware") to figure out what the ASVAB really is,
then write letters refusing consent for their children to take the test.
Take all steps required by the school to keep your child safe from the
If the burden is on the child to refuse the test (which can be very difficult
due to peer pressure or adult insinuations that it's required), you'll need
to reassure your child ahead of time that it really is safe to refuse.
Sometimes what's said in opt-out procedures can intimidate students: "Do
you realize that you are refusing to take an important test?," "All
your classmates are taking this test; we have nothing for you to do while
they're taking it," "Okay, but I hope you understand that if you
don't take the test your aptitudes won't be on file," or even "Why
don't you want to serve your country?"
Spread the word to all the parents and children you know. Educate them
about the the ASVAB's real purpose.
If you can, talk with other parents and sympathetic educators about arranging
an ASVAB Parental Advisory, which could be a one-time talk at the next PTA
meeting, or a discussion group announced at school and held in a nearby
Suggest that the school hold an honest informational session for
all students on the ASVAB, its purpose, how the military could use students'
information (now and in a military draft) – and how students can opt out of
the test. Every school, if it's really doing its job, should encourage students
to think for themselves and understand their rights. Schools should be places
of learning, not
tools of the Pentagon.
Children, especially teens, are highly suggestible – just the way the military
likes them. That's why the underhanded recruiting of this age group is inappropriate,
unethical, and immoral. It is the school's responsibility to protect the children
in their care by (a) providing parents and students with honest information
about the ASVAB and other recruiting ploys, and (b) requiring parental consent
before any child can take the test.
An absurd double standard exists in American schools: parental consent is required
for a trip to the museum, but not for military recruitment. The school required
my written consent to allow my daughter to simply volunteer in the office –
but not to take a sneaky test that places her at risk for recruiting harassment
or getting drafted into combat!
Show this article to every parent and teen you know, because forewarned is
forearmed. We've had enough of this "Let's you and him fight" business,
and him" are children whose lives have just begun.