American Education in USA--in TERRE HAUTE where one Sign at the Steakhouse reads: DRAFT BEER, NOT PEOPLE
By Kevin Stoda in Kuwait
Recently, I flew back to the USA to be with my father as my step-mother of nearly 20 years had recently passed away. During my drive to my father’s home in Jackson, Michigan from where I had parked my car in Missouri, I passed through the town of Terre Haute, Indiana.
Terre Haute is the home of Indiana State University in a historically blue collar and farming state. A block or so from the main campus I pleasantly noted that one signboard in front of a local steakhouse boldly welcomed students back to Indiana State this August with the adage: “DRAFT BEER, NOT WAR”.
I smiled and was happy to see that some sort of public debate is in the air this year in the USA concerning a debate by concerned young Americans on whether a national conscription is soon to be implemented. Alas, my smile turned to frustration a few minutes later as I continued my drive up towards the region of wooden covered bridges around Rockville, Indiana. This frown of frustration was the result of a commercial on one of the local hard rock radio stations from Terre Haute. I heard a glossy-sounding advertisement aimed at recruiting young female students to join the National Guard.
In that radio advert, a young American women went on-and-on explaining why young women should join the National Guard. This female recruiter had mainly two points: (1) She had become a more self-confident young person by joining the military, and (2) she felt like she was protecting her family and country.
I realized that in contrast to the lone advertising sign in front of a steakhouse back in Terre Haute, the clout of the National Guard’s nationwide recruiting budget was a humongous beast—and it seems to be busily devouring the hearts and minds of confused and misdirected young Americans.
ALIENATED STUDENTS IN USA
Less than a week later several newspaper articles in Michigan caught my attention as they are related to the education and training process of young Americans. I, myself, currently work in vocational training of youths in Kuwait (but not American youths. I teach Kuwaiti youths starting on their career at one of the national petroleum companies.)
The first article evaluated revealed the results of a national survey and then primarily focused on the results in Michigan. The author was concerned about the likelihood of present 16- to 18-year old Michigan high school students either (a) graduating from a vocational or community college within 4 years or (b) graduating from a university or college within 8 years. The article writer pointed out that Michigan students were well under the national average in both these categories. An furtive explanation was given saying that young people were disillusioned with their educational options in America, but the article didn’t elaborate further.
In summary, the author of that aforementioned first article stated simply that a large portion of American youth were disillusioned with the education system in America. That is, not only are the public primary and secondary students and parents unhappy with the American education process, but university-age students are finding the prominent options and modes of education in the USA as deplorable or at least disillusioning. (For decades now U.S. education has been basking in its status as the best in the world in its offerings higher education. However, such a survey of students disillusioned with the higher education process in the USA is seldom discussed either in the USA or abroad.)
The same author should have t out that students in American university and college levels in America have been leaving school (graduation or not) with the largest educational debts in American—especially since the 1970s when the GI bill ended. These financial debts are one of the many reasons that young people in America join the military—despite being shipped off to war and to other dangerous places year after year.
Similarly, a second article I noted that same weekend concerned the huge recent increase of young recruits joining America’s armed services in this August 2007.
This increase was largely due to $20,000 joining bonuses currently being offered new recruits. It is questionable whether this sudden increase in young people leaving colleges and universities in autumn 2007 will continue very much longer as university classes are starting up and the many American university students, who have decided to run-up their debt on run-away education costs, have made their decision to borrow and forego falling prey to the short-gains promised them by military recruiters--who often cannot back up a majority of their recruitment promises each year.
Now, it is important to connect the dots among these facts:
• Young people have high university and college debts.
• Young people are disillusioned with educational options and costs.
• Some people oppose the draft as a solution to America’s recruitment shortfalls, however, no one is discussing drastic reduction in American military waste and over-expansion of budgets each year.
• The media and propaganda budget of the USA government’s military machines overwhelm young people in debt.
• Seldom carried-out, short-term promises by recruiters claiming that benefits will be bequeathed upon the enlistees are made.
• Little or no mention of how one can be killed or maimed in war is made in the whole cynical process.
• The source and causes of America’s fear is not discussed.
I advise America to take all these issues more seriously as the 2008 elections surface.
Since 1975 when America last walked away from its call to a war is now a long time ago, student debt has expanded exponentially. Sadly, the debts that young people are paying for education are not going away soon. So, recruitment of America’s poor and disillusioned will continue.
Lethargy cannot be the answer. America has to begin now offering a less illusionary and disillusionary futures for the young people growing up there.
The options in education have to be expanded and cost issue have to be wresteled to the ground.
Moreover, the advise we give our young must be more trustworthy, and higher education leaders need to get off their laurels and begin to reduce the cynicism that leads people of all ages to believe that between big education debts and big military options, Americans have no other future.
American progressives and conservatives are going to have to promote $20,000 bonuses to young Americans who want to serve in inner cities, rebuild Louisiana after Katarina, or actually desire to help old people in their own home towns.
In short, America, if we restructure our priorities, there would be less disillusionment for American youth!
Currently, I am working in Kuwait where a large U.S. military base is located. Most of the 30,000 young soldiers here aren’t allowed off the base to learn to know local Kuwaitis or other Arabs. These young people continue to be cocooned in the propaganda arms of a military industrial machine which paints the world as a fearful place where only Americans can be your friends abroad.
On the other hand, there are also many former young people (who formerly served in America’s armed forces for noble reasons or to learn a skill) who come to Kuwait and help milk the military industrial machine as foreign contractors servicing American armed services in Iraq and around the Gulf region.
However, many of these Americans are no longer capable, neither willing nor able to improving the American pro-military support the system they have grown up a part of.
I have asked some of these American contactors—most of whom never cross into the much more dangerous land of Iraq—whether they (1) don’t feel some sort of desire to stop the cynical dependency cycle they are part of and whether there wsn’t some way that they might (2) promote more people-to-people exchanges in the region for these poor young American troops—whom are locked up on base most of their time in Kuwait before being sent over to Iraq or after one year simply returned home.
Many of these contractors dependent on the war-machine are bright people but they don’t question what they or their firms are up to.
Nor do they question the educational and recruiting system that made them—these military support contractors--what they are today. Even if these contractors do go across the border to Iraq, most of them don’t analyze much beyond their own little world—as a cog in a big machine.
One talented contractor for ITT stated, “I’m just a spectator here.”
That man just laughed at the deeper thinking that might require him to admit or confess the truth: “After Auschwitz and Nuremburg, there are no spectators, i.e. the world cannot simply be divided into simple categories of Victims, Perpetrators, and Spectators.”
As a lifelong historian and educator, I want to shout; “The fact is that when America is at war, no American should ever think there are clear distinctions between victims, perpetrators and spectators.” Once these distinctions are properly ignored, we can then begin to think more universally—more truly globally and compassionately.
Any American who has [a] formerly served in the Kuwait, Afghanistan, or Iraq wars and  then returns to a war zone contracted out to someone else making money off of a war, should know better than to call him- or herself “just a spectator here.” This is a basic critical thinking skill that should be hammered into American citizens in both high school and college—instead of allowing military recruiters to meander up-and-down the hallways of our schools spewing out their paid-for-by-Big-Brother-government propaganda.
As long as I observe the continuing string of former American and British vets serving again and again as bigger paid earners for military contactors in the Middle East, I will have to agree with the results of the survey discussed in that Michigan paper, “American education continues to be disillusioning.”
Bay Area United Against the War, http://www.bauaw.org/blog/archive/2005_05_22_archive.html
Hell No, We Still Won’t Go!, http://stopthedraft.com/index.php?articleID=2104§ionID=104
It’s Easy to Talk About! http://thinkprogress.org/2007/08/13/rangel-draft/
The Media Floats the Draft Balloon, http://www.thelibertypapers.org/categories/draft/
Military Recruiters Boost Offers to Dwindling Group of Prospects,
Should Progressives and Anti-War Movement Oppose the Draft? http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=796
Yarrow: Disillusioned with College, http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/07/12/0712yarrow_edit.html