Recently, my dad received a mysterious call that was meant for me. What started as a survey about college took a turn when the caller asked if I wanted to discuss a path in the military.
I still do not know who they were, or how they got my number, but after doing some research, I found a possible suspect. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, “military recruiters (and [institutions of higher education]) are entitled, upon request, to receive the name, address, and telephone listing of secondary school students served by [a Local Education Agency].” Parents and adult students are allowed to opt-out of the information sharing by written request, but otherwise, the Department of Defense’s military recruiters “routinely request” the information of high school juniors and seniors.
The message is clear: military recruitment is an opt-out process, meant to chase down students rather than be approached by them, both on and off campus.
When that is a military recruiter’s role, it opens the door for predatory, salesman-like behavior. It is the reason why I got that call that day, the reason why some recruiters will only tell students the positives of joining the military after high school, failing to acknowledge the cons of joining or the possibility of getting a degree first and going in as an officer.
The role of a recruiter should be akin to that of a college counselor; someone who can be approached by curious students who want to be informed honestly. Recruiters should not be afraid to touch on the cons of joining the military after high school. Additionally, they should be realistic when discussing the pros, acknowledging that not every recruit gets the job or location that they want. This is not to say that all recruiters intentionally mislead students, it is simply a trend that I’ve gathered from the accounts of my peers.
The military offers a variety of educational opportunities, but at the end of the day, it is a career choice, not an education choice. For that reason, active recruitment on campus should be much more limited. The presence of advertising, such as pamphlets and posters, should be restricted to after school career fairs or other such activities.
Of course, the armed forces have jobs that need doing and recruiters have quotas to fill, but joining the military is much too rigid of a commitment to be handled so recklessly. If the armed forces cannot be changed, then at the very least local governments, school districts, and high schools could take action to improve the recruitment atmosphere.
Students who are interested in joining should be encouraged to research whether or not the military is for them and to discuss their decision with a variety of trusted individuals. Those who are not interested should not have to deal with any on or off campus harassment from recruiters, and the Alhambra Unified School District should put more effort into informing its students and parents on what recruiters do and how to opt-out of having their information shared with them.