Recently, I agreed with a post I saw on Twitter and said so. Frankly, when you run your mouth for a living, you never quite know when something you say will fall flat or blow up. But this one seemed to have some legs.
I actually absolutely agree with this.
Recruiters should be banned from public schools. https://t.co/ErOVCBsLEP
— Hannah Cox (@HannahDCox) June 4, 2023
I thought the tweet was pretty innocuous compared to most, but the conversation it ignited is one I think is worth engaging in further to address some of the most common points raised.
Brain Development and Its Impact on Decision Making
Let’s get on the same page about a few things. One, we know a lot more about the brain than we used to, while simultaneously, we are still just beginning to wrap our heads around its complexities. But already we can say with confidence that a person’s brain is not fully formed until they are 25, information which has caused many to question the age at which we (currently arbitrarily and inconsistently) set adulthood.
Not only is the brain not fully formed until that age, a full seven years past the current age of enlistment for the US military, we specifically know that the prefrontal cortex is still quite mushy until then. Given the fact that this area controls our rationale, therefore having great sway over our decision-making processes and our risk assessment abilities, it’s pretty safe to say that 18-year-olds, and even 21-year-olds, might make very different decisions than they would a few years down the road.
This is why we see crime rates steadily decline past this age, by the way. But despite our growing awareness of these factors, we still allow young people to make life and death decisions like joining the military.
Personally, I think that information should warrant a very serious conversation about the age of enlistment altogether. But one thing is for sure, we shouldn’t be allowing government agents, armed with propaganda, to enter our public schools and manipulate teenagers with mushy brains into signing years of their lives away.
Military enlistments have plummeted in recent years. In 2022, NBC News reported, “Every branch of the U.S. military is struggling to meet its fiscal year 2022 recruiting goals.”
I’d like to think that’s due to the changing cultural climate towards our wars. As fewer and fewer Americans fall for the narrative that these conflicts are about “protecting our freedoms” or “keeping us safe” the less willing people are to sign up and risk their lives in the fight.
The reality is our interventionist foreign policy has made us less safe, not only by stirring up foreign resentment which can and does lead to blowback against Americans like we saw on 9/11, but also domestically where the federal government uses these conflicts as an excuse to usurp our basic civil liberties and expand its own power.
But in response to the decline in volunteers for the military, recruiters have revved up their efforts in recent years. Various branches are preparing to launch expensive new advertising and marketing campaigns targeting large sporting events like the NCAA tournament. (Fun fact: all those patriotic displays at sporting events? They began as a paid-marketing campaign by the US military to generate patriotic sentiments and drive recruitment).
Under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools are mandated to release the private information of students to recruiters unless families opt out in writing—a fun catch since most families are likely even aware of this provision. That means graduating seniors, especially in poorer schools, are bombarded with military recruitment tactics that can range from personnel showing up in the school, to calls on your personal cell phone, to promises of world travel, citizenship, college tuition, and prestige—all of which are conditional returns on service, at best.
Seeing a lot of people commenting on something they know nothing about. Military recruiters have one goal, and that's to meet their quotas. Some are better than others as far as giving potential recruits the full and honest truth, but many do lie.
— Daniel Henrikson (@TheDanHenrikson) June 5, 2023
One TikToker named Itzel Hernandez recently went viral with a video where she claimed her recruiter had lied to her during the process, claiming she’d never be deployed and would only have to do field exercises a few times a year.
The comments on the video include testimony from many others claiming they or their loved ones felt similarly duped by their recruiter.
“My husband got duped lied (to) too,” said one user. “My recruiter telling me reservists never deploy and I got deployed 5 months in,” said another. “I still remember the tears of all the men and women in my BCT who were told things that were never going to happen,” another chimed in. “Literally every person who swore in before you. First time?” one joked.
There are countless comments like this on one video alone. And while others mocked Hernandez for not doing her own research or falling for such obvious lies, we must revert back to my original point here: 18-year-olds kids don’t have fully formed brains. They’re therefore easier to trick, manipulate, and fool. With age comes wisdom that many of these young people lack.
It’s time we do more to protect American kids from this kind of subterfuge.
Once a child turns 18, it’s up to them if they want to join the military and it will mostly fall on families, communities, and perhaps nonprofits to provide them with the education they need to make a good decision on this front. (Like the fact that about 1.5 million veterans live below the federal poverty line, almost 30% of veterans live with a disability, and, as of 2018, 38,000 veterans were homeless.)
Moreover, even when they survive, many veterans are forced to live with the mental scars and horrors of war for the rest of their days. Seeing death, killing another person, these kinds of severe traumas fundamentally change a person and their brain chemistry. We’re still only beginning to learn about the full impact of such experiences on the body and the brain, but we know enough to know this: you want to avoid it.
You have to leave the choice up to the private schools. But I wouldn't send my kid somewhere that let them in.
— Hannah Cox (@HannahDCox) June 4, 2023
Were our country to face an actual existential threat—were real human rights and civil liberties on the line—I think most, like me, would be more than willing to fight. But as it currently stands, our military is not being used towards such ends and often is responsible for more harm than good.
We need to take pains to protect our children from dying or suffering in senseless wars. Blocking predatory military recruiters from recruiting in public schools would be an excellent step in that direction.