Should my 2nd grader join the army?
Among the flurry of forms I signed last week for the start of my son’s school year, one stopped me in my tracks: The Student Opt-Out Form.
Here’s an excerpt: “As a student or parent/guardian of a student, you have the right to request that you or your child’s personal information not be released to military recruiters and others.”
To opt out, you had to check a statement that reads: “I request that this student’s name, address and telephone number NOT be released to Armed Forces and Military Recruiters or Military Schools.”
This can’t be right, I thought. My son is only in the second grade. This must be a mistake.
But there it was—the typed name of my son’s elementary school.
If I didn’t sign the form, my son could be contacted by the military or a military school as part of its recruitment efforts. I don’t know that it would really happen—I suspect that high school students are better targets for military recruitment—but at least in theory the military could extend its efforts to elementary school kids.
Releasing student contact information to the military is part of the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) Act. The act gives parents and students the right to opt-out.
The framers NCLB must have been advised by psychologists who knew the principle they call “nudge.” If you want to increase compliance, make people opt-out rather than opt-in. For example, when you get (or renew) your driver’s license, you have to opt-in to donate your organs in case of death. If you don’t check the box, by default you have opted out. Organ donation would go way up if people had to opt-out and the default was opt-in. Since the default in NCLB is opt-in, I am sure many more students have their information released to military recruiters than the students or their parents are aware.
Now, I do support the military and have defended the rights of members of the armed forces in OurValues.org. (Use the “search” box above to find what I wrote for Memorial Day week in 2009.)
But recruiting impressionable little kids? That seems like too much.
What do you think?
Have you seen military recruiters contacting elementary school kids and their families?
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