Military madness comes to school

We find last week’s actions by military recruiters on the Chico High School campus disturbing at any number of levels. Army recruiters came to school during Red Ribbon Week, a program designed to heighten children’s awareness of the dangers of illicit drugs.

The recruiters set up a booth and a climbing wall to attract the students’ attention. Fine and dandy. But in order to play on the wall, the students were told they would have to sign a waiver releasing the U.S. Army from any liability should they get hurt or killed while on the wall. The waiver, of course, was nothing more than a ruse to get information on potential future soldiers.

Why else would a waiver ask for information like e-mail address, ethnic background and social security number? In fact, the small print on the card says the information will be used for recruiting purposes.

One of the problems here is that this is nothing more than an end run around the wishes of a parent who has signed an opt-out card to keep the school from providing essential information to the military as allowed, if not encouraged, by President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program. The Marines did the same thing with an inflatable fun house last May for the school’s career day.

To gather personal information from kids who will be recruited as future cannon fodder under the pretense of a liability waiver to climb on a wall is borderline criminal. This is the kind of misrepresentation we associate with drug dealers and child molesters.

We applaud the Chico High administration for gathering up the info the Army had collected and keeping it out of the military’s files. Our country’s defense depends on volunteer soldiers, but the military should at the very least be honest with these young people, try not to insult their intelligence and respect parents’ rights.