Dialing for children

The “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2002 is 670 pages long. It was the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s educational reform efforts, but buried in that document is a little-known provision that gives military recruiters access to the home phone numbers of all high-school juniors and seniors. Public secondary schools must now supply recruiters for the armed forces with students’ names, addresses and phone numbers (even unlisted ones). They also must allow these recruiters the same access to students on campus that college recruiters or prospective employers enjoy. If schools refuse, they lose their federal funding.

That means that across this nation, the very people entrusted with the futures and the well-being of the nation’s young people—the high-school principals and counselors and school boards and teachers—are required to expose impressionable young minds to cajolery and inducements that threaten the well-being and the futures of the very young people those guardians were paid to protect, teach and nurture.

Just think about that for a moment, and think about the vultures circling high-school kids, hoping to entice them with promises of big signing bonuses (currently up to $20,000) and paid college tuitions should they survive their tours of duty in Iraq.

Think for a moment of the politicians who voted on this measure, fathers and mothers of privileged children who aren’t so likely to be impressed by having $20,000 waved under their noses, and who have no need of paid college tuition.

Think of the word “child” in the No Child Left Behind Act, and think of the cynicism required to attach this mandatory invasion of student privacy to a piece of legislation sold to the public through the sentimental appeal of concern for the welfare of the nation’s children and their futures.

Think of our nation’s military, increasingly unable to fill recruitment quotas, forced to prey on the vulnerabilities and dreams of naive young people who have barely mastered the intricacies of shaving.

Think of this misguided war in Iraq, dreamt by men who have been proven wrong about nearly everything they’ve said—the reasons the war was necessary, the financing of the war through Iraqi oil revenues, the number of troops necessary for a successful occupation, and the popularity of occupying forces with the indigenous population—and then think about how these mistakes must be validated and these errors in judgment paid for with the blood of high-school kids whose options are narrow and whose futures are challenged because they come from the increasingly beleaguered working class.

Think about the president’s mantra—that we “stay the course”—and then ask yourself just what that course is, with more death and destruction for Iraqis and for the high-school kids induced to validate the president’s hapless sideshow in the war on terrorism.

Leave no child behind, indeed.