(I just submitted this to my local newspaper. I might be on a letter-to-the-editor jag ~ see my last one ~ which has not been my M.O. so far in my life, but what does the past know of the future? I don’t know if this will be published. If so, I will be sure to link. [Update:1/8/14 — it was published.] Thank you to Jeff Napolitano for his ongoing stewardship of the American Friends Service Committee of Western MA! Shout out!)
It is disturbing to learn that the new Superintendent, Jeffrey Peterson, of the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton, Massachusetts, has submitted for approval a new policy, the impact of which excludes local organizations, like the American Friends Service Committee, while allowing military recruiters. The new policy stipulates that permission to provide literature at a table will be denied to an organization unless it provides “educational opportunities, employment, or scholarship funds.”
AFSC provides an important role in our community in a multitude of ways, including a decade-long presence at local high schools, staffing tables with information and offering classroom talks to inform students about alternatives to enlisting in the military. Their approach encourages students to pursue college, community college, union apprenticeships, and more, as well as encouraging engaged awareness for those students in the process of enlisting.
I have witnessed one of my own children go through the recruitment and enlistment process. I know firsthand how self-serving the information provided to recruits and how insufficient the screening process is. Despite being told otherwise by military recruiters themselves, I educated myself and learned of the pressure on recruiters to meet expectations of productivity. These expectations are not conducive to an unbiased discernment process. The AFSC plays a role enacted by few others that serves young people in our community and our community as a whole.
This new policy should not be approved and AFSC should be welcomed back to Smith Voke and other area high schools to continue this value service.
(More information about American Friends and their organizing the community in response to the Superintendent, see this link.)