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Quakers Counter Military Recruiters

 by Lisa Gulya


Tags: activism, military recruitment, education reform,

Quakerism, which entails sitting silently as its standard form of worship, may seem like a passive denomination. But the religion's activist streak is far from docile, as shown in a Friends Journal piece about how to provide pacifist alternatives to military recruiters in high schools. The authors—Nancy Howell, a retired sociology professor, and Judy Alves, a retired lawyer—detail their counter-recruitment efforts in Lee County, Florida, from deciding which materials to give students, to regularly attending school board meetings, to defending their right to counter-recruit to the school district attorney.

The volunteers didn’t want to harass enlisting students or military recruiters; they wanted students to know what they were agreeing to. The Friends say that simply examining the enlistment document with students can be persuasive, showing students that they are committing to eight years with the military and “the government is entitled to change all the conditions of the contract at any time, while the recruit is committed to every aspect of the contract, under penalty of law and prison.”

Howell and Alves' counter-recruitment efforts led to changes at the institutional level: standardization of recruitment policies at all the county's high schools, and restrictions on military recruiters, who can now meet with students only in guidance or career counseling offices and only when the students request interviews.