Thursday, May 29, 2008

NOY table at LBJ/LASA HS

On May 23, we staffed a NOY literature table at LBJ/LASA (Liberal Arts and Science Academy) and tried out our new home-made Peace Wheel of Fortune. The idea comes from the folks at Project YANO (Youth and Nonmilitary Opportunities) in San Diego. On our wheel, we included the following peacemakers of social change: Camilo Mejia, Mohandas Gandhi, Helen Keller, Raul Salinas (local poet and teacher), Julia Butterfly Hill, Bayard Rustin, Alan Pogue (local photojournalist), Pete Seeger, Diane Nash, Thich Nhat Hanh and Dolores Huerta. The idea was that if students could tell us something about the accomplishments of the person the wheel ticker stopped on, they could choose a prize among our buttons, etc.
We gave hints and had a few books on hand about some of the folks on the wheel. I encouraged students to do a wikipedia check...

The person on the wheel about whom almost every student knew something was Helen Keller. Yet, no student knew about her strong anti-war stance. Some students had heard of Gandhi, but several couldn't place him in India.

This trial run of the peace wheel was an eye-opener for me. I really thought that students would have learned more about the major historical nonviolent movements. If this peace history was taught in an in-depth way in the public schools, young people would know there are viable, road-tested alternatives to the use of military force in conflict situations.

As in our previous tabling, we did our penny poll at LBJ/LASA to ask what students would like to see our federal resources used for. With 48 students participating, the tally was:

Education - 42%

Health Care - 20%

Environment - 19%

Humanitarian Aid - 12%

Military - 7%

It's My Life!

The American Friends Service Committee recently published a great booklet for young people considering their options after high school. Check out more about it, read sample pages and order a booklet free if you are between the ages of 13 and 25:

"It's My Life!: A Guide to Alternatives After High School"

Education and Job Training resources in Austin

This is only a sampling of training resources. You have many options; to explore them, first think about your interests, personal strengths, and skills. Find out which agencies or programs might work for you, and make an appointment to talk with them. Even if one appointment doesn’t work out, you can probably get referred to another agency or program that can help you. Talk with others—your friends, relatives, school counselors, librarians, and adults who do jobs you think you might enjoy. Ask about internships, apprenticeships, and community service projects as well as regular jobs. Sometimes, the best training is on-the-job with a good employer.
American Youthworks216 East 4th Street, Austin, TX 78701, 236-6100
This non-profit charter high school serves ages 16-21 with high school or GED programs, health care, counseling services, social services, job training, and job placement. Helping 1,000 students per year, they also oversee three local Americorps programs: Casa Verde Builders, which teaches construction skills; Environmental Corps, which trains workers to restore and preserve parks and public lands; and Computer Corps, which has students teaching computer skills to children. Americorps provides a living allowance, health care, and (on successful completion) money to use for college or trade school.

Americorps for Community Engagement and Education (ACEE)Charles A. Dana Center, 2901 N IH-35, Suite 2.200, 471-6764
Learn teaching skills by doing bilingual literacy tutoring in local elementary schools through this Americorps program. As with all Americorps programs, you learn valuable skills while earning a living stipend and an educational award to use toward college or college loan repayment. For more local and national Americorps programs:

Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Texas State Department of (DARS)800-628-5115
Assists persons with physical or psychological barriers to employment, by providing services or equipment needed for them to get a job, including job training or college, as part of an agreed-upon plan. Call for referral to the nearest counselor office.

Austin Community College 512-223-4222
ACC has more than 80 different job-skills programs that can be completed in a year or less, and also offers 2-year associate degrees and transfers to 4-year colleges. With campuses across Austin, including the new South Austin campus directly across from Crockett High School, ACC provides affordable, high-quality classes and financial aid toward tuition.

Capital IDEA504 Lavaca Street, Suite 1008, Austin, TX 78701, 457-8610
Trains legally-resident adults, whose incomes qualify them, with training for careers in health care, high tech, or accounting. For full-time students who reside in Central Texas, it provides tuition, fees, books, and child care. Also provides free English, GED, and college prep classes. Has ties with local employers.

Goodwill Industries Youth Services
1015 Norwood Park Blvd., Austin, TX 78753, 637-7100
637-7178, Laura Griebel, Program Manager
This program serves persons 14-21 who are in or out of school, who have barriers to employment such as a physical or mental handicap, homelessness, runaway status, pregnancy or parenting, academic skills below grade level, having been through the juvenile justice system, and being or having been a foster child. In 2006, 600 young people are receiving such services as GED, job readiness training, job placement, job coaching, tuition costs, child care, and emergency housing, rent, or utilities. Goodwill also runs the City-County Summer Employment Program for youth; it sponsors case managers in 10 Austin high schools to provide tutoring and related services.

Internships are unpaid or low-paid jobs in which the employer teaches the worker job skills. Ask a school counselor, teacher, Workforce Center employee, or employers who appear at job fairs. Non-profit agencies may be willing to offer worthwhile internships, too, if asked.

Job Fairs are of two kinds: one-employer and multi-employer. Employers may be hiring right away or may take part to gain community visibility and a list of interested people. Many offer on-the-job training, sometimes with college credit or professional certificates. Multi-employer job fairs include the quarterly fair held at the Workforce Center, 6505 Airport Boulevard, and the annual Goodwill-American Statesman Job Fair in May. Dress for an interview and take a current resume; you may be interviewed on the spot. Fairs are announced in classified ads, at employers’ premises, on billboards, on Public Access TV, on websites, and at Workforce Centers.

Skillpoint Alliance
5930 Middle Fiskville Road, Austin, TX 78752, 323-6773
Skillpoint Alliance runs Community Technology and Training Centers (CTTC’s) at Reagan and Travis High Schools and several other locations, giving free computer and business skills classes (must attend an orientation first). Their no-charge 5-week Construction Gateway program (381-4216), one of the top 4 in the U.S., trains about 100 people per year in basic constructions skills: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Must be age 18, no diploma required; 9 college credits on successful completion.

Texas State Technical Colleges offer certificate and associate degree programs in technical or applied subjects. The nearest TSTC to Austin is at 3801 Campus Drive, Waco, TX 76705 and offers programs in 31 different fields of study. Most of the 4,500 students live in dorms or apartments. Phone 800-792-8784 or ask your school counselor.

The University of Texas at AustinProfessional Development Center, 471-4622
Professional development classes for certificates (no college credit) in public relations, marketing, leadership, human resources, project management, and process management. Courses given at the Thompson Center at U.T. or at the Jake Pickle Research Center on Burnet Road.

The Urban League
1033 La Posada Drive Suite 150, Austin, TX 78752, 478-7176
Free GED, job-seeking skills, and specific training: typing, keyboarding, computer use.

Central Texas Workforce Centers teach job-seeking skills, offer keyboarding practice, and administer keyboarding and spelling tests required by some employers. Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), some job-seekers are eligible for free career testing, transportation costs, skills training, work uniforms, and clothes for job interviews. The 6505 Airport Blvd. Workforce Center coordinates several services for younger job-seekers, such as work internship programs, paid summer jobs, and support services such as child care. For other locations see, where TWC also offers links to training resources, actual job vacancies, forecasts of ‘hot’ occupations, and typical pay rates for various occupations.

Friday, May 23, 2008

American Youthworks

American Youthworks is an exceptional educational option for students age 16 -21 who have dropped out of high school or who are at risk for dropping out. American Youthworks is a local charter school with several excellent service learning opportunities: the award-winning Casa Verde green-building program, the Environmental Corps and a computer literacy program.

Learn more at the American Youthworks website

Here is application information as posted on their site. This is the time (early summer) to look into enrollment:

AYW Charter High School
Eligibility RequirementsYoung people, ages 16 to 21, who are Texas residents, and need a high school diploma.
Enrollment ProcessEnrolling at American Youthworks is a four step process:
Step 1: Student must attend an information meeting held on Mondays at 4:00 p.m at the South Campus, 1901 East Ben White Boulevard. Please call 744-1900 to find out other meetings times or if there are cancellations.
Step 2: Complete list of required documents (presented at the information meeting) must be turned in at the South Campus.
Step 3: Student will meet individually wih a staff member for a pre-enrollment meeting to discuss his or her diploma plan, school rules, and expectations.
Step 4: After student completes steps 1-3 he or she is ready to enroll. Enrollment is based on availability.
For more information contact AYW's recruiter at 512-744-1900 or

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hindsight of a Trained Killer

by Peter Sullivan, posted on the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War

I served in the Army National Guard from 1995-2007. Following 9/11 I spent time on state active duty in Clinton, IL in 2001, and on federal active duty Wiesbaden, Germany in 2002, and in Ft. Polk, LA from 2004-2005. My not having served in Iraq or Afghanistan is simply good luck. Most of my enlistment was spent as an infantryman in Illinois, but I was a member of an artillery unit in the Colorado National Guard for about a year in 2000, and my Illinois unit was converted into a cavalry unit not long before I got out. At no time during my enlistment was I in a non-combat unit. I had every intention of staying long enough to collect a retirement check from the military. For a while, when asked how much longer until I got out, I was one of those guys who would say "12 years," or however many years I had to complete until I had 20 years in service. Most soldiers respond to this question with however long they have left on their current contract.
In 1995 at the age of 17 I boarded a plane for the first time in my life to fly to Ft. Benning, GA (via Atlanta) for basic training. I had just completed my junior year of high school, and was taking advantage of the military’s "split-option" program which allows National Guard recruits to space out their training over two summers so they can use college benefits immediately after high school graduation without having to worry about the one year of service required before benefits are available.
As the "Home of the Infantry," Ft. Benning has a reputation for being tougher than other Army basic training installations. Its reputation is warranted based on what I’ve heard from soldiers who went through boot camp at other locations. One of the first things that struck me about the place was its focus on killing. I didn’t find this disturbing since the infantry’s job is to kill enemy soldiers, but it was certainly outside my realm of normal experience to hear grown men say things like "what makes the grass grow?!" and expect to hear "Blood! Blood! Bright red blood makes the grass grow green!" as a response from teenagers. As I made my way through boot camp and AIT (Advanced Individual Training, the second phase of training completed the summer after boot camp) this new culture of killing went on and I didn’t notice it much. It even made me feel kind of tough – I mean, who wouldn’t feel untouchable marching in formation with assault rifles chanting "left, right, left, right, left, right kill!!! Left, right, left, right, yes we will!!" or charging at dummy enemy soldiers with a bayonet, stabbing and twisting while shouting "KILL!!"?
After boot camp was over and I was back with my unit, all this talk about killing never stopped. The frequency toned down a bit, but killing was definitely still the name of the game, which of course made sense to me being in a combat unit. Killing. It’s just what we were supposed to do. If we didn’t do it, we’d get killed ourselves. It wasn’t long before I just didn’t notice all the talk about killing at all anymore. I probably quit noticing even before I was finished with boot camp. I joined the military knowing that I was going to be trained to kill in combat, so here I was being trained to kill in combat. Just a day at work.
At some point still very early in my career though, I briefly noticed the talk of killing again. I noticed when I heard someone sing the following song (to the tune of "Jesus Loves the Little Children"):
"napalm sticks to little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They all scream when they ignite"
I also noticed the first time I heard someone ask the question, "what’s the heel of the boot for?" I noticed when this question was asked because the acceptable answer to this question is "crushing baby skulls." I quit noticing things like this soon enough and started to think of them as jokes just like everyone else. Someone would walk up to a group of soldiers and ask one of the young privates "what’s the heel of the boot for?" and as soon as that private responded with "crushing baby skulls" (they almost always knew the appropriate response) everyone would burst into laughter.
I didn’t notice killing again until much later in my career. I eventually became a leader myself, and would ask my young soldiers what makes the grass grow and what the heel of the boot is for. It was especially fun to ask the highly motivated ones and see just how loud they could yell it. The more furious the young troop’s delivery was, the funnier it was. It wasn’t uncommon to see a sergeant or staff sergeant walk past a private or specialist without stopping and have a lighthearted exchange about killing children – or women, or some combination of children and women.
By this time, the "global war on terror" had kicked off, Saddam’s statue had fallen, and I can remember watching it on TV and wishing I was there. I remember considering trying to volunteer for an active duty unit who was going to be sent, or trying to find a National Guard unit that was going that I could transfer into. By now killing was such a non-issue that I actually wanted to do it. I remember imagining what it would be like to look through the rear aperture of my weapon, get a good sight picture, squeeze the trigger, and watch a man fall. All I knew at that time was that 9/11 had happened, and that those god damned hadjis were going to pay.
Hadji. That word entered my lexicon sometime after 9/11 to refer to pretty much anyone from the Middle East. My current understanding of the word is that it is a term of respect referring to a Muslim who has made the required pilgrimage to the holy site of Mecca. None of us used the word out of respect for Muslims who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. We used it as a racial slur similar to the word "nigger." It was frequently prefixed by the word "fucking" as in, "those fucking hadjis."
Toward the end of my career in the military, I noticed killing again. This time, we were qualifying with our rifles, and someone had gone downrange beforehand to place towels on the heads of all the silhouettes to make them appear Muslim. I probably noticed this because somewhere within me was the idea that not all Muslims were bad, but as it had been years before, killing was again but a fleeting thought before it turned into just a joke, a game, a trade – not unlike masonry or carpentry.
Somewhere along the way - I don’t know exactly when - I began to study the "war on terror" and became convinced that I had been duped and used as a pawn to advance someone else’s agenda and build someone else’s fortune. A surefire way to get me angry is to try to exploit my desire to do the right thing, so when I was tricked into risking my life for what was at first a bogus mission, and later a very vague mission with no end or reward as far as I could tell, I made the decision to leave the Army. I guess it was my way of "sticking it to the man" and letting everyone know that I would no longer be fooled.
Having been out of the military for over a year now, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences without having to filter my own thoughts as a kind of unconscious defense mechanism. In other words, there is no longer a need to rationalize my way around my behavior or the things I said or did or thought in the Army that I probably always knew were wrong, but couldn’t admit because I would then be required to face them. I recently had a playful exchange with a young man I know who knew I had been in the Army during which we were "talking trash" to each other before he said, "I wouldn’t mess with Pete. He’s a trained killer." I didn’t think much of it at that moment, but his comment stayed with me for a while.
I’ve heard soldiers referred to as "trained killers" before, and my interpretation of the term has always been that soldiers have been trained on various weapons and hand-to-hand combat techniques; therefore, they are trained killers. I think the true meaning of the term is different though, and much more frightening in its social implications. It’s true that I have been trained to proficiently employ various hand-to-hand combat moves, knives, machine guns, assault rifles, pistols, grenades, grenade launchers, missile systems, and artillery cannons, but simply knowing how to use these weapons does not make me a trained killer any more than knowing how to drive a nail with a hammer makes me a trained carpenter. What makes a soldier a trained killer is very effective psychological conditioning that allows the soldier to overcome his or her inherent resistance to killing other people. The constant barrage of songs, chants, and slogans about killing, stabbing and firing at human-shaped targets, making a joke out of killing babies, women and children – these are what make a trained killer. These things are the mechanism by which events like Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Guantanamo Bay, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Bataan death march, and Auschwitz are made possible.
With a few minor adjustments, a soldier can be trained to more effectively kill specific groups of people. Placing towels around the heads of human-shaped rifle targets and calling them "hadjis" trains soldiers to kill Muslims. Replacing the towel with a cone-shaped Vietnamese peasant hat and calling it a "gook" trains soldiers to kill Asians.
When I think back on what the Army made me capable of, I feel angry because I’m only figuring it out now. Duped again! 12 years of learning to hate and learning to want to kill people because it was kill or be killed. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, people are going through the same thing to advance an agenda that isn’t theirs and to build fortunes that aren’t theirs only they’re firing at silhouettes of "those fucking Americans," and by "American" they mean what we soldiers mean when we say "hadji." A frequently unnoticed human cost of war is that in order to wage war, humans must give up part of their humanity.
What a clever sham it is.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Military Recruitment in Schools Crosses the Line

by Maria
posted on Student Voice, a PBS online feature

The shiny, black Hummers with hip-hop music blasting out of the huge speakers in the trunk were parked in the patio during lunch.There were a dozen students dancing to Kanye West as other students approached the trucks with puzzled looks. What they found were tables filled with brochures, pens, free key chains and soldiers casually standing by with their camouflage uniforms and combat boots, promoting the U.S. Army. U.S. Army soldiers came during the winter to our school to tell students about the job opportunities that the army can offer, and hopefully, to convince them to sign up for the army.
But all they seemed to do was glamorize the whole concept of what the army is.
Yes, they told of all great job opportunities: We can become doctors, nurses, computer technicians, anything we want. But did they really tell us the dangerous side of the army over all the loud music?
It seems hypocritical that instead of telling us about the dangerous fighting in Iraq, the 4,000 Americans that have died since 2003, and the millions that suffer everyday because of the wars the army participates in, they play 50 Cent songs and have pull-up contests.

The army is no joke. Basic combat training consists of nine weeks of intense training, including learning how to use M-16A2 rifles, rigorous physical tests and attending boot camp.
You are away from your loved ones for months, maybe years, and you never know when you'll go home and see them again.During combat, you go days without shelter, you fight against other soldiers or civilians, and most times, you don't know if you'll make it through the day. These US Army soldiers have no right to glamorize the army for unsuspecting high school students. Yes, the trucks, the free key chains, pens and the loud music may seem exciting and interesting now, but the army's recruiting strategies are deceiving and give us mistaken ideas of what fighting in a war really demands. This propaganda occurring in our school is disturbing because it is a distorted image of the army. It feels like they are trying to trick us into joining.

Maria was born in Argentina, and moved to the United States in 2000. She writes for the Lightning Strike newspaper at Krop Senior High School in Miami, Florida. In the future, she hopes to become a journalist and write about her opinions.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Recruiter Abuse Hotline

The National Youth and Militarism Recruiter Abuse Hotline is now open at 1- 877-688-6881. After hearing many reports from young people and their families about abuses by military recruiters, we at AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) are beginning to track these abuses as reported to our national hotline. Examples of recruiter abuse include making misleading or false statements; repeated contact after a request to refrain from contact; physical coercion; sexual solicitation; encouraging recruits to lie or falsify information; offering drugs or alcohol; attempting to intimidate or scare recruits or their parents; and refusal to accurately document recruits’ medical or legal situations.
Recruiter abuse has become such a problem that a congressional committee has suggested installing surveillance equipment in recruiting stations (which does little to protect young people solicited in schools). AFSC staff will track reported abuses to support our work advocating the demilitarization of youth and youth spaces. We will also support youth and families in seeking remedies to cases of abuse.
AFSC is responding to this urgent need. Staff people nationwide will be responding to calls in English and Spanish. To report an abuse call 1- 877-688-6881.