High school teens are used to being inundated with tests, all meant to help them plan their futures. The SATs, ACTs, PSATS and generic occupational testing are all used to help a student discover his or her strengths or aptitude, apply for colleges and receive scholarships. Missouri, on the other hand, appears to be about to use one test to help the military decide which students should be approached to enlist, and they may be doing that without parents or students being made fully aware that students don’t have to become potential recruits.
According to Pat Elder at Truth-Out, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB-CEP) is one of five tests that will be administered to students in the state of Missouri as a part of the new Missouri School Improvement Program. Elder reports that the test is used in nearly 12,000 schools across the nation, and that hundred of thousands of students take the test each year.
The issue, according to Elder, is that unlike other states in the country, Missouri is not specifically safeguarding the students who are being forced to take the test by keeping their results confidential. Instead, the scores are to be shared with the military, leaving Missouri students ripe for potentially unwanted recruiting efforts.
To Elder, that lack of concern over privacy, which appears to him to be a sign that the state officials see the schools as pools for military plundering, is alarming. As is one school’s lackadaisical interest in respecting and protecting their students’ privacy. “Missouri’s Nevada High School, about 50 miles south of Kansas City, advises children not to be concerned with the privacy implications of the ASVAB-CEP,” writes Elder. “The school apparently mirrors the attitudes of state school officials.”
Elder is right to be alarmed based on the school’s reaction, which he quotes at length:
There is a fear that you will be recruited. And you will be. But that is completely unrelated to taking the ASVAB at school, or even having heard of the ASVAB. Being recruited is a function of being the age you are. There are lots of recruiters out there. They have access to lots of databases (census, school directories, DMV, credit and bank records, etc.), including ours. Their job is to find you and ask if you want to join the military and they are very good at their job. If you do not want to, simply say no. Throughout your life, you will have endless similar opportunities to turn down the chance to change your long distance carrier, have your carpets cleaned, or siding put on your house. Think of it as a case of ‘welcome to adulthood, here is your junk mail.’ Such a false hope of not being recruited is a poor and ultimately pointless reason to avoid the value of using the ASVAB to learn of and use your aptitude scores.
Missouri isn’t the only place where this is occurring, however. One Minnesota high school is also having all of its juniors take the test, allowing the National Guard to come administer it to the students. “Though the ASVAB can be used by the military as a placement assessment, it offers all students valuable and reliable insight into their math, science, reading, writing, mechanical and auto aptitudes,” explains the Pine River-Backus High School principal in a school bulletin, dismissing concerns that the test could lead to student recruitment.
Is it ethical for a state or even an individual school to mandate students take a test, but then refuse to place safeguards in place to ensure that their participation doesn’t lead to recruiting from armed services? It is unlikely that teens are unfamiliar with where to go should they wish to learn more about joining the military if they do have an interest in that, rather than opening up every student to the military’s advances.
Students should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they wish to be a part of pool of potential recruits for the armed forces. Mandating their participation is not the job of school officials, or the job of the state.
Please sign and share the petition below telling Missouri school officials to drop the ASVAB-CEP requirement.
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