Rethinking Counter-Recruitment: How Educators Play an Essential Role by Designing Curricula That Historicize the U.S. Military

Anna Mullany, SIT Graduate Institute


Young people are often misled into enlisting in the armed forces due to the misinformation provided by military recruiters. Recruiters’ promises of education, job skills, money, and adventure do little to expose the actual reality of a young soldier’s life and the brutality and violence of war. Counter-recruiters, therefore, work with students to expose them to the harsh realities of military service and provide peaceful career alternatives. Counter-recruiters often focus their work on secondary issues of race and class. They highlight the fact that military recruiters prey upon young, poor people of color to fight on the front lines. This approach, however, is problematic because it places the focus on the individual issues in the U.S. rather than on the larger community and global structural injustices.

Although individual issues are important and necessary, this paper focuses on how counter-recruiters must not neglect the core, structural issue: the military operates as the violent arm of the U.S. state in order to maintain empire and strengthen its global power through economic expansion. By focusing on the history of U.S. imperialism, militarization within the U.S. school system, and the notions of deep-rooted patriotism within pedagogy, this paper will illustrate how counter-recruiters can work with educators to expand the definition of this work. Lesson plans were designed to teach students the reasoning behind the creation of an organized militia, the basic function of the armed forces, and the economic interests behind the military-industrial-complex. Curriculum, therefore, must be continually created and used on a consistent basis to supplement the overall counter-recruitment strategy that includes not only reducing the number of new enlistees into the military, but a greater goal of an anti-imperialist society.