published Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

David Cook: Testing, again, for war

There is no barbed wire around this column. It's not private property, so rigid that your opinions — especially when they differ from mine — can't make their way in.

After one particular column last week, I heard from enough of you to know it was time to lower the drawbridge to this column a little.

"It's not always black and white," one reader said. Wisely.

So let's put some gray into last Wednesday's column that condemned a state bill that would require every Tennessee public school student to take a military recruiting test their sophomore year.

"How dare you," one reader emailed.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is part of the enlisting process: Recruits take the 10-section test that lets the military then gauge their strengths and weaknesses.

Education, I argued, is not the place for required military recruiting. Schools exist to enlighten our kids, not turn them into fodder for the American military industrial complex.

"This could be more helpful than you might think," emailed one veteran.

It was the same point echoed by others who wrote, called or spoke to me in person: The ASVAB was the first step they or a loved one took into a military career that was rewarding and honorable.

From their side of the street, the test could be an elevator going up, helping confused teenagers find clearer noncollege options for the future.

"With the job market the way it is, [the ASVAB] could really help them out," the vet continued.

Money for college. Real-world experience. A way out of desperate America. Be all you can be.

"Students often have a tough time figuring out what they can do well," another reader said. "I am all for a simple test that can help them."

Not long ago, I visited the JROTC program at Soddy-Daisy High, so influential that nearly 200 students have joined.

Uniforms to school. Push-ups to start class. Average GPA of 3.5. Yes, sir. No, ma'am.

An empowering and secure place for kids adrift in an ever-fragmented culture.

So I am not blind to the transforming power the military can provide. Heroism. Purpose and meaning in our lives. A devotion to something larger. Semper fi.

But here's the trick: Peace-making can do the same, without the traumatic calculus of violence, revenge and death.

Ask anyone who lived through the sit-ins. The bodily risk. The spiritual commitment. A soldier-esque courage and devotion to the greater good.

Requiring the ASVAB only furthers the pattern and national bias that the military is the only legitimate response to conflict.

If we are courageous enough to enlist as soldiers, then let us be equally courageous to talk, think and consider peace-making in new ways.

And hopefully, you and I can listen to each other on how best to do this.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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nucanuck said...

What gray? You are absolutely right.

February 26, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.
TirnaNOG said...

Why not the PEACE CORPS? I agree with Mr. Cook. There are more ways to instill values, honor, self respect and respect for others and the world around you.

February 26, 2013 at 9:49 a.m.
dcook said...

Jon Ross, curriculum has been done. I've written it, so have 100s of others. I'll loan you one of the core texts if you'd like to read it.

February 26, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.
raygunz said...

JonRoss,I was not aware that any of the places you mention, Tehran, Beijing, Havana, Pyongyang, Damascus, Cairo, were EVER considered or referred to as "bastions of freedom".??

February 26, 2013 at 10:34 a.m.
dcook said...

Jon Ross, my name is David. Feel free to call me that. The core text is not online; it is an actual hold-in-your-hands book, and I would gladly loan you one of my extra copies. But with one condition: you've got to read it, and then have a sit down conversation about what you thought of it. Deal?

February 26, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
TirnaNOG said...

JonRoss, may I suggest you watch Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States" showtime. And also read, "Kill anything that moves" by Nick Turse

See: America's Spiritual Death

The Industrial War Complex and America's thirst for war, killings, revenge didn't start under President Obama.

here are a few excerpts:

First, by its depiction of the millions of lives the U.S. Executive Branch has ruined all over the world. This includes over 21 million -- officially estimated -- killed, wounded and made homeless in Indochina and Iraq alone, bring back the most painful memories of my life: my interviews with over 1,000 Lao refugees who reported seeing beloved parents, spouses and children burned alive, buried alive, and shredded to pieces by years of secret, illegal and inhuman U.S. Executive Branch bombing. U.S. leaders waged aggressive war, killing over 3.4 million Vietnamese according to former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and hundreds of thousands more Laotians and Cambodians. The U.S. has never apologized for doing so, let alone cleaned up its tens of millions of unexploded bombs and environmental poisons which continue to kill, wound and deform tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The U.S. has never even contemplated paying the reparations it still owes the Indochinese.

War is the ultimate proof that civilized man remains barbaric. Otherwise, war would have become obsolete a long time ago.

February 26, 2013 at 12:08 p.m.
Easy123 said...

I find it funny that JonRoss hasn't taken Mr. Cook up on his offer yet. He shut up very quickly!

February 26, 2013 at 4:38 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Let students opt out of taking it, and don't teach to the ASVAB--just let them take it--but no harm in taking it. I took it in '83, and never signed up. (Did OK on 10 parts, but was totally lost on the "What is this gear?" part, as I recall.) Peace studies, fine if optional, like Bible studies.

February 26, 2013 at 4:42 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"Peace studies, fine if optional, like Bible studies."

That's an oxymoron. Very little "peace" in the Bible. A lot of murder, rape, slavery, war, genocide, etc. Try letting them read Nicomachean Ethics, Ethics, or Perpetual Peace instead. I'll take Aristotle, Spinoza, and Kant over your god any day.

February 26, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
TirnaNOG said...

As a civilized society, we have a responsibility and duty to rise above the lowest thoughts and acts of inhumanity. Even when inhumane things are committed against us. Otherwise, how do we prove to the world we are humane, just, fair and civilized? tng

February 26, 2013 at 7:44 p.m.
timbo said...

Ome more thing, the military has done more for intergration than anything else.

My dad told me a story about when he was in the Korean War. The weather was bitter cold and all they had was what they had on, a wool blanket, and a pup tent. The tents held two men and when the assignments came he was bunking with a black guy. Being from rural Tennessee he was a little taken aback by this and had a real problem with it. I think the black guy felt the same way.

He said that night he became "integrated." He said before night was over, he and his new best friend were hugging trying to keep warm.

They were friend after that forever.

February 27, 2013 at 1:16 p.m.
jesse said...

I would suggest you also read "African Genesis" By Robert Ardrey

Also"The Territorial Imperative" By the same author!

Give you some insight into where mans violent nature came from!!

February 28, 2013 at 7:30 a.m.
jjmez said...

Somalia pirates weren't really pirates either. They were fighting to stop powerful rich nations from dumping radioactive materials into their waters, which they rely heavily on for food. Fishing. The radiation dumped in their fishing waters were sickening their children and causing horrible deformities and birth defects.

February 28, 2013 at 10:37 a.m.
dao1980 said...

haha, where'd JR go?

February 28, 2013 at 3:39 p.m.
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