Wacky Mommy vs. Starbase, or Why It’s Wrong for Portland Public Schools to Allow the U.S. Government to Do Military Recruitment on Any Students, But Especially 5-Year-Olds

9:22 pm

Awww, does my headline say it all? I believe it does.

Have you heard about Starbase?

From their website:

STARBASE Portland is designed for students Kindergarten through 12th grade.

The goal of the STARBASE Portland Program is to raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in math, science, and technology by exposing them to the technological environment and positive role models found on military bases and installations.

The STARBASE Portland Program curriculum provides 25 classroom contact hours of instruction spread over 5 days. All STARBASE classroom contact hours take place on the Portland Air National Guard Base or Jackson Army National Guard Armory.

PPS parent Cindy Young has heard of Starbase. I have, too. The fifth-graders at my kids’ school know about it now. You know who’s high on it? My children’s principal and, it would appear, their teachers. I am not high on it. I am wholeheartedly against it. I am against it with my whole, hippie, radical left-leaning, socialist feminist heart. We are pacifists at my house, that’s why. You think I’m cool with my kid “playing war” at a military base? Excuse me, but have we met? I’m Nancy. I do not care for war games and a whitewashed introduction to death. C’mere, so I can smack you upside the head. (I am a pacifist; I never said I don’t have a temper. My mama did not raise a fool.)

Instead of “at-risk youth,” as Starbase so patronizingly calls our students, I would like to suggest that they go for some “transparency” and say “cannon fodder,” ie…

“We need more poor kids for cannon fodder because the wars we have been fighting for… well, let me think… your parents’ entire lives, your entire life and your children’s entire lives, too, aren’t going that well.”

You know what comes to mind? That old saying:

“Join the Army; travel to strange, exotic lands; meet interesting people; and kill them.”

My daughter, “That’s horrible!”
Me, “That’s the military.”

PPS is down with military recruitment, we already knew this. And they don’t have any qualms about starting awfully young. That website, it says “kindergarten through 12th grade,” does it not? Five? Age five. Ages five through eighteen. How convenient.

Here is an article that my colleague Anne Trudeau wrote for the Southeast Examiner, Sept. 2005.

September 2005 Southeast Examiner

William Ramirez was a junior at Franklin High school when he was approached by the Army recruiters who visited there regularly. Annette Pritchard, Ramirez’s aunt, holds up a photograph of nineteen year old William that was found in his belongings after he was killed in Baghdad on February 19, 2004.

“The recruiters became his best friends. They told him that they only took high school graduates. Even after he dropped out of high school, they said he could be an architect or an engineer.”

William served a year in Afghanistan and then went to Iraq. As a member of the 2nd Armored Calvary Division, William was working night patrols in the city of Baghdad. His job was to illuminate targets.

His aunt gazes at the photo of the young man wearing goggles and a helmet. “He was always so shy. We were surprised he looked straight at the camera here. But he still looks scared.”

Spurred on by William’s death, Annette is determined to present another side to the military recruiter’s promises of rewarding career opportunities. Speaking before several dozen people at an August anti-military recruiting workshop in Portland, she lists the subtle and not-so-subtle tactics the military uses to appeal to youth as young as 12 years old. Rock climbing walls at county fairs, military sponsored concerts, the Rose Festival Fleet, and military air shows are all paid for out of the military’s recruiting budget.
“They landed a military helicopter on the playing field of my son’s middle school as a reward for phone cards the students had collected for military personnel.” Annette recalls. Parents were not notified, and attendance was required. Pritchard questioned the motives of this expensive event which cost far more than the money the children raised for phone cards.
Recruiters for the military are common sights in local high schools. The No Child Left Behind Act contains a provision that requires public high schools to hand over the private contact information of students to military recruiters. By September 30, the names of thousands of Portland high schoolers will be given to the military and the private firm that is creating a database to aid in their recruitment efforts.

But students can “opt out” by filling out a form that prevents their private information from being released to the military’s list. Even students who have signed up for the military under the Delayed Entry Program can change their status by notifying the recruiting station Commander.

Members of the Portland Anti-Military Recruiting Coalition will be handing out leaflets at Franklin, Cleveland and other high schools around the city letting students know they have the right to opt out. Annette Pritchard will continue her work with Military Families Speak Out. She wants to talk to every high school student she can, to let them know that there is more to the recruiter’s pitch than meets the eye.

Leave My Child Alone Coalition
Portland Anti-Military Coalition
Military Families Speak Out
The Military and Draft Counseling Project 503-238-0605

–Anne Trudeau

Rest in peace, my brother. And peace to your family. Peace, peace, peace. I will never grow tired of that word. Peace.

Do you really think that I feel like talking about private matters at my children’s school? With their teachers? Their principal? The other parents? I don’t. Sex, religion and politics are all private, and frankly, it’s no one’s business how I vote, where I donate money, or where I stand on a particular issue. It is still, I believe, a free country, and I don’t like the pressure of having to explain to everyone why I feel the way I do.

It feels like looking down the barrel of a gun to me.

OK, you want to know why we’re opting out of Starbase? I’ll tell you why again and I will say it with pride: We are pacifists at my house. I think it’s a load of crap that our government spends billions of dollars killing mamas, daddies, their babies, grandparents, neighbors, friends, entire communities, in the name of stopping terror. But we can’t seem to get anyone, locally, nationally or internationally, fed or given proper medical care. Jobs would be good. Work and food and clean water and decent healthcare would be a good start. Science, art and music in the schools would just rock, too, wouldn’t it? But that doesn’t seem to be happening, does it?

So who’s terrorizing who, bitch?

I had heard of Starbase, but for my family it came up last school year. The kids are excited — they’ve heard you get to blow things up. Like in video games. The principal is excited, too. “It’s really cool, and they get to blow up rockets.” My daughter called bullshit and said she wasn’t going. I love my girl. Here is the e-mail I sent last spring to my children’s principal and my daughter’s 4th grade teacher:

Dear Mr. — and Mr. —,

Imagine my shock to be told — not asked, but told — that my daughter and her fellow classmates will take part in five full days of Starbase next year.

1) Our country is at war. Having our children go to a military base, while our country is at war, is not a safe or wise decision. That alone is reason enough to cancel the program.

2) I am wondering, as I spend a large portion of my time this year telling my daughter, I’m sorry, but you have to take another test, yes, I know you hate tests, and No, you’re not going to flunk fourth grade if you don’t score high — I am wondering why on earth we would devote five full days of curriculum to military indoctrination? (Because that is what it is. It’s the first steps on the road to recruitment.)

3)I am wondering, at a time when we parents are being told how “stuffed” the curriculum is, how you can justify them missing five days of school?

4) I’m asking you to cancel our school’s participation in the Starbase program.

5) I am doing this because it goes against everything I am teaching my children about “lifeskills,” and “conflict resolution” and “peace and respect.” I am asking you in remembrance of my late friend, David Johnson, who was killed in Iraq. I wrote about him here:

“He was a nice guy, you would have liked him. Very easygoing. Wanted to please. He was pretty shy. His family declined to be interviewed by the Army. The governor said, “He did not die in vain.” No, he died because he signed up to be a cook and ended up working as a machine gunner. God rest his soul, and peace to his family and those who loved him.”

In case you are missing my point: You will remember, please, that our country is at war. You will remember that our country is short on soldiers and that is why the government is happy to foot the bill for field trips like these, in order to send the kids a message that the military is “fun” (math games! science! and we’ll help pay for college!).

In case you have never noticed: The government is especially fond of recruiting at schools with high poverty rates, where brown, black, and poor whites attend school. They target children who think they have no options in life besides joining the military. The government needs more cannon fodder.

You will remember America is responsible for the deaths of at least 723,206 people who have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates. Most recent update: January 25, 2009. (Edited to say: At least 849,845 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimate, according to numbers posted Dec. 29, 2009.)

Thus far, 4,197 Americans have died in the Iraq war.

Here is the Willamette Week story about the Winterhaven parents’ protest of Starbase.

And, from the Neighborhood Schools Alliance site.

They requested that PPS “Pull the plug on Starbase — stealth military recruiting of PPS elementary students. NSA leader Cindy Young and fellow Winterhaven parents recently testified to the School Board regarding this Department of Defense-funded program in which elementary-aged PPS students spend 5 days at a military base learning about science and technology, but also being subtly groomed for future military recruitment. This program is not mentioned on the PPS website. There has been no Board or public oversight of Starbase at any time since the program’s introduction in Portland back in 1993. NSA calls on the School Board to launch an immediate investigation into this inappropriate and possibly illegal program.”

I will bring in political allies and the media on this if needed.


Nancy Rawley

(Edited to say: You can find Starbase mentioned on the PPS site now, here and there. It is described as a “science program” and the mentions are along the lines of calendar items — which schools are taking part in the program.) Last year, my daughter’s school promised that they would offer “non-military alternate programming” at the school for students who did not want to or could not participate in the Starbase program. The Oregon Peace Institute and some of the staff at Portland State University said they would be happy to lend a hand, but that didn’t get a warm response from PPS.

Now I am being told that my daughter and whoever else protests can go “sit in someone else’s classroom” for the five days their peers are playing war games. No, we’ll figure something else out, thanks.

By the way… reportedly five PPS employees are being paid by the U.S. military to “administer” the Starbase program. That money would pay for a whole lot of microscopes and science supplies, wouldn’t it? Maybe even some staff? But then the military would be short a few bodies, and we couldn’t have that.

Peace. And I mean that, with all my heart.

– Wacky Mommy

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Nancy Rawley was co-publisher of PPS Equity. She blogs regularly at Wacky Mommy.

filed under: Community, Demographics, Military Recruiting, National, No Child Left Behind, Parental Involvement, Race

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67 Responses

  1. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    I sure would like to know who the employees are–the ones being paid by the military? Some of the saavy folks who seem to have an “inside” connection might be able to find out. Sure would like to see WW or the Trib pick up on this—most teachers don’t even know this is going on. Keep speaking up, Wacky—don’t let this issue sleep!

  2. Comment from marcia:

    I have a big peace sign up on the wall in my classroom made out of student handprints..Your kids can come sit in my classroom..at Astor..wtf

  3. Comment from marcia:

    the goal is….making some cannon fodder

  4. Comment from WackyMummy:

    You tell them, WackyMommy. Damn fascists!

  5. Comment from mom of a kindergartener:

    Yuck! I had never heard of this. Can we find out which schools in Portland are participating in Starbase? Doesn’t sound like somethng that I want my kiddo participating in, either.

  6. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Ms. Merry Sunshine, I’d like to know, too; Marcia, I love the peace sign idea, and thank you; Wacky Mummy, awww, you peace-lovin’ Canadians…; Mom of a Kinder, check PPS’s website for names and ask your children’s principal if their school participates.

  7. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    The 09/10 PPS org chart lists Starbase as a district-wide program under Charles Hopson. http://www.pps.k12.or.us/files....._Chart.pdf

  8. Comment from Anne Trudeau:


    article about the Winterhaven parents who organized vs. Starbase in O6.

    Keep up the good fight. Starbase is a national program.

    In case anyone tries to deny that Starbase is a recruiting program, please note that the military is very straight up about it. Starbase funds come out of their recruiting budget.

    PPS admin. says they have to do this because they have so little money for science classes. This then is a side effect of refusing to tax corporations in this state. Measure 67 will only begin to address that.

  9. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    @mom of a kindergartner: My understanding is that all schools participate, just not every year. I think they stagger it so the military gets access to all students.

    Here’s this year’s schedule, which includes Rosa Parks, Humboldt, Laurelhurst, Grout, Bridger, Faubion, Markham, Peninsula, Marysville, Woodstock, James John, Irvington, Buckman, Lee, Whitman, Rigler, Beverly Cleary and Arleta.

  10. Comment from Rita:

    As I recall from the Winterhaven kerfuffle, not all schools within PPS participate. As I understand it, Starbase is available to all schools, but the individual school has to apply. Once part of the program, the school then goes on to a schedule of participating every two years.

    I encourage everyone to look at the Starbase website. Regardless of the disclaimers, the ultimate intent is to lay the groundwork for recruitment and that is clearly stated in some of the reports written by the Starbase program to justify the budget item. I would argue it also serves as part of the larger effort to militarize the society in general. It’s not by accident that nobody would even consider freezing the military budget.

    In 2006 when the Winterhaven parents made a stink about this, it became clear that the Board members were unaware of this program and appeared to be surprised, some even troubled. But ultimately nothing changed, so here we are 4 years later.

  11. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    PPS administration dismantles effective programs but leaves this harmful one intact. It looks like it’s their Pathways program for some kids.

  12. Comment from Steve Buel:

    This has gotta be in the top 5 stupidist things PPS has ever done. And it is a tough list to get on. Geez.

  13. Comment from Steve Buel:

    It is also one of the 5 most stupid things PPS has ever done.

  14. Comment from marcia:

    I cannot imagine our school participating without a great deal of protest from staff and students.

  15. Comment from marcia:

    oops..and also parents.

  16. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Marcia, about half of the parents at my children’s school are too hip for the room, so they can be dismissive of just about anything. “Oh, is that not granola enough for you?” and comments like that. When I talked with some of them about our opposition to Starbase, a few said they thought it was “great” for the kids to experience the military up close, and that they are more “open-minded” than we are.”

    Hmm. Rebelling by being down with the military, that’s a new twist.

    One of the moms also told me that “if they’re just going to end up in jail anyway, why not have them join the military?”

    Just spotted a headline in the paper today — “Young scientists programmed for greatness,” about two Catlin Gabel seniors who are finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search. If you attend Catlin, or one of the “better” schools, you are destined for greatness. If not, eh, too bad for you, kid.

    I agree with Carrie — if one doesn’t consider poor white, brown and black students to be “programmed for greatness,” if they’re just going to “end up” dead or incarcerated, then why not shove them into the military as a “Career Pathway”? What a great kindness you are bestowing on them.

    Besides, there is less competition for your own kids, that way. We’ve gone from being a nation founded on slavery to being a nation that counts on indentured servitude and incarceration.

  17. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Wacky Mommy, maybe it’s not necessary but I want to make a clarification on how we agree. We’re suggesting that PPS staff track certain populations into Starbase because of their low expectations of the children. Neither of us view that as acceptable.

    How is Starbase funded? Is it a grant? Has anyone already looked into this? If not and it is grant funded, someone might want to read the grant. What are the requirements and objectives? What do the annual reports back say about the success of the program?

    The Inspector General’s Office can be a good resource for research. A quick search showed 109 results for Starbase. Here’s the link: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offic.....ports.html

  18. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Wow, THE MILITARY AS A “CAREER PATHWAY” IN THE PPS, good idea! Light bulb moment, PPS, are ya listening? Perhaps they can do a “focus” school with that theme. Always been an option for the have-nots….so why not?

  19. Comment from Rita:

    The Winterhaven parents did quite a lot of work on this in 2006. I’m sure that material has been archived somewhere. I can put folks in touch with the WH rabble rousers if you want to pursue this. Let me know, either here or offline.

    As I recall, it’s not a grant, exactly. It’s a freebie program offered to school districts by DoD. Districts have to apply for it and then individual schools have to apply, but as far as I know, there are no costs to the District. In fact, it ends up freeing up teachers for up to five days (depending on whether the teacher wants to accompany the kids), since the kids are at Starbase all day.

  20. Comment from mamatoo:

    I love that you’re willing to speak your mind, and that you allow for disagreement. However, you heard my comparison earlier – I think there are times that parents have to step in and say, “nope, that’s not the values/perspective/ideology I want taught to my child.” When we say “no,” we often must choose to remove our child from the masses – just ask any parent who has asked to be excused from a sex ed class or science/biology lab (and also consider the public mocking and “uncool” humiliation they & their child choose to enter in that choice). Other times, we make sweeping change that affects everyone.
    On the topic of $$, I have to say that I’m thankful some of the DOD budget goes to doing things like science, math, etc. enrichment in schools, as they do get a lot of funding & it seems wise to share some of that if it benefits & compliments education. I do think there are many careers that are military-related that don’t involve killing people. We’d be silly to think that every person going into military service is going to die killing babies.
    As for the spin on recruiting in poor schools, I think there’s some reason to look into that. That said, one of the most active ROTC clubs I’ve ever seen was in a very upscale, wealthy neighborhood high school in a suburb of a wealthy city. I think we’re all wise to show caution, choose for our children before always thinking the worst of others, including those who serve the country (whether politicians or military)…
    as I said, i always appreciate your respect & friendship.

  21. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Nancy, I also agree with you in that I wouldn’t want my kids (no longer kids) to be exposed to Starbase during the school day. The math and science skills taught during that 5 day period of time could be obtained in a healthier setting.

    In case there’s any doubt about the goal or target audience (captive, Id’ say) of this military campaign, check out this link:



  22. Comment from Bonnie Robb:

    Keep in mind that there is a five day science opportunity for students in our district- it is called Outdoor School. The sad thing is that this hands on, nature based proven science program is constantly on the chopping block.
    Money talks.

  23. Comment from Joe Hill:

    This is beyond appalling.

  24. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Carrie, I went to the site, and it scares the crap outta me that this obvious military recruitement tool was bought hook, line, sinker by the district. Words can’t express disgust. Military recruitment at the lowest. Parents just have to stay on this!!! AND SQUAWK LIKE CRAZY!!!

  25. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Miss Merry Sunshine, we carried a coffin into one of the last school board protests that I took part in. Nobody was kidding.

    If Starbase is so good for kids why aren’t kids from wealthier schools participating? Since when have they been deprived of enrichment activities?

  26. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    My daughter said some of the kids in her class are excited about Starbase (it is, by all accounts, a “fun” program — or “science camp,” as the district calls it), but that she would prefer not to go.

    She told me, “They (the kids) said it’s like those video games, where you kill people. They like watching people die.”

    I told her, Video games are pretend. If they saw someone die in real life they might not like that so much.

  27. Comment from AET:

    This is paid for out of the US military recruiting budget, Dept of Defense. That would be our tax dollars going to soften our elementary school kids up and prepping them to be in the military.
    So you cannot bring weapons to school but you can go to a military base and see lots of weapons. It actually violates PPS policy of zero tolerance for weapons in the learning environment. In fact, weaponry IS the learning environment.
    In O6 the National Guard donated vehicles for the Jefferson Homecoming parade.The army landed a helicopter at an Oregon City school. If you think they are doing this to be nice you better think again. They need bodies for their cause and they know this pays off.
    Ask the families those students like William Ramirez and Travis Bradrach what they think of recruiters in the schools now. Check out MFSO Oregon. http://www.mfso-oregon.org

  28. Pingback from Why is PPS Partnering with the Department of Defense to Racially Profile Kindergarten to 5th Grade Students? — Cheating in Class:

    [...] when I think PPS can’t do anything more despicable to poor kids, I learn about something new.  The most appalling thing is that Starbase isn’t new to PPS or the superintendent and [...]

  29. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    The hypocrisy in this issue is unreal. AET is right about zero tolerance policies. Nationwide little kids are being suspended and expelled for bringing things like kitchen utensils to school.

    What other careers are poor kids being exposed to?

    There’s a shortage of teachers of color. What has PPS done to correct that? Have they brought in teachers of color to talk with kids about going into education? Do they have a 20 hour program to address the diversity issue? No.

  30. Comment from Clarity:

    Wacky is right. Seriously have you seen the curriculum? It is not pro military down the thoughts of elementary kids. It is rich engaging science curriculum based on energy, aeronautics, engineering, flight. I have a student handbook in front of me as I type. 50+ pages and not a single one about military, killing, travel, etc. This is a fantastic program that engages kids in science science and engineering. Kids experiment with paper airplanes and egg drops not missiles and bombs. Really people need to learn more about the program before condemning it because it is on a military base.

  31. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    “Clarity,” I appreciate your moniker, and your saying I am right (when what I think you meant, perhaps, was “You’re wrong, and you’ve been wrong for a long time.” But perhaps I am wrong on that.) Anyway. What is “pro-military down the thoughts of elementary kids,” eggsactly?

  32. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Clarity, I love it. Paper airplanes and egg drops. Guess they won’t let them play yet with the real jets and bombs. Just a matter of time though.

    How about the military just give the money this costs to science programs throughout the district. After all, if the main idea is to just help these poor children learn science…

    Hey, we need a strong military — but isn’t this a little overkill?

  33. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Hey, I just thought of a better idea. Let’s take the money we are spending on Iraq and Afganistan and give it to the schools.

  34. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Buel, thank you. And now, for some scintillating Saturday night reading…

    From the index to the school board minutes, dated 1/2/2009, under the “purchases/bids/contracts” section…


    Contractor: State of Oregon Military Department

    Contract Term: 10/01/08 through 06/30/09

    Contract Type: IGA/R 56466

    Description of Services: District-wide Implementation of the Science Technology Academics Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (“STARBASE”) program to increase at-risk students’ awareness of math and science in the work environment.

    Fund, Department, Grant/Project
    Contract Amount: Fund 205 Dept. 9999 Grant G0940

    Responsible Administrator: H. Adair

    PPS, just say no to war games and military bases.

  35. Comment from Clarity:

    Look at the curriculum. Know what you are talking about. That’s all I’m saying. Perhaps some of you do. But from the comments, I doubting it is many of you.

  36. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Clarity, I am willing to bet nobody is arguing with the curriculum — probably pretty good. Heaven knows we need more science in PPS, particularly in the elementary grades. The argument is with having very young children get acclimated to the military — in essence beginning recruitment in the 5th grade. If you doubt the intent, then look at the following quote which I will repost for you which I got from the Starbase website. Major General Thomas Cutler: “We are exceptionally proud of our Michigan DoD STARBASE Program. It provides great opportunities for our young people. The synergy between Selfridge ANGB and our DoD STARBASE opens young peoples’ minds to the military — its past, present, and future.”

    End of argument?

  37. Comment from WH Moonbat:

    I was one of the parents who decided to pull our kids from Winterhaven during the Starbase program 3 years ago. To this date every person I educate about the program, whether a parent or not is shocked about the program. There are some parents who had kids participate but didn’t pay enough attention at the time because they trusted the school or teacher. This is not about trust it is a strong example of the need to decide for yourself. My son’s teacher at the time is one of the best teachers he will ever have but he saw it as an opportunity for more hands on science for his classroom. An opportunity he was thrilled to offer.
    We did do a lot of research and even came up with some plans to organize and protest. There were only a few of us who wanted to organize and we ran out of time and energy but I know we are all deeply concerned about the program for all pps students and nationally. I will say that though there were only 12 kids from 11 families it caused enough noise that I don’t think Winterhaven would have been allowed to continue.

    I am happy to talk to anyone about this off the public post. I work in higher ed and can speak my mind but choose to be cautious. The media last time became much more than I was comfortable with for my kids and the other ones involved.

  38. Comment from Ken:

    WH Moonbat,
    I’d love to talk to you about this off the public post – can you contact me at KennethLibby06@gmail.com? And, for that matter, I’d love to hear from anyone else with direct experience with the program.
    -Ken Libby

  39. Comment from Rita:

    Clarity, I appreciate your pushback. To echo WH Moonbat, I was somewhat involved in the 2006 protest of Starbase at Winterhaven, and I can assure you that we looked thoroughly at the curriculum. But we also looked at the stated intention of the whole program. To my mind, they cannot be separated.

    It is true that the curriculum is good, in fact, the kind of hands-on science experiences that all our students should be getting on a regular basis (but don’t). But it does not appear to me that the concepts and activities require that the program happen at a military base. Which makes me think that there is some other reason to locate the program there. My suspicions are confirmed when I look at the stated intention of the program to be a recruitment tool, targeted specifically at “at-risk” students.

    So as much as I am in favor of students getting science & tech, I object to the fact that the price they have to pay to get it the is subtle, but unmistakable recruitment by the military.

    I’m not naive. We need a military. And I am grateful to those who make personal sacrifices to provide for our national defense. And I know that the military has historically been a progressive force in some ways, particularly in promoting civil rights for minorities and women. I applaud them for that. But I also know that the military is deeply exploitative and, flag-waving notwithstanding, does not take very good care of its people, at least not the lower ranks which make up the bulk of its labor. Just the kinds of “at risk” students that Starbase targets.

    We have recently become aware of deceptive recruitment practices employed by the military to lure in trusting young people, but this has been going on for decades. Starbase is just a way to groom kids early.

    More broadly, I object in principle to the military being the conduit for government initiatives of all kinds. If the feds want to support science and tech education — which I would encourage — why do it through DoD instead of the Dept. of Education or the Dept. of Energy? Why does it have to be pitched toward military uses?

    To anticipate your answer, yeah, I know that they put all kinds of stuff under the DOD rubric because that’s the only way to ensure actual funding, since every other Dept. — esp. Education — is always on the chopping block. So my question is: why is that? Why do we as a society always begrudge expenditures for positive, productive endeavors, but throw boatloads of money at anything related to the military? Why is DOD always given a free pass without ANY scrutiny even after ample evidence of massive inefficiences, mismanagement, and procurement practices that anywhere else would rightfully be labelled corrupt?

    My objection to Starbase is that it is part of a larger militarization of society that continues to distort our economy, our society, and our national psyche to the detriment of every citizen and, in fact, the rest of the world.

    My objection is that Starbase is yet more evidence that the military-industrial complex is alive and well — and living in the 4th grade.

  40. Comment from marcia:

    I am sure it is a wonderful curriculum….but the goal is still to create more cannon fodder.

  41. Comment from Rita:

    For those of you interested, the Board will be voting Monday night to approve a $325,000 contract for PPS participation in the Starbase program.

  42. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Thank you, Rita.

  43. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    The school board has postponed voting on the contract for at least two weeks.

  44. Comment from Anne Trudeau:

    We put out a press release at 6am about our opposition to the Starbase program. By 2pm the vote was canceled and is now rescheduled.

    Let’s keep up the pressure, keep exposing Starbase for what it is: a military recruiting program that targets poor Black and Brown kids.

    Check out this quote from the Starbase Portland site:

    STARBASE Portland was one of the original STARBASE locations in 1993. Due to limited classroom space on the Portland Air National Guard Base, the first classroom was located at the Oregon Army National Guard Jackson Armory adjacent to the Base. For many years STARBASE Portland operated with one teacher and one classroom. During the 2000 – 2001 school year, the program expanded to include a second teacher. The next school year (2001-2002) the Portland Air National Guard Base approved a second STARBASE classroom, this one located on the base, in building 494. The second classroom allowed STARBASE Portland to increase the number of students that could attend our program. We added a third STARBASE teaching position for the 2003-2004 school year. We look for further growth in the coming years. The STARBASE Portland future looks bright!

    Thank you Carrie Adams and Nancy Rawley for blogging about this issue. I’m not stopping until Starbase is out of PPS. Anyone else care to join us?

  45. Comment from Rita:

    Nicely done. Congratulations!

  46. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    You go, Anne Trudeau!

  47. Pingback from The STARBASE Conspiracy « Community Survival:

    [...] at the wealthy districts have their own non-military enrichment programs.) The PPS Equity post is Here. It rambles a bit, but gives the basic facts. But I have turned up even more info, and [...]

  48. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    OK, play nice, no name calling, please. Especially when it involves me. (My post, my rules.) I ramble? Tell me something I don’t already know, baby.

    Rita, no congrats, yet, we have a long way to go to bring peace on earth.

  49. Comment from Rita:

    Oh, so we’re going for peace on earth now? No pressure or anything.

    Actually, I think congratulations are in order. Celebrate the little victories and keep working for the big ones. Words to live by. (Not that I do, mind you.)

  50. Comment from Jody Sharp:

    I think this can be read into in a bad way. Yes, it does seem like a bad idea, the idea of a military base training young kids is terrible.

    But I also have a voice of experience. I wen to Starbase while in 5th grade, and It left no military impulses on me. Yes, it was on a military base, but we learned about science. We did not blow things up. We made pop rockets out of backing powder and vinager to learn abot chemicals and how gravity works (the pop rocket went up and came down.)

    Also remember it is not the teachers fault of our governments decisions. They teach science. I am not pro military, and I wasn’t before.

    Yes, I did see a couple of military personel, and one of them talked to us about flying. It made me realize that these military memebers are humans, and we should respect their decision to choose their career, just like we respect wacky mommy for writing this.

  51. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Jody, just because you didn’t join up doesn’t mean that other students haven’t been influenced by military recruiters. We know that many have, and many have paid for it with their lives.

    ps — the U.S. military doesn’t let you blow things up right away, that comes later, after you sign up, get some training, get a gun, etc. The earlier stuff is just practice.

    My question now for the district is this: Are they releasing confidential student information to the military? We haven’t received any “opt-out” type forms from our kids’ school. In fact, we haven’t received any literature/flyers on the program at all, and it is scheduled for five full days in April. The only reasons I know the dates are because I asked the school for them. It took three requests before they e-mailed them to me.

  52. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    I mean confidential info on younger kids — we know that info is released on high school seniors.

  53. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    item on Blogtown blog, thanks Stefan.


  54. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    we’ve also heard from KBOO, OPB, KATU (ABC), Fox News, Portland Alliance… hmm. I guess other people aren’t cool with this, either. or at least they want to know more.


    – wm

  55. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Well, well…went to the blog, and maybe, just maybe the board is actually going to debate the validity of this program? Too bad there seems to be such a vacuum of PUBLIC debate with this board …I kinda miss the days of Ron Saxton vs. Derry Jackson…..

    Looking forward to hearing some actual debate and that OVERUSED word a la Hurricane Vicki: “conversation”. Starbase needs a vigorous debate and more than one board session, IMHO.

  56. Comment from Truth:

    For those condemning the Starbase program, have you spent any time experiencing the program firsthand? I suggest that you spend some real time at the program, with the students and teachers, before forming your opinions. You might be surprised. I live a very liberal state/community. Over 16,000 students have completed the Starbase program in this very liberal state/community, and there are no complaints from parents, teachers, students or anyone else. That is the truth. If you experience Starbase for yourself you will see. Please seek the facts before making judgements. Thank you.

  57. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Here are the facts I’m seeking.

    I’m sure the curriculum is great, and I’m sure the recruitment is so subtle as to be invisible to the casual observer.

  58. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Truth, maybe they’ve tried complaining and they’ve been told to shut up. When I send e-mails to my children’s principal now in regards to this program, he is having his public information officer (who is spinning things and also being rude) respond.

    The principal is also cc’ing PPS legal counsel. The message that sends to me is: Shut up.

    I’m not saying that the program isn’t fun or educational. I’m not saying it is “overt” recruitment. But the money does come from the military recruitment budget.

    Are you saying the military “claims” to be spending that budget on what it is earmarked for — recruitment of new soldiers — but isn’t “really” spending the money on that?

    I’m surprised they don’t load the kids up with hot cocoa, a buffet lunch, and then send them home with a free puppy.

    You’re missing my point, entirely. I don’t like it when people go stealth. I’m telling you up front who I am, and you are not telling me one thing about yourself. I am a pacifist, a mother of 2 who lives in Portland, Oregon, who is saying that it is immoral for our school district to accept $320,000, then hand over our students.

  59. Comment from JT in the Army:

    Wacky- I grew up in Iowa and moved to Portland about a year before deploying with the unit out of Jackson Armory, home of one of the STARBASE classes. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of having this take place at PANG or Jackson.

    Have the concerned parties begun looking at replacement programs?

    It seems to me that if the focus is on math, science and engineering and on space exploration that there should be some way to bring a program to OMSI.
    When I was in junior high, the Science Center of Iowa had a mock space station where students would need to use math and science skills to enter answers for the “space station computer” to perform tasks on simulated missions. Before visiting, our class learned more on the history of the US Space Program and had activities in science and math that were based on the space program.

    NASA has multitudes of education programs that they fund and run, and also provides education grants across the nation.

    What about the Oregon Space Grant Consortium, would they be able to help OMSI structure a replacement program? http://spacegrant.oregonstate.edu/k12.html

  60. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    WACKY MOMMY–The emails you send to your principal are cc’d to the PPS lawyers? Oh, brother!!! That takes some nerve to send a covert threat to you!? Some administrator….ooh, are ya scared???? NOT!

  61. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    JT, I love that you shared your perspective and offered solutions. Can you talk about why you’re not a fan of the Starbase classes being held at PANG?

  62. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    JT — OK, we love Iowa around here, thank you. Be well, more later.

  63. Comment from Truth:

    I’m just a concerned and committed parent like you. My child attended Starbase, and I experienced the program with her. That is why I’m not concerned about the purpose or intent of the program. It’s about education, particularly STEM education, that inspires kids in a very positive way. There’s no recruitment going on at Starbase. I appreciate your concerns, but they simply don’t jive with the experience of those who’ve actually had children participate in the program. We love Starbase.

  64. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Truth, go for it. Prove your love, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Enlist.

    I’ve never said it’s overt recruitment. They’re just getting kids used to the idea. Did you take the survey they hand out at the end of Starbase, that asked questions like, Do you find military bases fun? Did you enjoy spending time on a military base?

    Our country is currently at war with two countries — Iraq and Afghanistan. You think it’s safe for kids and civilians to be roaming around military bases?

  65. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Good one, Wacky!

    Truth, don’t you have any doubt about the military involvement in education??? Seems if you look at world history where it happened, not exactly a path I’d want to repeat!

  66. Comment from mamatoo:

    Every election year, people talk about our education being critical to our national defense. More highly educated citizens = less potential for war + less lethal fighting when we have international conflict. Then, we see things like “it’s a tight economy” and everything gets cut except defense.

    So, why not put our money where our mouth is? If DoF money is going to education of kids, with hopes to recruit young Americans to get excited about science & math and study it with vigor, HOORAY!!!

    Change in defense has to start somewhere. Let’s not assume they’re hoping kids will fight like we do – maybe they’re hoping (and putting funding into education so that) kids will outsmart, outwit, and outlast the enemies of the future! :-)

  67. Comment from Steve Buel:

    How silly, Wacky Mommy, you think some wacko is going to shoot up a military base in this country? How absurd — oh, wait, that happened a couple of months ago didn’t it, sorry.