The Cincinnati Public Schools: Military Recruitment in the Guise of College Prep?


The Cincinnati Public Schools appear to be promoting military recruitment in the guise of college preparation through a corporate program called “Making Your College Search Count.”  Students at Walnut Hills High School spent fifty minutes this week in a required assembly listening to a talk about getting into college, and though the presenter never mentioned the military, the military option was ever present.

Sponsored by the Navy, the Marines, the Army ROTC, and the National Guard, as well as by major oil companies, Halliburton, the virtual University of Phoenix, and commercial Web sites such as Monster, the program offers students tips on making the most of their college visits and help on how to choose a college.  It also asks them which military service they’d like to join — and makes it easy to find the recruiter.

The Military Option

While the program provides useful information about getting into college, students can’t help but get the message that the military can be the best route there, especially for those who need financial assistance.

Students attending the presentations receive a small booklet with four pages of military advertisements.  On one page, students see a young man in an Army ROTC t-shirt climbing a wall above the headline “Start Out Strong.”  On the facing page are questions that ask students how they might pay for college.  The suggestion seems clear enough.

The closing page of the booklet has a picture of an iPod saying: “National Guard . . . 100% College Tuition.” An asterisk on that line points out in fine print that the Guard assistance covers up to $4,500 in tuition and fees per year, though most public colleges cost at least $17,000 a year, according to the same booklet.

Since the program is presented each year to students from freshmen to seniors, there are multiple opportunities for the military services to get their message across.  The group’s Web site (at printed on nearly every page of the booklet is filled with corporate and military logos and advertisements.

Students who participated in the Making Your College Search Count dog-and-pony show at Walnut Hills this year got trinkets from the University of Phoenix and baseball caps from the U.S. Navy.

A Corporate Program

Making Your College Search Count grew out of a book by Patrick O’Brien, former brand manager for Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati-based multinational corporation.  In 1987 he prepared notes for discussions of college with his younger sister which subsequently became the outline for his book Making College Count: A Real World Look at How to Succeed in and after College published in 1987.

O’Brien’s book in turn led to the creation of the Making Your College Search Count road show sponsored by Fortune 500 corporations, among them IBM, Procter and Gamble, General Motors, PNC Bank, and Pricewaterhouse-Coopers. Making Your College Search Count has been presented to millions of students in thousands of high schools.

An oil industry ad in the booklet reads: “The People of America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry” invite students to “Make the Earth Your Office . . . and Hold the Future in Your Hands.”  Below the ad we find the logos of Shell, Chevron, BP, Halliburton, Marathon, ExxonMobil, and other corporations.

The final page asks students “What Did You Think?”  Students are asked to check a box if they want more information about the University of Phoenix, the U.S. Navy, the Army ROTC, the Marines, the National Guard, Bank of America, or careers in the oil industry.

Why Turn to Corporate Military Counseling?

Why have thousands of schools turned to a corporate-military program to advise their students about college?  Low school budgets, the failure of school levies, the lack of adequate personnel in general and of counselors in particular may be one of the reasons that schools go the corporate route.

Some public schools such as Walnut Hills have made efforts to limit military recruiting and to restrict recruiters to specific areas on campus.  A program like this turns college prep into military recruitment and into business for Bank of America.

Haliburton?  The oil companies?  The Army?  The Marines?  Don’t worry.  They’re just helping kids get into college.

Reed La Botz is a junior at Walnut Hills High School, a Cincinnati Public School.  Dan La Botz is the parent of two students who have attended Cincinnati Public Schools.  Reed is a web designer and Dan an independent scholar and writer.

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