November 30th of 2010 was a good day. In many a way. First of all, from the beginning, the day was sunny and bright and it ran smoothly and ever so mellow save a few brief moments later that night.
The goodness got going for me about four that afternoon when I picked up some delightful young friends of mine, students at Mission Bay High, who needed a ride to a Board of Education meeting that was to start at about five. Across town, students were being picked up at Lincoln High.
We were all so alive, filled with hope that our work, a proposal that would regulate recruiting activities on school campuses, would become an official policy in San Diego City Schools before the day was over.
What we crafted was designed to ensure that district students have balanced access to information about the range of educational and career options available to them so they can make informed decisions. Our intent was also to establish recruiter conduct guidelines to protect student confidentiality and preserve the custodial rights of parents and legal guardians.
Our campaign was motivated by the reality that colleges and universities and trade schools and employers and the like very rarely visit our high schools but military recruiters, in far too many instances cruise our campuses, undisturbed, day after day.
And when the kids stood at the mike and delivered they were absolutely wonderful, so poised and unafraid, so passionate and eloquent, so righteous without being holier than thou in all they had to say.
They shared their frustrations at the military coming on their campuses soliciting personal information like their ethnicity and their social security numbers and addresses and telephone numbers – dazzling them at special assemblies with sky diving shows and hands on arms exhibits. They made it clear that they don’t appreciate the attempts to sign them up through gifts like military name tags. They spoke of friends who had been harassed by the military with phone calls to their homes. They particularly expressed their wish for more courses like the A-G classes that prepare them for college.
And when they were done, board member, Katherine Nakumura, rather than congratulate them on how exquisite they made their case as picture book role models of how Americans should conduct themselves in pursuits of justice, admonished them with trash talk about how she’s not concerned about military recruiters. No, Uncle Sam and his all out attempts to sign our children up to fight his illegal wars doesn’t bother her. The military’s homophobia doesn’t make her go “Hmmm, maybe I should do something.” She then introduced us, via a power point presentation, to what did worry her: the pimps and ne’er do well thugs who recruit prostitutes and gang bangers at our schools and drug killings in Mexico. Looking at charts of the arrests of bitches and ho’s had us wondering what episode of Twilight Zone we were in.
Then it was board member Shelia Jackson’s turn to scold which she did with something like:
“This is a navy town and if you’re thinking about getting rid of the military you’ve got another think coming” as though the next move was to go camp out in front of the USS Midway and shout:
“Who do we want out of here?”
“And when do we want them gone?”
How insulting. I could not believe the contempt those young people were shown and just when I was about to pop my old butt up to say something and I have no clue what, board president, Richard Barrera, board vice-president, John Lee Evans, and outgoing longtime board member, John de Beck, stood up for the kids. They gave them their due, respecting their hard work and how they helped put together a recruiting policy for their school district that was fair and balanced and well thought out.
Then they voted for the “Policy on Recruiting Activities in San Diego School” to the tune of four yays along with Mrs. Nakumura’s nay. She just couldn’t bring herself to do the right thing that day which was her last one on the board, by the way.
But like I said it was a good day. A day highlighted by a handful of loving and caring sharp critically thinking young brown and black students who represent their generation ever so well, inspiring hope and giving fresh meaning to the concept of doing things the “American way.” Hey, make that a very good day.