Children’s Magazine Accused of Recruiting

Cobblestone magazine, which is geared at kids aged 9-14, has been accused by teachers of putting out an issue that seems designed as military recruitment propaganda. The publisher of the mag, Carus Publishing, denies it, and “Cobblestone's editors insist the idea for the special issue was theirs alone, though they received permission to use Army photos.”

Its latest issue features a cover photo of a soldier in Iraq clutching a machine gun and articles on what it's like to go through boot camp, a rundown of the Army's "awesome arsenal" and a detailed description of Army career opportunities.

Most controversial has been a set of classroom guides that accompany the magazine, which suggest teachers invite a soldier, Army recruiter or veteran to speak to their classes and ask students whether they might want to join the Army someday.

One of the teaching guides — written by Mary Lawson, a teacher in Saint Cloud., Fla. — suggests having students write essays pretending they are going to join the Army: "Have them decide which career they feel they would qualify for and write a paper to persuade a recruiter why that should be the career."

"Some of the teachers were like, 'Holy cow, look at this,'" said Francis Lunney, a sixth-grade English teacher in Hudson, Mass., who quickly called the publishing company to complain. He told The Boston Globe that the guides looked exactly like the official recruiting material distributed at high schools.
I wanted to see the issue for myself if I could, so I went to the website, where I found a description of the issue and a picture of the cover. To be honest, I have a hard time believing that the editors had no agenda when the cover reads “Calling all cadets.” And one teaching guide is actually more disturbing than the article suggests. Listed as an Objective of the issue is: “To develop the ability to use information effectively, form and support an opinion as well as sway the opinion of someone else,” with associated activities like:

Survey: Teacher asks for a show of hands of those who think they might want to someday join the Army

Think, Pair, Share: Students turn to their neighbor and explain their reasons to join or not join

Take a Stand!: Teacher makes the statement: The United States should reinstate the draft. Class separates into three groups- a. those that agree, b. those that disagree, c. those that aren't sure.
(The second teaching guide is here.)

Now, I’m not a parent, so take this for what it’s worth, but I’m not remotely convinced much of this material is appropriate for every 9-year-old in the first place, even if there weren’t the suggestion of an agenda. I think there’s a big difference between the way war and the military is spoken about in military families and the way they are spoken about in non-military families, which is not to suggest that either is right or wrong, but just that there are many children who are probably not prepared to engage a discussion about the army’s “awesome arsenal” or debate a contrarian position to “Duty, Honor, Country” at such a young age. Suffice it to say, I’m glad some teachers raised the flag on this one.

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