Friday, October 27, 2006
  RightFace! Reprint
Anybody who knows me at all knows that I love my father dearly and am intensely proud of him, especially his military service. What follows is a post I made in August of 2005. I reread it the other day and feel it is worth posting again, not because of my brilliant writing but because of the example it gives of determination and initiative.

I was browsing around today, looking for something else, when I came across an article so ridiculous and ill-informed that I had to comment.

The article is a rather bland, unconvincing piece titled, "Gunning For College" by Beth Shulman. It can be found, believe it or not, at Ms. Shulman is the author of "The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans." (While I agree with the title premise, I'll bet I disagree with her on the how and why.) If you wish to read the entire article I've linked it above. I will pick and choose my "favorite" passages for comment.

Ms. Shulman opens with an emotional appeal,

"What should you have to sacrifice to get a college education in the United States? Isn't it hard enough to get good grades and high SAT scores? Should you have to risk your life as well?"
A good question. My father used his GI Bill benefits to help pay for his college education. Benefits earned, in part, during six months of front-line combat in some of the bloodiest days of the Korean War. He also bears the scars and permanent, partial disability of five combat wounds.

My father earned his GED in the Army. Since he was disabled his tuition and books were paid for via his GI Bill. He received a living allowance of $200 per month. My father completed his Bachelor's Degree in just three years. Because of his high grades, his fourth year was credited to his Master's Degree in Education Administration, which he completed in only five summers. During that time he was asked to do his Master's thesis on "A Comparison of the Legal Requirements for Teachers in Texas and the Other States." It became part of part of the largest study, at that time, of "Teachers and Education in Texas," commissioned by the Texas Legislature.

My father lived with my mother and their three small children in a house of three small rooms on 5 acres south of Burleson, Texas. They raised much of their own food plus eggs and milk. His commute to Texas Christian University was 70 miles round-trip. He further contributed to his own education by working weekends as a limousine driver between Fort Worth, the Amon Carter Airport, and Dallas. Two twelve-hour shifts every weekend. He was only paid 12 dollars per shift, plus tips. There were hardly any tips. Between runs he studied. My mother did most of the work at the farm but my father did help with milking and other things. That, Ms. Shulman, is what you have to be willing "to sacrifice to get a college education in the United States."

Of course, my father also didn't drive a brand new car, have the latest home entertainment or computer equipment, designer fashions or spend his money "clubbing" every night, so he probably sacrificed more for his education than most students are willing to today.

"And as the cost of attending college rises, the financial benefits of enlistment in the U.S. military may entice potential recruits.
Certainly, the numbers are clear about the value of college. Without a college education, it is hard to make a good living in America today. Yet the cost of college has priced many young men and women out of the market. It is no accident that military recruiters are out scouring America's working-class suburbs, offering enlistment bonuses to high school graduates. A promise of college tuition is very enticing to teens whose parents just don't have much money."
Educational benefits have long been used to attract recruits. They also help to offset the low pay that military members are willing to accept in exchange for the honor and privilege of serving their nation. Shulman says it's "hard to make a good living" without a college education. It's also "hard to make a good living" without determination, initiative, hard work, and personal responsibility. Not coincidentally those are also necessary to achieve a good education. Just ask my father about that.

What Shulman says next really gets my hackles up.

"America needs to find ways to guarantee college for everyone, whether they become soldiers or not. ... If we believe in equal opportunity in America, we need to ensure other options. ... We need to ensure that all high school students who qualify for college can go, regardless of their family financial status."
What? Guaranteed college for everyone is a constitutional right? That clause is missing from my copy. (Along with the "right to privacy" that makes abortion a right.) Guess what, Beth. America has "found ways" to guarantee college for everyone. America does "ensure other options." You can apply for financial aid, you can apply for the thousands upon thousands of scholarships available, you can serve in the military and take advantage of tuition assistance and the GI Bill, you can - hold on to your hats folks - get a job and pay your own way. (Gasp!) There's a novel concept.
"With these large payoffs from college, the military enlistment bonuses seem like a lifeline for high school graduates who otherwise couldn't afford to go to college. Yet do we really want a society in which the only way for young men and women to afford the cost of a college education is to agree to risk their lives?"
As I pointed out there are other ways to pay for college besides what Shulman refers to as the "lifeline" of military service. And in answer to her rhetorical question, no, what we want is a society that is so noble and right that good men and women are willing and eager to devote their lives, and even give their lives, to ensure that this society continues. Thank God, that is what we have.

"Certainly, many young men and women enlist today out of a patriotic desire to serve their country. But for others, signing up for America's armed forces may be the only way they see to get the money they need for a college education and for the future good job it will make possible."
I'm happy to see Ms. Shulman make at least passing deference to the primary reason that most of the military people I know serve. Patriotism. A love of their country, flowing from a belief in, and devotion to, the principles on which she was founded. Patton said, "The highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one's country." For me, that sums up the primary motivation for military service. It is an obligation that I owe for the many opportunities and liberties that life in this country affords me. It is a privilege that I am worthy to bear the responsibility of ensuring that those opportunities and liberty continue for myself, for my children and for future generations. What it is not is "a way to get money for a college education." I realize many view it as nothing more than that. This is obvious by the number of spineless individuals in the military who suddenly and mysteriously become "conscientious objectors" whenever the winds of war begin to blow. Anyone who joins the military out of a need or desire to get money for college is misguided and makes a serious mistake.

Ms. Shulman proves the folly behind enlisting to get money for college by this statement:

"Although the demand for a college education has increased as its potential returns have soared, Kane shows that the increase in U.S. college attendance was disproportionately among wealthier individuals. Over the past two decades, the richest quarter of Americans increased their college enrollment by 12 percent, while those at the bottom rose by only 5 percent, expanding an already large enrollment gap."
So, all these poor, underprivileged kids are enlisting to get money for college, yet college enrollment in this group has risen a mere 5 percent? Somebody needs to tell these kids to find another way to get money for college.

I think Ms. Shulman is probably citing the wrong statistics. She needs to look at college enrollment among the military's junior enlisted ranks. I'll bet it's a lot higher than 5 percent. I'd also like for her to explain the high percentage of enlisted members who come into the service already having earned a degree, as well as those who stay long past their initial term of service, even after earning one, or several, degrees.

Could it be that there is more motivating military service than just college money? I am happy to report, for America's sake, that the answer is a resounding, "YES!"
Thanks for re-posting this again. Now, unfortunately, is the time for your post to be re-iterated. John Kerry's political career ending statement has, at least, once again allowed us to re-examine the make up of our highly professional military.

John Kerry, like a lot of the liberal Democrats, is hung up on his era, the Viet Nam War.

Back then, our military was not voluntary, but was comprised of soldiers who were drafted, against their free will.

Today's military is comprised of those who chose to enlist of their own free will. And these fine people who comprise our military are well educated.

Not only are Officers college educated, but so are many enlisted.
Some of which, are entering with college degrees!

It is clear that our military, which is comprised of the most professional, educated, and dedicated in the history of the US military.

These fine people serve because they are patriotic and want to give something back to their country!

The whole, "If you're stupid, you join the military" arrogant view of John Kerry is not only unfounded, but also illusrates his anti-US military stance.

Thanks again for your re-post. It is important that people know that comments like Kerry's are totally unfounded.
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Keeping the Faith

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Location: alexandria, Virginia, United States

Retired from the US Air Force after more than 20 years of service. Now working as a contractor for various government agencies.

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