Peace activist denies students valuable opportunities

by Christopher Paslay


It’s a real tragedy when well-meaning yet misguided adults prevent students from taking advantage of excellent career and educational opportunities.


So is the case with Sally Ferrell, a member of North Carolina Peace Action.  For the past several years, Ferrell’s been trying to handout pamphlets and other materials in a rural North Carolina school district that warns students to think twice before joining the military. 


According to a story in USA Today (ACLU sues N.C. school system for barring peace activist),  Ferrell “set up a ‘peace table’ in hallways, where she handed out material and talked to students about AmeriCorps and other alternatives to the military.  But by December 2007, [Superintendent] Laws said he’d had enough. A principal had complained to him about some of the materials and Laws told Ferrell her message was no longer welcomed.”


As it turned out, Ferrell was accused of “disparaging the military,” and the superintendent banned her from the school system.


Ferrell turned to the ACLU, who is now suing the N.C. school system and demanding that Ferrell be given the same access to students as military recruiters.


From a constitutional standpoint, I guess (I’m no lawyer) Ferrell and the ACLU have a genuine gripe; they have a First Amendment right to have the same access to students as the military.


But from the standpoint of an educator, I find it unfortunate that Ferrell and N.C. Peace Action find it necessary to push their values and politics on impressionable teenagers.  The military is an excellent career and educational opportunity, and persuading young people to forego these options is in my opinion a crime. 


Antiwar activists often comment that the military gives students misleading information and targets minorities and the poor.  But from my experience, the situation is just the opposite: those who oppose military recruiters distort the negative aspects of the armed services, overemphasizing war and death and downplaying the positives—such as earning money for college, traveling the world, and learning a valuable job skill.


Here’s a fact that so called “peace activists” don’t tell teenagers in the Philadelphia school system: There were more murders on the streets of Philadelphia in 2008 than there were American soldiers killed in Iraq. 


Sally Ferrell and North Carolina Peace Action don’t realize the opportunities they are denying kids.  Teens should be taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  When it comes to joining the military, young people should be left alone to respond to recruiters as they see fit.