Monday, October 24, 2005
Tier I Status for military enlistment
- Mr. Somerville: HSLDA has been working to get homeschoolers admitted into the military as "Tier I recruits" for at least seven years. This has been an enormously difficult enterprise, which has required thousands of hours of legal effort and dozens of face-to-face meetings with military policy makers.
Without trying to be sarcastic, because that's not how I'm writing, that is HSLDA's problem, not ours. You, the personnel of HSLDA, are going about the solution of a result of a conscious choice made by families from a bureaucratic entitlement standpoint rather than from the position of individual responsibility.
The guidelines in place for military recruitment that the people at HSLDA see as discriminatory are not aimed at homeschoolers. Those guidelines were in place before homeschooling became an issue for potential recruits and are there for the good of the service, which is the bottom line concerning all things military. Premature separations (discharges) are often made for the good of the service.
If people, usually parents in this case, make a decision of their own free will, they are responsible for the consequences of that decision. It is unfortunate that the implications of homeschooling regarding a military enlistment did not arise for some families until after it was too late to do anything about the schooling, but that is the nature of being a pioneer. You have difficulties, you work to overcome them. For those families the 15 semester hours of college are a do-able, and personally enriching, solution. We all have to make sacrifices to realize our dreams.
My opinion of gaining enlistment for homeschoolers is to give the families and kids the tools they need to acquire Tier I status, not to have the bureaucracy deign to include them. What the bureaucracy gives, the bureaucracy can take away. What you gain for yourself is yours.
- Mr. Somerville: While HSLDA has worked and worked at this task, HSLDA's critics have suggested that homeschoolers should simply accept "Tier II" status or, if they really want to join the military, should go off and get 15 college credits so they can be accepted as Tier I.
This isn't about HSLDA, nor about criticising that organization. The criticism is leveled at what the organization is trying to do. Those are two separate things.
Since I'm the one who made the statement on the HSWatch list that the 15 hours of college credit would be a satisfactory workaround, I'll take this as me being the critic of HSLDA. And that ain't it. Neither do I counsel 'accepting' Tier II status.
My point is: I want the kids who join to be the best they can be.
Get it? I want what is best for the kids, and what is best for the military services, and for the people who will be depending on these recruits to be able to do what needs to be done.
These kids may be going off to face imminent danger, and I want them to have the best training they can possibly receive. I don't want them distracted by their background any more than is humanly possible during their training.
Now, by either attending a year of high school, or by acquiring the college credit hours (which some homeschooled kids do before they finish their homeschooling) the kids are better prepared. I want them to succeed on their own merits.
By accepting a Tier I status for a background whose preparation isn't optimal for military success, some of these kids are being sold a bill of goods, the results of which could follow them for the rest of their lives. An other-than-honorable discharge is permanent, it can dog someone's heels, consciously or subconsciously, and it is something about which a person will be reminded at each and every patriotic ceremony from now on. Upon seeing an American flag at Independence Day celebrations, I don't want adults-who-were-homeschooled to think, "I couldn't cut the military."
PDF-page 50 of CNA survey results: In general, results of other performance measures, such as initial paygrade, reason for separation, waiver status, type of discharge, and eligibility to reenlist, are consistent with the attrition findings. By most measures, both homeschooled and ChalleNGe recruits fail to match the performance of traditional high school graduates.
(I am not pleased at having to scour this document for citations of less-than-wonderful results concerning homeschooled kids. And no, to forestall objections about the survey document, the reason that the Navy misclassified some dropouts as homeschoolers doesn't hold up, because the survey team took them into consideration. Also, the Air Force misclassified recruits with Associate's degrees as homeschooled, which should have skewed the results in the opposite direction.)
CNA Survey, PDF page 44: During this period, the Navy’s recruiting policy on homeschooled enlistees was not well articulated, and many Navy recruits officially classified as homeschooled during FY99 actually held no credential. It appears that this problem was most severe between March and July 1999. When we exclude all Navy homeschooled recruits during this time period, the proportion of homeschoolers looks somewhat different (see figure 8). 23 Even with this exclusion, however, it appears that the recruitment of homeschoolers may have peaked in the Services by 2001.
CNA Survey, PDF-page 49: (Homeschooled recruits in the Air Force exhibit very low attrition rates when we measure attrition based on official educational credential, but we demonstrate that this is due to the tendency of the Air Force to classify recruits with Associate’s degrees as homeschooled.) [parentheses in original]
The Air Force's results underscores that the college experience improves the quality of service given, and experienced by, the recruits.
But back to involuntary separations, there is the process of those separations. Leaving the service before a term of enlistment is completed is not accomplished by a sergeant saying, "Gee whiz, I wish it could have worked out better for you," and then giving a hearty handshake and a slap on the back as the young person packs his or her suitcase. Leaving the service before a term of enlistment is completed is usually accompanied by some large event, whether physical so that the servicemember is medically retired, or perhaps psychological, so that the servicemember is counseled first by the immediate superior, and then by increasingly more distant people on up the chain, until there is no resolution other than discharge. The servicemember loses, the people who work with the servicemember lose, and a replacement has to be found.
And as for finding the replacements, they have to be groomed from scratch -- again. In the meantime, someone who has already done his or her bit, has to step in to fill the hole. There isn't a situation where the need goes unfilled for long, someone invariably is detailed to compensate for the loss. I would like to avoid that as much as possible.
Many homeschooled kids do succeed as enlisted members* of the military services, and three-serious-cheers for them. They must be of strong character, and great discipline, to be able make the adjustment from a family circumstance to a strongly bureaucratic circumstance. I was a weenie and cried for the first week of basic training, so I know how abrupt the transition is.
The numbers in the CNA survey, though, do not reflect that strength for many homeschool enlistees. And those are the kids who concern me. The kids of strong character and great discipline are going to make it, regardless of the barriers in their paths, but the others need strengthening first. It's only a kindness.
[* Tier I status applies to enlisting, not to commissioning as an officer. Officers must have a college degree, which erases any consideration of homeschooling from the discussion of who is or is not qualified.]
- Mr. Somerville: I'm not sure I understand the criticism this time around. Are you objecting to our single-minded determination to open the doors for homeschool graduates? Do you think that HSLDA is too "gung-ho" about all this? Do you think HSLDA is claiming too much credit for the results we have achieved to date? Do you feel like the results so far aren't worth making a big deal about?
IT'S NOT ABOUT HSLDA. (yes, that was shouting)
- Mr. Somerville: HSLDA is committed to making sure that our members are able to join the military, if they so choose.
That's not the way it works. Serving in the military is a privilege, not a right. People are disqualified all the time for differences in height, weight, physical problems about which they may not have known, or maybe mistakes when they were young. See AR 601-210, PDF pages 17 - 26. (Acrobat 6.0 or higher)
In my opinion, what your members want is immaterial, just as it was immaterial what I wanted before I qualified to enlist. The privilege of enlisting must be earned. What is important is not whether all who want to join are allowed to join, but whether the people who do join are the best people for the job.
- Mr. Somerville: If being able to join the military is very important to you, please let me know--I'd love to have some non-HSLDA members speaking out about this issue. If you could care less about joining the military, why does it bother you that HSLDA does?
It's not about HSLDA. It's about the members of a team whose job may take them into clear and present danger. It's about the cost to the government for all those who aren't optimally prepared. It's about the cost to the young people who don't make the cut.
In order to serve its members as best it can, HSLDA needs to be adult about what is involved and stop trying to gain special status for homeschooled kids just because they are homeschooled kids.
Valerie Bonham Moon
site owner: The Military Homeschooler