Testing our students for military service

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country.

The four hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent.

The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy is working to prohibit the automatic release of student information to military recruiting services gathered through the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program in high schools across the country.

None of the cities or states with ILYM meetings seem to be currently addressing this issue, but you can learn more about how school districts elsewhere in the country are:

Is your Meeting working to address the privacy of students mandated to take the ASVAB?

Earlier this Spring, The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth reported on the work of the Texas organization, Peaceful Vocations, who presented to the Texas State Board making the request that “Option 8” be the choice for all Texas schools when administering the ASVAB. Since students and parents may not currently determine how test information is released, if a school chooses “Option 8” it will allow for a parent to decide: they may still give permission for the test results to be released to military recruiters, but with this policy change the decision rests with the parent, not the school.

Learn more about the work of The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth to explore what you and your Meeting can do to address this issue.

It has been reported that there was local activity several years ago up in the Chicago region under the name “Chicagoland Coalition Opposed to Militarization of Youth” who gained attention in 2006 for their efforts (read article here). Might anyone know if their work continues?

Quaker Peacemakers Project: Elizabeth Mertic

Elizabeth Mertic is a member of Lake Forest Friends Meeting and attends Evanston Monthly Meeting. She has lived in Evanston since May 2001. Elizabeth’s strong interest in peace began when she was an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin-Madison where she met Francis Hole from Madison Meeting. When Elizabeth moved to Chicago in 1958, she began attending 57th Street Meeting and joined the Peace & Social Concerns Committee.  In 1960 she was a participant in the Ring around the Pentagon demonstration along with hundreds of other Friends from across the country. Elizabeth shares: “I have gradually moved toward the goal of growing more peaceful with myself, which will help me live peacefully with the rest of humanity.”

Click the play button below to hear Elizabeth’s reflections on peacemaking.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/95040487″ params=”color=007aff&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

The Peace Resources Committee interviewed Elizabeth alongside Joey Rodger and Sara Gmitter in front of a live participatory audience at Evanston Monthly Meeting in November 2012. Listen in to hear her talk about peacemaking as a daily practice, being active in commuinity, and remaining hopeful. Elizabeth shared of her experience with the Iraqi Student Project, supporting two young Iraqi women attending DePaul University in the Chicago.

Click here to learn more about the Quaker Peacemakers Archive Project where you can nominate Friends in Illinois Yearly Meeting you think should be included in this effort. The project aims to compile and preserve an oral history of Friends whose contributions to peace building offer wonderful opportunities for reflection. As Friends tell their stories in their own words, these recordings will capture and preserve unique and inspired personal acts and thoughts which enrich our Yearly Meeting.

Music: “On Reflection” by The Appleseed Cast (Low Level Owl: Volume 1, 2000)

Who inspires you?

Quaker Voluntary Service grew out of the leading of young adult Friends to reclaim Quaker Service for our time. Though the model is different from previous incarnations of Quaker service and witness, QVS has directly benefitted from earlier generations and honors these stories. And those Quakers of earlier generations, who gave of their gifts to make this world more peaceful and just, continue to inspire. They served through Civilian Public Service (CPS), through Quaker work camps, through American Friends Service Committee and other relief efforts after wars and disasters, through Alternative Service programs for Conscientious Objectors, and in numerous other ways. Many of them are the models we think of when we aspire to rekindle that spirit and commitment to transformative Quaker service as envisioned by Quaker Voluntary Service.

As Quaker Voluntary Service offers new generations of young adults the opportunity to contribute to the expansive work for change, QVS wants to highlight the stories of those who have come before us. This is just the beginning of these efforts, but there is hope you will read these incredible stories and share with QVS others that you may know.

If you would like to contribute a story of Quaker service to this collection, please email: stories@quakervoluntaryservice.org.

Click here to read this beautiful collection of Quaker Service Testimonies.

Connect your meeting to AFSC

Activism in the Meetinghouse
Have you signed up to be a Meeting/Church liaison or want to learn more? Lucy Duncan will be hosting an orientation call on Monday, April 22nd from 7:30pm-8:30pm EST. For call-in information, email friends@afsc.org.

How a community heals: A conversation with Denise Altvater
The first ever Truth and Reconciliation Commission between a sovereign tribal nation and a US state was seated on Feb. 12, this interviews explains how it came to be. “The hurts are so deep. Once everyone can tell their story, the healing will come for them; the community will heal, too. We need to understand how what happened impacts how we treat each other, and how we need to heal in order for things to change. There is power in having a voice.” You can also read a poem written for the occasion.

Calling forth the goodness podcasts
Madeline Schaefer, Friends relations fellow, is producing a series of podcasts on AFSC’s work, “Calling forth the goodness,” which features the voices of communities and Quakers that work together to create change. The first one, “Working at the Root” is about AFSC’s farmer-to-farmer training program in New Mexico. The second episode, “The Seeds of an Occupation,” tells the story of AFSC’s growing involvement in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Recent AFSC guest posts
Johan Maurer wrote a moving guest post that tells a bit of his spiritual journey, “Love your enemies: Learning to trust in the face of violence.” Doug Bennett wrote about the value of the AFSC Corporation, which gathers this week beginning on Friday for a two-day meeting.

Announcements for meeting newsletters
Webinar on AFSC’s website for Friends: In January Ralph Medley, Web director, and Lucy Duncan, Friends liaison, hosted a webinar on how to learn about AFSC’s programs by navigating AFSC’s website. You can watch that here.

Wage Peace toolkit and banner: Given the current conversations about the federal budget, there is an opening to raise voices asking that the percentage of dollars going to the military be reduced. AFSC has produced a toolkit for download to help Friends and others advocate for a shift in priorities. You can also order a 20-foot banner for your meeting house or for protests which shows the current budget priorities. The banners are $200; email wagepeace@afsc.org to order one.

Job openings
AFSC is seeking candidates for the Deputy General Secretary and other positions. Take a look at the current job openings and let other Friends know.

Telling the story of us: Reflections on Quaker Voluntary Service

As volunteers for Quaker Voluntary Service, the young people I visited during my stay in Atlanta were still sorting out what their own authentic journeys might look like. But working full-time in community support and development organizations that can place high demands on their emotional and psychological energy is not easy. Caught up in the drama of life and change and community, there is little time to consider rather abstract concepts of meaning and motivation…

Madeline Schaefer is the Friends Relations Fellow at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She grew up in Philadelphia, surrounded by Quakers of all shapes and sizes. After searching for stories and adventure in distant, cooler climes, she returned home only to find the richest ones right in her backyard. Madeline lives with five lovely people in West Philadelphia, and is involved with Quakers throughout the Philadelphia region.

Click here to read Madeline’s full story.

What next? Tamms is closed.

What next?  Tamms is closed.  Now how do we attend to the climate of opinion that permitted, indeed endorsed, the construction of this institution?  Specifically, what steps can we take to reverse the programs and policies that characterize this nation’s penal systems?

Wrestling with the “what next” question has been far more difficult than coming to a position on closing Tamms.  I think my difficulty is one shared by others in my Meeting and in the general public.  And that is why I write.  I also write so that I may call attention to some responses to the “what next” question that are emerging as I listen to discussions among Friends in southern Illinois.

Shaping a Minute in support of closing Tamms drew attention to the larger and more complicated dimensions to this subject.  As I recall the process, many Friends expressed concerns that the discussion was being framed by Springfield’s concerns for budgets.  What about the penal system at large?  How is it that we pay our taxes to support systems of punishment rather than programs for rehabilitation?   By addressing the debate on closing Tamms, are we distracted from the grim statistics that point to the continuing presence of race and class in the sentencing process?   And so, after a month of careful listening, the Meeting did come to a minute supporting closure but with the provision that a second Minute be composed that addressed the larger contexts.

Lest we forget the thousands of prisoners in countless prisons, we have been working on that second Minute.  We are not done.  We work slowly not simply because of Quaker process but because of the complexity and the immensity of the subject.

Immensity and complexity seemed to numb imagination at the point of addressing the “what next” question.   To speak to the strident voices of retribution and to counter the political clout of the prison industry looms up as a labor of Herculean proportions.  Many of us have asked ourselves what talents we may offer or how much time and energy we are able to devote to such an undertaking.   As I listen, I sense that the discussion is shaped in part by images of a hero peacemaker who comes to task with extraordinary energies and focused devotion.  But have we been measuring ourselves by impossible standards?  Are we handicapped by such an ideal of the peacemaker that causes many of us to feel inadequate to the task?   In various ways, we are asking that question and coming to recognize such models of peacemaker are as likely to discourage as they are to inspire.  We seem to be asking another question: Who amongst us is not a peacemaker?  As we come to recognize the varieties of peacemakers in our small circle, we may be finding ways to help one another to move from faith and principle to practice.

Meanwhile, we are beginning to recognize specific works that are appropriate to this meeting’s size.  The Carbondale chapter of the The Three R’s Project—Reading Reduces Recidivism (www.3rsproject.org)—has been working to acquire books and transport them to regional prisons.  The handful of volunteers needs more people to collect, catalog, and move books to prisoners.  As Friends listened to a 3Rs organizer, they awakened to a path leading out of the shadow of doubt.  We are still aware of our limited abilities.  But we are exploring connections with other community groups.

Seeking for connections opens other answers to the  “what next” question.  By participating in the movement to close Tamms, we came to appreciate at a personal level how many others were concerned.   We were entering into a larger community of compassion.  With Tamms behind us, we are also learning more about the good work performed by Friends elsewhere who are addressing the prison system.  Farther north in Illinois, Quakers have been visiting prisons and bringing books.  The example and the guidance of Friends in Champaign may be helpful not only for practical reasons but, equally important, for renewing faith that we are not alone in our resolve to meet the immense and complex challenge of the prison system.

The times tremble with possibility.  If we listen carefully, we can hear a growing chorus of voices echoing our concern.  Look for a moment at Friends Journal and the recent issue (March 2012) devoted to our prisons.  If we look beyond our Meeting, we see that we are part of a larger awakening.  Consider for a moment Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  This thorough and impassioned analysis has been praised for stimulating awareness of this long-festering disease.  And it has stimulated.  But by giving credit to Alexander’s work, do we forget that before the book appeared so many people were prepared to attend to her voice and to buy her book?  Alexander was not crying in the wilderness.  There were people ready to listen.  The buyers and the readers testify to the books significance.

What next?  I can only begin to imagine how the growing number of awakened souls in the nation will turn their concerns into practice.  But I think my experience in a small community at the very bottom of Illinois can inform.  While southern Illinoisans deliberated on Tamms, all the action seemed to be happening far north, 150 miles north in Springfield or another 150 miles farther north in Chicago.  I often felt as if we were on the periphery.  When asking the “what next” question, we might turn attention from the centers of power and attend to ways to support uncounted others who live in seeming isolation.  Lest such communities lose heart in the face of enormity and complexity, we might consider creating organization and  communication networks to sustain us all.  The struggle will be a long one.  This we all understand.  We will need to keep faith.  And we will need to organize our scattered communities into concerted energy.  What next?  This may be the emerging task of such groups as the ILYM Peace Resources Committee.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Michael T. McPhearson is a former Executive Director of Veterans For Peace and a current board member. His volunteer social and economic justice activist work includes membership in Veterans For Peace, the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress, Military Families Speak Out, the American Civil Liberties Union and the former coordinating committee member for the Bring Them Home Now campaign against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He is Secretary of the Saint Louis Branch of the NAACP and the founder of ReclaimtheDream.org.

Last week, Michael published an article exploring how we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. –

I am a veteran. Sitting in the sands of Iraq in 1991, I remember how wonderful it felt to receive expressions of support from home. I once received a letter from an elementary school class and it made me feel good to know that people back home cared about me, and wanted me to safely return home. Citizens coming together to think about service members and take action to support them is a good thing, but not in the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Click here to read the full article.

QVS Applications Now Being Accepted for 2013-2014 Year

Join an Experiment in Faithfulness in the Friends’ Tradition

Quaker Voluntary Service is excited to announce that applications are now being accepted for the 2013-2014 program year for sites in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Portland.

Young adults are encouraged to apply for this year-long program and will be placed in one of our three cities. Participants will live in a Quaker intentional community, serve full-time with local community organizations, participate in a dynamic program exploring the growing edges of the Quaker Way, and receive support from QVS and local Friends meetings and churches. We are partnering with many dynamic organizations in each city where QVS volunteers will work. To see descriptions of our current placements in Atlanta, click here: Atlanta 2012-2013 Site Placements. We will keep you updated as future sites are confirmed.

For more information and to apply, please see: www.quakervoluntaryservice.org/apply.
Applications are due by March 15, 2013.

Spread the Word
A primary role you can play is to help us spread the word about this opportunity to any young adults you know who may be interested and to any people you know who work with young adults. Forward this email, direct people to our website, or be in touch with us about who we should reach out to.

We’re so grateful for all your gifts of support. As we come to the end of the year, please consider making another gift. Gifts of any size help us tremendously. We also have matching challenges in place for gifts of $250 or more so that your gift can have a greater impact ($50 or more if you are a young adult). Please consider a donation today. You can donate online or by sending a check to Quaker Voluntary Service, PO Box 17628, Atlanta GA 30316.

With much gratitude,
Christina Repoley
QVS Founding Executive Director

Farmers meeting farmers

A story of peace from the Huffington Post, published November 1, 2012:

Don Bustos of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) grows the same crops that his ancestors grew more than 300 years ago — on the same land and using the same methods, with a few modern adaptations.

Growing organic vegetables in New Mexico’s Sonoran Desert isn’t easy. Conditions there are different than in many other parts of the United States. Sixteen time zones away, in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — known as North Korea — farmers can relate. They, too, face unforgiving climates and short growing seasons.

Under ordinary circumstances, traditional farmers from these two countries might never meet. But AFSC, which works to promote peace through programs in 35 U.S. cities and 14 countries, has a way of creating unusual opportunities for partnership and exchange.

Click here to read more about this remarkable collaboration between farmers, authored by AFSC’s Kerry Kennedy and Richard Erstad, watch a video & see photos from the tour.