Too good for the military

At a public high school in a Milwaukee suburb, the school newspaper turned down a military recruitment ad on grounds it violated the ad policy, which bans businesses and organizations “deemed destructive to the social, economic and environmental health of the earth and all of its inhabitants.” Editor Bix Firer, 17, told the Journal Sentinel he didn’t want Shorewood High‘s newspaper, Ripples, to help “warmongers.”

Shorewood is a liberal town near the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Firer’s parents are both UWM English professors.)

“At Shorewood,” says Nick Pierson, who wrote for Ripples under the name “Mad Max,” “everyone’s got this mind-set that everyone’s going to go to like a really high-level college and these very prestigious universities.

“A lot of people think the military is below them.”

. . . Firer says he rejected the advertising money from the military in part because of the war in Iraq, which he says is further destablizing an unstable area.

He also says the military is “both classist and racist in its approach.”

“I realize this is sort of absurd coming from a privileged, white male, but the recruitment sort of targets those with fewer opportunities,” Firer says.

Well, the recruiter wanted to target Shorewood High students, but never got the chance to offer them a military option.

Mike Halloran, an English teacher and Ripples advisor, once taught at St. Francis High, which sends a comparatively high percentage of graduates into the military. He told the reporter that most St. Francis parents stressed a “sort of blind respect for authority.” By contrast, “There are questioners (at Shorewood),” Halloran says.

I bet there are a lot of group thinkers at Shorewood.

Update: Pierson, who told the Journal-Sentinel that soldiers have an “honorable profession” and said he he’d considered military service, was contacted by a Marine Corps recruiter after the story ran and came close to accepting a Navy ROTC scholarship. However, he was unable to do so because there is no NROTC program at Yale, which he chose for its Chinese Studies major.

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  1. Jack Tanner says:

    “everyone’s got this mind-set that everyone’s going to go to like a really high-level college and these very prestigious universities.

    “A lot of people think the military is below them.”

    He also says the military is “both classist and racist in its approach.”

    I guess they won’t be encountering much racism or classism at ‘these very prestigious universities’.

    What a fool.

  2. Ken Two says:

    The friend of a neighbor’s son just graduated from Chico State, a Northern California located state college. The young man has begun work for a well known construction giant in Southern California but the feed back from the neighbor is that he’s shocked at how many Spanish speaking employees the company hires and that “he’s not sure he can work with those people.”

    Granted, his character lessons were the responsibility of mom and dad but you have to wonder how the guy made it through the screening by the company.

    The military would have cut him from the lists of the eligible on the first pass.

  3. “A lot of people think the military is below them.”

    Best example of classism I’ve seen all day.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Do not further insult that school with federal funding.

  5. One other point. If you are a business executive, or are otherwise involved in hiring people, think about hiring some graduates of the military, in place of some of the graduates of those “very prestigious universities.” You may well get: less arrogance, more practicality and ability to think under pressure and to improvise, and better people skills.

    I don’t mean to suggest that graduates of “very prestigious universities” are always useless jerks. My own experience has been mixed: I’ve had some elite-university graduates who were very good, and others who were of marginal value or even destructive to the organization. But the time has come to give an equal chance to those who’ve pursued other paths.

    I have a post on this topic here:

  6. Mike James says:

    If Shorewood is a private school, it seems to be a case of detestable, moral degenerates paying their own money to raise up the next generation of detestable moral degenerates. Regrettable, in that their rotten little grubs will take their place in society one day, with the same right to influence the government through their vote as you or I, but it’s their own money, blah blah, free country and all that. Robert Heinlein has some useful thoughts on the matter, the link is to an archive page at Chaos Manor which posts the second half of the James Forrestal Memorial Lecture to the Brigade of Midshipmen at Annapolis in 1973. Short version: all concerned in this matter, at Shorewood, lack the moral standing of bachelor baboons.

    If Shorewood is a public school, their federal money must, of course, be withheld until the school administration, parents and students involved cease flattering themselves for the bunch of self-indulgent, oh-so-superior snobs that they are, free-riding on the backs of their betters in other towns and at other schools.

  7. It’s really too obvious to point out (but I will anyway) that if the military is prevented from recruiting those people who have few options, then they will have one less. That’s an improvement?

  8. Even more irony – it’s that military that defends his right to thumb his nose at government authority without worrying about “disappearing” tomorrow.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    This moron has been extremely poorly educated in morality by his parents and his school.
    He needs to get his money back and some kind of a brain scrub and start over.

  10. Cousin Dave says:

    Ah yes. We certainly don’t want to help warmongers. That’s why we name ourselves after protagonists from movies that glorify gratuitious violence, and then write tirades against it. Mad Max indeed.

  11. General Lee says:

    Come on now. Mad Max just doesn’t want to see any of his classmates forced to hang out with the lower classes, in case one of them forgets to be a “thinker” and does something dumb like taking the military ads seriously. Mad Max won’t be one of few, the proud or be all he can be. He is all he can be already and he proud of it.

  12. J_Crater says:

    Sounds like this guy is detined for Columbia Journalism School. Look out Katy Couric, his head is already bigger than yours.

  13. Yes, yes, “Mad Max” and his compatriots are morons, and their high school paper shouldn’t turn down military recruitment ads.

    But it would be totally wrong to pull federal funding in retaliation. If this paper is anything like my high school paper was, it’s run by students. Choosing not to accept military ads is 100% protected by the First Amendmendment. Federal funding can’t be denied because the school paper engages in constitutionally protected speech.

  14. I watched this all day klnowing what would happen. This kid seized the machinery he had available to him to make THE BIG STATEMENT. What happens? You call him a fool, a moron, and want funds withheld from the school. How dare He?

    But if you scroll down a few items we find Valedictorian Denied Diploma and Protest Warrior having done the same thing with the machinery available to them. I notice you laud them for their courage and heroism.

    We need kids like this regardless of their persuasion. Personally I give all three kids high marks for their gutsiness. But you won’t.
    Right wingers. Gotta love ’em.

  15. Steve LaBonne says:

    “Making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep”. -Kipling

  16. cjstevens says:

    To Chris and Steve LaBonne (and everyone, really),

    At yesterday, a commenter had an interesting take on the idea of the military protecting America’s freedom and rights. Take a look at the post and the thread; it’s quite long, but not nearly as long as the discussion that spawned it (and those are only the highest-rated comments!).

  17. Steve LaBonne says:

    It’s more than acceptable to protest the way the troops are used by the politicians. It’s _not_ acceptable to take it out on the troops themselves, who have no choice but to risk their lives for their country regardless. Surely that’s not a difficult distinction to grasp.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    Well, you see, Atlas, it’s this way.
    The Shorewood guy was both wrong and a moron. The Protest Warrior was both right and civil.
    The latter did not insult a better class of people.
    See, the difference is….
    Forget it.

  19. slimedog says:

    Hey, it’s their paper, if they want to be bigshot peaceniks, more power to them! But I bet the guy who’s busting his butt selling ads in the paper wishes that Mad Max and Editor Bix would just STFU.

  20. greeneyeshade says:

    well, steve labonne beat me to the kipling quote, but walt kelly’s porkypine said something that might add perspective: ‘being young used to mean you had time to learn something.’ at 17, i’d say mad max has a lot of time.

  21. Steve Anich says:

    FYI: It is a public high school.

  22. “It’s really too obvious to point out (but I will anyway) that if the military is prevented from recruiting those people who have few options, then they will have one less. That’s an improvement?”

    Not really. Recruiters exist in places other than high schools. The opportunity is the same either way. All that’s missing is a sales pitch.

    Not that I think such a sales pitch is inappropriate. Quite the opposite; a course in History and Moral Philosophy would be damned useful. But regardless of whether a school does or does not welcome recruiters, right thinking people that have what it takes, physically, mentally, and testicularly, can join up without their school’s involvement, and ought to be encouraged to do so.

    And as for the students involved, this would be a perfect “teachable moment”. No official sanction, just a clear lesson in the fact that they’re being complete morons, the way it works in the real world when people say stupid things.

  23. Isn’t it nice that little Bix has learned to be such a self-loathing “privileged white male.” I’m sure mommy and daddy are proud. This little snob isn’t fit to lick the highly polished boots of the average service member.

  24. I agree with Ken.

    However… though young Bix and his fellow student writers may well benefit from a “clear lesson”, it is concerning that Bix’s parents and the Shorewood HS faculty all failed to intercede.

    It is apparent they either shirked their responsbility or lacked the moral clarity to provide guidance before such a mistake was made.

    They must also now share in whatever backlash befalls Shorewood High School.

  25. Ken, of course, but I get the impression that Firer disapproves of the military recruiting at all, not just in the school newspaper.

    Atlas, there’s a big difference between Bix Firer and the Protest Warrior: The PW is putting ideas into the public debate, and Firer is keeping them out.

  26. Jack Tanner says:

    Atlas – this kid isn’t a fool because of his beliefs he’s a fool because he doesn’t understand the meaning of the words he is using and apparently knows nothing about the military which he chooses to disparage.

    BTW – I think the PW is an ingrate but that’s beside the point. Apparently she forgot that the doors to the school were kept open for her for 4 years and that a lot of people contributed to her education. If she thought her graduation was the chance to complian about the service not meeting her standards then I’d say she has a very poor sense of timing to say the least.

  27. Pardon the length of this…

    As a fellow graduated senior from the same area, I applaud that Bix has taken a stand for his beliefs. His refusal to print the ad has nothing to do with him being “above” service, instead my thoughts are that it is a political statement against the war. “Firer says he rejected the advertising money from the military in part because of the war in Iraq, which he says is further destablizing an unstable area.” What have our troops been doing there? Iraq is in a shambles because of our involvement in what was a stable region. Does an organization that bombs civilians indiscriminately fit his ad policy? And there is enough recruitment attempts in any school, so why should another attempt to replace the dead take up space in a school paper?

    I also agree that the military is classist/racist and also sexist. The main reason many kids enlist is because of the $50,000 GI bill, and many of them don’t have the grades to go on to a “prestigious” school. Sorry for generalizing, but the kids in that boat are usually in a lower economic class. If I were accepted to a good school, I think I would go there, not enlist. I can’t think of any examples of racism, but I’m sure it’s prevalent. And sexism – think of all the high level homo-bashing and covered up rapes. Any organization that sanctions either of those isn’t fit for an audience like a school, where girls are sexually abused and many kids are homosexual.

    Many high school kids, especially in more affluent areas, like Shorewood, Brookfield, and Waukesha, are “questioners.” We don’t oppose the military because “we’re above it.” We just don’t agree with what it’s doing. We all have friends over there, some have come home in flag-draped boxes, and we support them as people 100%, after all, they’re just doing their jobs. And if our freedoms actually came into jeopardy and needed to be protected, you better damn believe that most of us (at least males) will grab a gun and blow holes in whoever invades us. Even with the matter of WWII where countries were actually being invaded or in Bosnia where ethnic cleansing was going on, that’s a noble cause that kids would fight for. But devoting all our strength to invading a stable and sovereign country like Iraq, excuse me but that’s just unacceptable. Even Afghanistan was sketchy, remember, did Afghanistan as a country attack us? No straight minded youngster would want to attack civilians like we are doing now. If Bush wanted to focus on the refugee situation in Sudan or the (US sponsored) removal of Aristide in Haiti, any of us would be much more likely to consider enlisting.

    Lastly, Firer is exercising free speech. And don’t say the usual conservative nonsense rhetoric of “the soldiers are protecting are free speech in Iraq,” because if you actually think about that, that’s just illogical. Dissent is not the opposite of freedom, dissent is freedom. Our country was founded on this day in 1776, not because of blindly following what was fed by the government, but by speaking out against the wrongs of the government. Free speech itself protects free speech; if everyone takes what the government gives them without question, then there is nothing stopping them from taking away your right to free speech.

    Thank you, and remember to vote in November.

  28. Ah Iraq was stable. Then why was Iraq was an Orwellian police state. But as long as the liberal media doesn’t tell you about what is going on, it doesn’t matter to you. Out of sight, out of mind appears to be the left’s attitude. In the past they would chastise the American government for supporting governments did far less worse than what the Saddam’s regime did.

    Oh, by the way, ethnic cleansing was going on in Iraq all during the 90s. The lands of Shiite Marsh Arabs in the south were being destroyed, and they were forced to move to the north where the Kurds lived. The Kurds were forced to move or become “Arabized.” The only reason why Saddam didn’t kill them all was that the U.S. and Britain were watching and monitoring him. Of course, bin Laden found this all irritating regardless of how he felt about Saddam. No fly zones, sanctions, and the other policies designed to contain Iraq were all used as justification for attacking the U.S. by bin Laden. On September 11, 2001 we paid dearly for maintaining “stability” in Iraq and the surrounding region. We could of course continue to contain Saddam indefinitely, but there would be no guarantee that he wouldn’t find a way maintain a WMD program secretly, as Libya and Iran have done. Morever, the deaths of some 3000+ Americans over the last decade is simply too high a price for mere containment of Iraq and maintainence of regional stability. Furthermore, indefinite containment leave us permanently in the sights of the terrorists. The only way out of this predicament is to force a change in the middle east, starting with our biggest problem, Iraq. It’s time to make the region deal with its problems rather than letting them export those problems to us.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I went to Shorewood. 3 people from my class joined up. Nick Kalt went to the Naval academy and became a Marine officer. Steve Koczela enlisted in the Army, that’s right, enlisted after finishing his Masters, that’s right, his Master’s degree. And Kyle Luedke enlisted in the Army, though I don’t know what has happened to him since.

  30. atm, we were attacked by Osama Bin Laden because of what we were doing in Iraq? Give me a break.

    And are we going in because of what they did over a decade ago? According to Bush, we went in because of the “weapons of mass destruction” that Saddam had stockpiled and must have been planning to use against us. Don’t you think, that if he had them, he would have used them when his country was being invaded? So what if he had empty shells buried in the desert? Empty shells buried in the desert aren’t of any use.

    If Saddam blatantly violates a nofly zone or any UN sanctions (by the way, they hurt the people of Iraq more than they hurt Saddam), then let that be the main reason for going in, not some WMD bullshit. And then “cowardly France” and Germany and the UN as a whole will be behind us, because then there’s an actual justification.

    On the “Orwellian police state,” that has nothing to do with stability. At least in the police state, there wasn’t street gun battles, massive looting, and civilians being indiscriminately bombed by invading troops. Not to mention they actually had some functioning basic utilities then too.

    “Forcing a change” is like converting people at gunpoint. Hell, why don’t we do that? God doesn’t like muslims or jews any more than we do. We might as well go crusading while we’re in the region.

  31. Eric Hochkammer says:

    All too many people are confusing free speech as the ticket to instant credibility. Sure, a 17-year old liberal has the right to express himself, but certainly does not have a basis on which to generalize about the war in Iraq, the military, or the American soldier.

    Grab yourself some CRED and then argue your position: I graduated with high honors from a area similar to that of Shorewood. I attend the “prestigious” University of Wisconsin – Madison. I joined the Army Reserves to help pay for college. I am an American student-soldier currently stationed in Iraq. I consider myself more “privileged” than any free-spouting rich kid from the suburbs.

    Firer (and JOHN) needs to realize that his narrow-mindedness has left his qualities far “beneath” that of the military.

    The United States is providing a monumental service to the citizens of Iraq who WANT us there. That’s not something I see on the news at night or read in a liberal newspaper, JOHN; it’s something I experience daily.

    I urge you to feel offended, disagree and make additional uninformed generalizations; you certainly have proven the credibility to do so in the past.

  32. Eric, when did you go into Iraq? What area? Depending on when and where, you’re either hurting or helping the people. Let’s follow your scenario, we’re just helping the people (and let’s also ignore deaths and torture in “abu gariff” of some Iraqis that may not actually be terrorists). How do we decide who should be helped and who should be left alone? Because I’m sure however bad things were in Iraq, there are regions that are far worse off. Hell, there’s even parts of our own country that demand our attention but are grossly ignored. If Bush wants to help the people of Iraq, so be it, but 1, go through the proper channels to do so, and 2, help your own people too.

    Narrow-mindedness isn’t just a disease liberals suffer from, it’s something EVERYONE suffers from. Maybe it’s a part of being human, I don’t know. I personally believe that conservative narrow-mindedness is the worse, mainly because it all follows the party lines, and it’s a blind following, or a following without thinking. I think liberals follow more of the “when this is happening, how can you not think this way?” philosophy (i.e. how can you attack kerry for his actions in vietnam, when bush didn’t even show up for National Guard duty?) Many kids are independents, meaning they aren’t officially democrats, they’re just liberal thinkers. The kids that are conservative have republican parents and call themselves republicans. The independent side either votes Democrat, Green, or Libertarian, based on where their personal beliefs fall.

    I try to stay informed of what’s going on, I try to hear a variety of news every day, from the “liberal media,” and from Fox News too. Indymedia is a good source, try reading it once, there’s a lot that goes on that doesn’t make the “liberal” papers. Where does my credibility come from? I have 2 eyes and I can see how Bush is screwing over every single one of you that reads this page. I respect your stance, because you’ve been there, and can relay what you’ve seen. However, you need to get yourself some CRED too if you’re going to criticize people you haven’t met before.

    And as for generalizations, just because Firer is from Shorewood, that must mean he’s rich? Both his parents are teachers. Even in rich school districts, there’s still super-rich, middle class, and poor kids. I highly doubt two teachers with a family are living in a mansion.

    And every one of you that is saying he thinks he’s too good for the military, think for a moment about who you’ll be voting for in the fall. Rich daddy’s boy that got into the national guard because of his name, then never showed up because he didn’t have to? Or someone who didn’t think he was too good for the military, who fought bravely, and came back decorated, and who only quit after being repeatedly injured in the line of duty, and was discharged according to army specifications?

  33. Shorewood High School, class of 2001.

    For those who are familiar with the area, and school district of Shorewood, I’m glad you’re speaking the truth. As for the ‘Anonymous’ poster from SHS, I never knew Nick Kalt, but I did know his brother Vince from the cross country team, and I know Steve’s sister. I also know of numerous people from my class, and that of 2000, 1999, 2002, and 2003, who have gone into the Military. Even though I was a senior when Bix was a freshman, I did know him slightly. What you are all saying about Bix being a ‘moron’, a ‘fool’ and any other assorted names you gave him, is wrong. You do not know him, you know him only from a brief article posted by a newspaper. The students at Shorewood High School are incredibly involved with all kinds of in and out of school activities, ranging from Students Against Social Apathy, Habitat for Humanity, and even Shorewood Young Republicans (which I don’t know if it still exists, but was founded by a close friend of mine 7 years ago). They have been readily praised and acknowldged to be very intelligent and are often involved in vigorous debates with some local government.

    I spoke with Mr. Halloran recently, as well as Bix and Nick, and I can tell the great majority of you who have criticized the comments, and all those who responded in the JS with a letter to the editor, that you only read the stuff at the surface of the article. You must look deeper into what is written, and understand them for what you may not think is being said.

    For those who have no idea what Shorewood is like, here’s a summary. Small lakeshore village in Milwaukee County. There is a large number of apartments here, and a very large international population of immigrants from Europe and Asia. The wealth that is often mistaken for representing all of Shorewood is really only present along Lake Drive (the road that follows the Lake Michigan shoreline). Turn west, and drive a block or two, and you’ll find low-income housing, a large college (UW-Milwaukee), college housing, and homeless people. Shorewood High School, is NOT as many people may think, a ‘white’ school. It is (at least when I graduated) a school of about 700 students. There is a large population of inner city (minority) kids which attend the school (by my guess, at least 200). Those include blacks, latinos, russians, asians, and all other ethnicities. The program which busses in the students is called the Chapter 220 program, which allows for the huge inner city kid population to expand to schools not in the Milwaukee Public School System. Of ALL the high schools in the area which participate in the program, SHS has been the 1st or 2nd largest particpant in the program (as a function of school size) for the past 15 years.

    I hope this has provided some background.

  34. Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

  35. Here’s a fun fact, the MOST equitable way to recruit for the military is with a DRAFT, which a rich person like GW Bush can’t buy himself out of.
    So long as we have a volunteer army, it will always be filled by the ranks of the lower classes. Don’t worry, they still recruit at Shorewood, but they know if they ask 50 patriotic rich people, and 50 patriotic poor people to join the army, many more of the poor will join. Why do you think the child of only one senator is in the army? CAUSE THEY’RE ALL RICH!

  36. There is a difference to being racist and classist in approach, and racist and classist in outcome. If the Army only recruited poor minority kids, it would be racist and classist in approach. If they go after anyone who will join, and certain groups tend to be more likely to join, it is no fault of the Army’s. This is, however, more of a semantic clarification than an issue for discussion.

  37. I am currently in the miitary and have been for 10 years. I came across this post while doing research for an essay I am writing for a class I am taking. I just have one thing to say. I had my pick of colleges and so did my sister. I am enlisted and she is currently at the AF Academy to become an officer. Yes, I will be saluting my little sister in about 2 years. The point I am making is, we didn’t sign up because we are from a poor family. We signed up because we wanted to serve and protect. So go ahead and talk bad about the military and our Commander in Chief all you want. Isn’t that why we are on the lines for you anyway. To fight and die for you, so you have the freedom to say what you want?

  38. NPierson says:

    Strange to be posting a response 2 years after the fact, but I only just came across this page doing a search about Shorewood. I feel that I have to say something in my defense even if no one will see it.

    I’m amazed at the hatred that people poured onto this blog. I really can hardly believe that adults would write something like that.

    The original article is here:

    If anyone, if even 1 responder had actually read the article instead of posting out of anger, he would have seen that my position has been misrepresented here 180 degrees. Some people even confused my comments with Bix’s. I made my comments about Shorewood because I think that people have the WRONG mindset about the military. I believe that thinking the military is below you is WRONG. Maybe the tone didn’t come across in the excerpts.

    However, nearly everyone who posted responses here was extremely hasty to judge Bix. I’m not sure I agree with Bix’s stance completely, but denying advertising to the military is certainly not the same thing as complete opposition. Let me remind all of you that the military’s ad campaigns tend to target young high school graduates. Bix had a point in refusing the National Guard ads, maybe not one that a lot of people agreed with, but he had a real problem with their advertising strategy.

    Of course it goes without saying that any newspaper picks its own ads. No newspaper is REQUIRED to run any ad. It’s a business like many others. Those who declared that Shorewood should be stripped of federal funding were posting out of ignorance.

    In the 2004 journal sentinel article I was quoted as saying that soldiers have “an honorable profession.” I still believe this firmly. I disagree with the war in Iraq, but this does not make me an ungrateful, unpatriotic, subhuman bastard as people here have made me out to be. My own cousin is a lieutenant in the Marines who recently returned from his Iraq tour; I have nothing but respect for him.

    That’s all I have to say, 2 years late. I’m just amazed at the misinterpretations and hatred.

    -Nick Pierson