I would like to turn your attention to the case of Daniel Ligen versus the Bloomer Board of Education. Ligen is a senior at Bloomer High School who completed his courses early and enrolled in the Marines. He is returning to Bloomer at the end of the month to attend graduation and requested that he be allowed to wear his Marine dress blue uniform during the ceremony--instead of the tradition cap and gown.
This week, the Bloomer school board rejected Ligen's request and adopted a policy that requires only cap and gown at graduation. One members attempt to allow military uniforms was defeated. So here we will have a man who willing accepted the challenge of defending our freedoms and rights denied to wear the uniform of his country during one of the most important days of his life.
One of the school board members who voted against the military exception says she wasn't being un-patriotic--she just thinks graduation should celebrate education. And there you have the root of my problem with this: the elitist attitude those affiliated with the educational system have toward the military.
It started with the protests of ROTC programs and Junior ROTC programs on college and high school campuses. It has since spread to protests over military recruiters being allowed to speak to students at assemblies and guidance counselor offices. It was present in Senator John Kerry's remarks to college students about how those who don't do well in the classroom "Get stuck in Iraq."
What do educators have against the military? More people have gone to college thanks to the GI bill than any student loan program. And the GI bill doesn't leave students tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And do college courses teach the kind of real world problem solving and team building that military service does?
We always hear educators talking about how students need "service-based learning." How Americorps or other foreign service programs are such great experiences and how kids should see the benefits of helping those who can't help themselves. They usually like to call it a "higher calling." So why is helping a village dig a new well a "higher calling" but trying to oust the fascist thugs who are terrorizing that village and quashing their human rights is less admirable? The Bloomer School District should be celebrating the fact Daniel Ligen is volunteering to put his life on the line to help others--and honor him at the graduation for that decision. Either allow him to wear the dress blues--or invite him to give a short speech explaining his decision to serve all of us.