Moving Beyond Slogans: Possibilities for a More Connected and Humanizing “Counter-recruitment” Pedagogy in Highly Militarized Urban Schools


  • Suzie M. Abajian UCLA
  • Maricela Guzman California State University--Los Angeles


Urban high schools have become increasingly militarized spaces, particularly after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act and the unprecedented recruitment campaign of the military post 9/11. As a response, anti-war activists and community organizations have launched “counter-recruitment” campaigns to educate students and communities of the realities of military service and “recruit” students away from the military. While these efforts have provided a much-needed response to the increased militarization of schools, they have not always employed liberatory means. This paper offers a critical analysis of certain counter-recruitment actions that employ what Freire (1970/1993) calls the “banking” approach, through the reflective narratives of the authors. The paper also proposes critical consciousness-raising through the example of a digital-storytelling project in a high school classroom, where students were able to tell their stories, gain academic skills and engage critically with topics such as poverty, violence, war and militarism.

Author Biographies

Suzie M. Abajian, UCLA

Suzie M. Abajian received her PhD in education from UCLA, her M.A. in teaching mathematics and her B.A. in mathematics from Occidental College. She is a community organizer and a lecturer at UCLA and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


Maricela Guzman, California State University--Los Angeles

Maricela Guzman served in the Navy from 1998-2002. Since leaving the military, she has been a tireless advocate for veterans, and women veterans in particular. She is currently working on her Master of Science degree in counseling at California State University-Los Angeles. Her goal is to become a counselor and work with veterans.