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Read the article from The New York Times on p. 33 in the text. According to this article, the American military does not represent an accurate cross section of Americans. How would a sociologist view the reasons for the uneven representation in the military? What would a sociologist say about how society shaped Americans’ decisions to join the military? Support your answer by drawing from the sociological perspective, which is discussed in Chapter 1.
They left small towns and inner cities,
looking for a way out and up, or fled the
anonymity of the suburbs, hoping to
find themselves. They joined the all-volunteer
military, gaining a free education
or a marketable skill or just the discipline
they knew they would need to get
through life.
As the United States engages in its first
major land war in a decade, the soldiers,
sailors, pilots and others who are risking,
and now giving, their lives in Iraq represent
a slice of a broad swath of American
society but by no means all of it.
Of the 28 servicemen killed who have
been identified so far, 20 were white,
5 black, and 3 Hispanic—proportions that
neatly mirror those of the military as a
whole. But just one was from a well-to-do
family, and with the exception of a Naval
Academy alumnus, just one had graduated
from an elite college.*
A survey of the American military’s
. . . demographics paints a picture of a
fighting force that is anything but a cross
section of America. With minorities
overrepresented and the wealthy and the
underclass essentially absent, with political
conservatism ascendant in the officer
corps and Northeasterners fading from
the ranks, America’s 1.4 million-strong
military seems to resemble the makeup
of a two-year commuter or trade school
outside Birmingham or Biloxi far more
than that of a ghetto or barrio or fouryear
university in Boston.
Today’s servicemen and women may
not be Ivy Leaguers, but in fact they are
better educated than the population at
large: Reading scores are a full grade
higher for enlisted personnel than for
their civilian counterparts of the same
age. While whites account for three of
five soldiers, the military has become a
powerful magnet for blacks, and black
women in particular, who now outnumber
white women in the Army. . . .
Sgt. Annette Acevedo, 22, a radio
operator from Atlanta, could have gone
to college but chose the Army because of
all the benefits it offered: travel, health
coverage, work experience and independence
from her parents. The Army
seemed a better opportunity to get
started with her life and be a more independent
person, she said. . . .
Though Hispanics are underrepresented
in the military, their numbers are
growing rapidly. Even as the total number
of military personnel dropped
23 percent over the last decade, the number
of Hispanics in uniform grew to
118,000 from 90,600, a jump of about
30 percent.
While blacks tend to be more heavily
represented in administrative and support
functions, a new study shows that
Hispanics, like whites, are much more
likely to serve in combat operations. But
those Hispanics in combat jobs tend to
be infantry grunts, particularly in the
Mar ine Corps, rather than fighter or
bomber pilots. . . .
Confronted by images of the hardships
of overseas deployment and by the
stark reality of casualties in Iraq, some
have raised questions about the composition
of the fighting force and about
requiring what is, in essence, a workingclass
military to fight and die for an
affluent America.
“It’s just not fair that the people that
we ask to fight our wars are people who
join the military because of economic
conditions, because they have fewer
options,” said Representative Charles B.
Rangel, a Democrat from Manhattan
and a Korean War veteran who is calling
for restoring the draft.
Some scholars have noted that since
the draft was abolished in 1973, the
country has begun developing what
could be called a warrior class or caste,
often perpetuating itself from father or
uncle to son or niece, whose political and
cultural attitudes do not reflect the
diversity found in civilian society, potentially
foreshadowing a social schism
between those who fight and those who
ask them to.
It is an issue that today’s soldiers
grapple with increasingly as they watch
their comrades, even their spouses,
deploy to the combat zone. “As it stands
right now, the country is riding on the
soldiers who volunteer,” said Sgt. Barr y
Perkins, 39, a career military policeman
at Fort Benning, Ga. “Everybody else is
taking a free ride.”
1. What are some of the reasons people
may give for joining the military?
How are these reasons different from
the reasons sociologists would give
for why people join the military?
2. In the article, Charles Rangel states
that it is not fair to have people
fighting our wars who joined the
military because they had fewer
options than other people. Do you
agree with his position? Why or
why not?
Adapted from the original article by David M.
Halbfinger and Steven A. Holmes published in The
New York Times on March 30, 2003. Copyright ©
2003 by The New York Times Company. Reprinted
with permission.
March 30, 2003
Military Mirrors Working-Class America
*[As of September 4, 2004, of the 979 service men
and women killed who have been identified,
678 were white (69.3 percent), 125 were black
(12.8 percent), and 122 Hispanic (12.4 percent)—
proportions that mirror those of the country as a
whole. But just a handful were from elite families or
graduated from elite colleges (]
ISBN: 0-536-12116-8
Society: The Basics, Eighth Edition by John J. Macionis. Published by Prentice-Hall. Copyright © 2006 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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