by Lynne Howard
I am an Iowa native—actually a Des Moines native. I grew up attending Knox Presbyterian Church just two miles from the Des Moines Valley Friends (DMVF) Meeting House. Although Presbyterian Churches are not typically known as “peace churches”, Knox Presbyterian was an active peace church. While never having to officially declare himself a conscientious objector during WWII (due to his status as a pastor), our minister, Reverend Keith Delap, was a true follower of the peace testimony.
The 1960-1970’s were an exciting time in which to be a teenager. Fresh ways of being, thinking and doing were opening. A truly new world seemed possible. Under Reverend Dewlap’s pastorship the Know community was challenged to envision a world without war. More importantly, we were led to understand that we are not merely idle bystanders, but rather, active participants in bringing this new era into fruition. These were heady and empowering ideas.
My peace activism started at Know and, because “all things peace” in Des Moines leads to AFSC and the Friends, I became involved with a group of like-minded students led by FSC staff. We formed the Des Moines Area Youth Coalition and one of our main goals was to see draft counseling available in all of the Des Moines Public High Schools. Young Des Moines men were walking down the aisles to receive their diplomas, and the, within months, stepping out of helicopters into the lush green hell that was Viet Nam in the 1960-70’s. The deserved, at the minimum, some place to hear and discuss options. We took our proposal to the Des Moines School Board in September of 1970, and to our surprise, it passed! As a matter of interest, I have attached the proposal.
Eventually, my spiritual path led to membership at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting. It was an ecumenical journey—from my early Presbyterian roots, to Catholicism via the Catholic Worker and Jesuit Volunteer Corps, to Methodism through my husband, Bill. And then, in my middle years, a Friends who attended DMVF Meeting remarked, “Lynne, you really are a Quaker, you know!” Yes. I had found my spiritual home in a place I had known for years.
In closing, while I’ve enjoyed going down memory lane, my real purpose in this piece is to recognize and celebrate the constancy and relevancy of the AFSC and Friends in peace and justice work over the years in central Iowa. AFSC has provided optimistic leadership on the many complex issues that affect our local community and wider world. If you want to know what is happening in the peace community, you pass through the doors of the AFSC and the Meeting House. Other worthwhile groups have come and gone but the Friends Peace Testimony, and the faithfulness it requires of us, remains.
Lynne Howard, member Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting, 2014
September 15, 1970
MEMO TO: Members of the Des Moines School Board
FROM: A Group of Concerned Persons in the Des Moines School System (Parents and High School Students)
Background Statement: The Schools and the Draft
Many young men are struggling with decisions related to their future in connection with the draft and the war. Young men must register for the draft at age eighteen, but they come to this important event without any clear understanding of its meaning for them or their country.
It is our feeling that high schools have a responsibility to counsel and educate young men for citizenship in a troubled and divided world, and this responsibility is not fully met unless there are also trained counselors who can help young men with vital decisions related to the draft and military service.
To determine whether or not the Des Moines counselors are presently trained in draft counseling we contacted Mrs. Baal, supervisor of counselors for the Des Moines School District, who said that technically the counselors have no training in draft counseling, but that it would depend on the training they received to become a counselor. Mrs. Baal went on to tell us that most of the Des Moines counselors were trained at Drake and to find out if they received any draft counseling training we should contact Dr. Tiedeman, one of the men in charge of the counselor training at Drake. Dr. Tiedeman told us that their training program did not include draft counseling. The high school counselors of Des Moines are not trained in the area of draft counseling.
The schools need to be counseling young men as t the options available to them. These options include deferments for students, deferments for pre-ministerial candidates, occupational deferments, dependency deferments, those who are deferred for physical, mental, or moral reasons, and the option of conscientious objection. But let us also keep in mind that counseling needs to be provided for young men as to the opportunities and options available to them in terms of making one of the services a vocational choice. What opportunities are available if they are interested within one of the branches of service?
The Des Moines Board of Education has a very important role to play in the future of young people. For the most part, the high schools in Des Moines do an adequate job in providing counseling for college or in relationship to jobs. However, they have failed to help young men with decisions concerning at least two years of their lives by not providing adequate counseling. It was out of a concern with this lack that the Philadelphia School System, along with other schools systems, have already set up objective draft counseling. Dr. Shedd, the Superintendent of the Philadelphia School System, feels very strongly that schools need to advise students on their legal options and alternatives to the draft.
We believe the Des Moines schools should provide similar counsel to help young men with critical decisions that may affect their entire lives. Therefore we make the following proposal:
PROPOSAL FOR DRAFT COUNSELING IN THE DES MOINES PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS
STATEMENT OF BELIEF:
We believe that all young men in the Des Moines Public High Schools should have access to adequate counseling by qualified counselors in regard to the Selective Service and its alternatives. Qualified counselors are those persons who:
- Have received special draft counseling training
- Have a detailed knowledge and experience of the Selective Service Law and the administration thereof
- Are sensitive to the moral and spiritual implication of war and peace and individual conscience
- Have knowledge of where to refer students if they want counseling on a specific aspect of the Selective Service alternatives and options
We further believe that such counseling should be made available during school hours, similar to other available guidance counseling.
There in light of the above purpose we recommend that one of the following plans be used to implement this counseling program:
- That each high school in Des Moines provide adequate training of all guidance counselors in order that they be familiar with the Selective Service Law and its alternatives
- That each high school select one guidance counselor who would be specially trained (see above) to counsel and answer questions concerning the draft and its alternatives. Other guidance counselors in the school could refer their students to this specially trained counselor, if this type of counseling is needed
- That each trained counselor would refer persons who need more intensive and specific counseling to appropriate groups. (Particular religious groups, various branches of the Service, etc.)