Guest Post by Doug Noble of Metrojustice Peace Action and Education
AN OPEN LETTER ON THE PROPOSED MILITARY ACADEMY
For those of you who will be deciding on the proposed Military Academy in the RCSD (Rochester City School District), please be aware that your deliberations take place within a national mindset that glorifies everything military, deserving or not. The military’s own multi-billion-dollar advertising campaigns, such as the one paying millions to the NFL to publicly glorify soldiers at football games, fuel this mindset.
So the US military can still claim to be the finest fighting force in the world, despite its latest string of ignominious failures from Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria. And the military remains an exemplar of discipline and character, despite a sordid record of civilian atrocities, hospital bombings, drone massacres, pervasive rape, and other unchecked violence and misbehavior.
And the military still exemplifies leadership, despite recent accounts by former generals that chronicle a culture of mediocrity, cover-up and ineptitude throughout the higher levels of military command. An extensive review of the Defense Department’s own worldwide DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Actions) school system cited an overall lack of confidence in its bureaucratic management style and an absence of strong leadership. As for cost-effectiveness in training, a $500 million Pentagon program designed to train 5,000 Syrian rebels ended up after a year training only “four or five.”
Given this broader confounding context, it’s all the more critical, as you consider claims about the value of military education, training and leadership in public schools, to look beyond the crisp uniforms, and demand hard data, reviewing the available evidence carefully.
One good source of helpful reports and studies is at: http://cyberspacei.com/jesusi/focus/co/cows/afsc/youthmill/jrotc/index.htm
You might start with findings from two reports. A study of Chicago public military schools and jROTC programs, the most numerous in the country, reported:
- These programs are most frequently offered to and accepted by, low-income communities of color, with the least schooling resources available.
- If one’s only choices are a neighborhood school in need of repair or a new military academy, parents will often choose the more resourced school.
- Military-themed schools are portrayed as essential because of stereotypes that urban youth of color are undisciplined, unruly, and need to be controlled.
- JROTC instructors are paid substantially more than certified teachers and are afforded special treatment in class size and instructional resources.
- Discipline in these militarized programs is constructed through the development of a rigid masculinity, both misogynist and homophobic.
- The Department of Defense compensates the school district for only 40% of the cost of these military programs.
- The youngest soldiers ages 17- 24 have greatest rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse, stress, alcoholism, and suicide
A second study JROTC programs nationwide reported:
- JROTC drains resources from other educational programs through cost-sharing requirements.
- There is typically no detailed review of the JROTC curriculum by local school boards or school districts.
- JROTC curriculum defines leadership as respect for constituted authority and the chain of command, rather than as critical thinking and democratic consensus-building, and it consistently conflates leadership and followership. The texts encourage the reader to rely uncritically on the military as a source of self-esteem and guidance.
- JROTC’s militarism runs counter to many school-based initiatives to deter the spread of school violence.
- Schools with JROTC programs are doing public relations work for the military, portrayed as a social service.
There is much to consider in all this.
We might also reflect on one schoolmaster’s published response to the very first push for jROTC in the public schools back in 1916, exactly a century ago, just in time for the horrors of World War I:
“If American boys lack discipline, let us supply it, but not through a system whose aim is human slaughter.”
Study of military academies in Chicago Public Schools “The Militarization and Privatization of Public Schools,” Berkeley Review of Education, 2011
Catherine Lutz and Lesley Bartlett, University of North Carolina, Making Soldiers in the Public Schools: An Analysis of the Army JROTC Curriculum,” American Friends Service Committee, 2000
Lt General Daniel Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
Thomas E. Ricks ”General Failure,” The Atlantic November 2012
Lucy Broadbent, “Rape in the US military: America’s dirty little secret,” The Guardian, Dec., 2011
“Should we end military recruiting in high schools as a matter of child protection and public health?” American Journal of Public Health v. 101, 2011
Fox News, “Air Force general in charge of nuclear missiles fired over ‘conduct,” October 11, 2013
John Johnson, Newser Staff, “Jarring Stat Shows Why US Is Dumping Syrian Training, “ Oct 9, 2015
James C. MacKenzie, “Letter to Editor,” New York Times, Sept 10, 1916
Institute for Defense Analysis, “Review of Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) Schools, “ Oct. 2000
Frank Schwab, “ Military tributes at NFL games cost DoD $5.4 million, May 8, 2015
AFSC, Asking Questions About the Academies, 2000
Harold Johnson, AFSC, Military Academies Revisited, 2000
AFSC, Trading Books for Soldiers: The True Cost of JROTC
: report on JROTC’s “hidden costs” that strain local school district budgets, 1999
Doug Noble is a a veteran of the local antiwar movement and counter recruitment. He originally sent the letter to City, a fashionably liberal weekly newspaper that often prints his articulate letters. To my knowledge they did not print this one. Perhaps it was too well researched.