Sam Diener, editor of Peacework Magazine, muses on global thought and local action. He will also highlight the online musings of the authors of Peacework Magazine. Please read the guidelines of Peacework's blogs and forums to participate in the discussion.
Sam Diener is the Co-Editor of Peacework Magazine, www.peaceworkmagazine.org and was the coordinator of the campaign against JROTC expansion when on staff of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors in the 1990s.
JROTC Wants to Invade Hundreds More Schools
JROTC, a high school program to militarize youth in high schools, has already invaded almost 3400 schools. Peacework has learned that Congress passed a little-noticed measure in the 2009 National Defense Authorization bill to expand the number of JROTC schools to 3700 schools by 2020. To do this, the military will have to open at least 45 new JROTC units per year (Some schools drop the program each year, most often because of low student participation rates. In 2006, for example, Santa Barbara high school dropped its JROTC program due to high costs and low participation rates. Veterans for Peace members helped create a Peace Academy in its place.)
Peacework Has Obtained the List of Targeted Schools
To install these new units, the Pentagon first turns to a list of schools in which the Pentagon has convinced someone to fill out paperwork requesting a JROTC unit. JROTC officials call these waiting lists. We call them targeted schools. Peacework Magazine (Jesus Palafox from AFSC Chicago and Sam Diener in the Peacework office) obtained these lists from all four branches (via Freedom of Information Act requests and requests to Public Affairs) and compiled them into the list below. Please also see the map below, created by AFSC-NERO office manager Katherine Fisher for Peacework, of all the targeted schools and the closest known activists working to counter military recruitment.
This additional attempt to further militarize the youth, schools, and culture of the US can be resisted and stopped, however.
Some of the background on JROTC below is from a previous article on AF JROTC expansion from Peacework Magazine, June, 2005.
JROTC: Costly, Discriminatory, Biased, Deadly
In the 1990s, during a previous round of JROTC expansion, activists worked to expose the realities of the JROTC program to community members and school officials. Because of community opposition, JROTC never opened in approximately 25-30 schools that had been on the military's target list.
Most communities that decided to reject planned units did so after learning that:
∑ Each unit costs school districts at least $50,000, with an average net cost of more than $76,000. Why should the public schools be subsidizing the military? (Please see Trading Books for Soldiers: The True Cost of JROTC, Peacework, October 2004.
∑ JROTC discriminates. JROTC instructors must meet current active military duty standards. Therefore, they can not be openly gay, bisexual, or lesbian. Honorably discharged disabled veterans are also ineligible*. The latter stricture violates every school district's employment non-discrimination policy and most teacher's union contracts. Also, according to a fact sheet distributed by AF JROTC Cadet Command in March, 2005, a student is only eligible for AF JROTC if they are "physically fit and citizens of the United States."** Thus, the program discriminates against students on the basis of disability and citizenship.
∑ A school district has no control over the JROTC curriculum, which is dictated by the national JROTC cadet command. JROTC classes don't count as academic classes for entry into California public colleges, for example.
∑ JROTC is an over-priced, underperforming alternative to physical education. Although typically JROTC recruits students into the program as an alternative to gym classes, in a San Diego study, JROTC students fell behind their peers in physical fitness. When San Francisco stopped offering physical education credit to JROTC classes, enrollment in the JROTC program abruptly fell from 1600 students to 500 students. Also, since a school with 100 JROTC students is required to hire two JROTC instructors (and add another JROTC instructor for each additional 50 students enrolled), JROTC is more costly than certified physical education teachers who teach far more students.
∑ JROTC curricula are inherently biased. A militaristic tone is consistent throughout. The textbooks imply that immigrants and national minorities have to prove their "American-ness" through participation in US wars. The Air Force JROTC textbooks imply that it is air power that wins US wars; the Navy implies that it's sea power, etc..
∑ There is no evidence to support the military's claim that JROTC prevents students from dropping out of school (and the fact that students entering are supposed to have a “C” average, and that half of all students who take JROTC leave the program the following year, tends to indicate the claim is most likely false.) Some of the most intensely pro-JROTC students say that JROTC is a place in the school that provides community. We need to build safe communities in schools without the militarization, discrimination, cost, and other drawbacks.
∑ The JROTC program makes a mockery of schools' weapon-free zones policies by bringing guns (especially in Army JROTC) and mock-guns into the schools (Students waged a year-and-a-half long successful campaign to bar JROTC rifle ranges in the San Diego schools (it's scheduled to take effect June 2009)). Please also see AFSC's analysis of how JROTC sends the wrong message about guns and violence.
A video of a JROTC air rifle range on Guam is embedded below:
∑ There are numerous cases of JROTC-connected violence, including murders, gang-activities, and violent hazing. In June 2009, a student in a San Ysidro JROTC class was accused of exploding five bottle bombs on campus.
∑ The military's vaunted leadership skill training focuses instead on following orders.
∑ JROTC is more of a recruiting program than a leadership program. When testifying to Congress about JROTC on February 9, 2000, then Secretary of Defense William Cohen gushed, it's "one of the best recruiting devices that we could have." The regulations under which Army JROTC operates, for example, mandate that JROTC “should create favorable attitudes and impressions toward the Services.” (Title 32 Code of Fed Regulations, Chapter V, section 542.5(c)).
∑ There are serious drawbacks, attested to by Veterans for Peace especially, of militarizing young minds
Future protests might also raise questions about the appropriateness of high schools preparing military personnel for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ACLU has concluded that JROTC violates the optional protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by the US, which bars recruiting child soldiers (in pdf form). A Chicago Tribune article (December 17, 2004), reported that two graduates of the AF JROTC program at Brentwood High School who joined the military were killed in these wars. The Long Island, NY school is in a working class community where 62% of students live below the federal poverty line, more than 65% are Latino, and 23% are African-American. According to the Tribune, Principal Thomas O'Brien is now reconsidering the JROTC program at Brentwood. He reflected, "Certainly what's happened here gives you pause for thought: Are you placing your kids at risk?" (Since that article was written, according to the New York Times, two more Brentwood graduates have been killed in battle.)
Some communities might not have had any public discussion of the impending school invasions. In the past, activists in communities threatened by imminent JROTC units have raised a red flag with community organizations, gay rights groups, disability rights groups, peace groups, student councils, parent-teacher organizations, teachers' unions, and school boards in order to delay or stop the military training programs. Some activists have stressed the importance of delaying the start of such a controversial program for at least a year until the community can thoroughly investigate and discuss the pros and cons of JROTC.
For additional alternative information about JROTC, including fact sheets, analyses, case histories, and activist assistance, please contact the American Friends Service Committee Youth and Militarism Program, 215/241-7046; and Project YANO (Youth and Non-Military Opportunities), 760/634-3604). YANO’s website features a single page document summarizing points for JROTC opponents to make at school board meetings.
Please search the list below and contact activists and organizations in the targeted areas to warn them of the JROTC threat. If you'd like to volunteer to help foster counter-JROTC campaigns in your area, please contact AFSC at 215/241-7046.
* The JROTC regulations rule out instructors with disabilities, but apparently a waiver is available in some cases. Since this article was written, I learned about a JROTC instructor in Boston with a seriously injured arm who obtained a waiver.
** I have known students who were not citizens who participated in JROTC, apparently because the instructor decided to ignore the regulation.