ACTION ALERT: Should the Army Subsidize High-school Soldiering?
April 9, 2018 The Economist & Ilana Novick / AlterNet
When 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was arrested for a mass-shooting at his former school, he was wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with the JROTC crest. In 2016, Cruz's unit received $10,827 from the NRA. Pat Elder is the director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, a group that fights militarism in education. Recently, Elder taught his usual GED class at Great Hills High School in Maryland and woke the next morning to the news that his building had been the site of the latest US school shooting.
Should the Army Subsidize High-school Soldiering? An unresolved question is being asked
again after the Parkland shooting The Economist
(March 1, 2018) -- In 2016 the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), a Pentagon-funded programme that provides military-style training to high-school pupils, notched up its centenary.
The occasion was marked with balls, dinners and fun runs. Today the mood among JROTC units is less celebratory. On February 14th a former JROTC cadet opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 14 students and three teachers.
When the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was arrested by authorities, he was wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with the JROTC crest. As if this were not enough, days after the shooting it emerged that in 2016 Mr. Cruz's unit had received $10,827 from the National Rifle Association.
This is not the first time the JROTC has faced public scrutiny. Parents and advocacy groups have criticised the programme, which offers courses in military history and marksmanship, for steering pupils towards the armed services rather than higher education. Such recruitment efforts, they say, target pupils in poor minority neighbourhoods.
The JROTC programme is also costly. The Department of Defence spends $370m a year supplying about 3,500 public high schools with textbooks, uniforms and equipment, but local school districts pay half of instructors' salaries. Some parents say the money would be better spent on something other than marching and shooting.
"Should the Army Subsizes High School Soldiering?" The Army Times.
Military top brass chafe at the suggestion that the JROTC is chiefly a recruitment scheme. But for many years the programme's funding fell under the recruitment-and-training section of the Pentagon's budget. And in 2000 William Cohen, then defence secretary, told congressmen that the JROTC was "one of our best recruiting tools".
The claim that JROTC programmes are aimed at poor minority schools also has some truth to it. A recent paper by the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, finds that among schools with JROTC programmes, 57% of pupils are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches and 29% are black. At schools without JROTC, these figures are 47% and 12% respectively.
Supporters argue, however, that these are precisely the students that benefit most from JROTC. In 1992, at the behest of General Colin Powell, President George H.W. Bush doubled the size of the JROTC, expanding the programme into America's inner cities. A military-style education, it was argued, would provide disadvantaged pupils with structure and discipline.
Since the JROTC's expansion, several studies have found that the programme is associated with stronger academic results, including better attendance and higher graduation rates. Many pupils say the programme has changed their lives.
Whether the JROTC also leads to greater gun use is less clear. Many JROTC cadets take marksmanship courses and compete on rifle teams (most use air rifles, which fire pellets, rather than actual firearms, which use gunpowder). There are more than 2,000 high-school rifle teams registered with America's Civilian Marksmanship Programme, a gun-safety advocacy group.
In the aftermath of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed, Chicago's public schools ended JROTC rifle training because it clashed with the city's "zero tolerance" gun policy.
That was not the case for Smithfield-Selma High School in Smithfield, North Carolina. In 2016, the school made headlines for converting an unused greenhouse into a 1,200-square-foot on-campus shooting range. It cost $10,400.
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(March 23, 2018) -- On Monday night, Pat Elder taught his usual GED class at Great Hills High School in Maryland. On Tuesday morning, he woke up to the news that his building had been the site of yet another school shooting; just before 8am, a male student with a handgun opened fire, injuring two fellow students and exchanging fire with police officers before being pronounced dead.
Elder was in shock. As the director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that fights militarism in education, the horrific incident was yet more evidence of an argument he'd been making for years: that guns, even in supposedly educational marksmanship and Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programs, have no place in schools.'
This latest shooting was morbidly effective timing for a campaign by the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy to end marksmanship programs in American high schools, starting with a petition.
"We are set to send as many as 150,000 emails at the beginning of next week," Elder told AlterNet. The coalition boasts dozens of groups including World Beyond War, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, On Earth Peace, and Stop Recruiting Kids.
"The petition is unique," he said, "because it targets not federal legislators, not Congress, but it targets state legislators. What we're trying to do is we're trying to shut down firing ranges in public high schools."
The ultimate goal is to change legislation, Elder said: "We are targeting individual state legislators in order to do so. Our hope is that we can perhaps have legislation introduced in at least a half a dozen statehouses before long.
"I'm convinced that the United States Military Entrance Processing Command, which is the recruiting branch of the military, is intent on putting as many juvenile fingers around as many triggers, whether they be virtual or real, as possible."
JROTC programs, he believes, are part of that recruiting. There are approximately 3,800 JROTC programs in American schools, according to Elder, 2,000 of which have marksmanship programs under the auspices of the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The program, Elder noted, "has assets that exceed that of the NRA.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is much more embedded in the public schools. It is a lackey for the NRA, and senators Lautenberg and Simon in 1996, when the Civilian Marksmanship Program was made into a private congressionally authorized entity, called it a boondoggle and a gift to the NRA in the public schools."
The programs, which teach students how to fire weapons, are concentrated in the South. "Alabama is much, much more likely than, say, Rhode Island to have these types of programs in the public schools. Military recruitment rates in Georgia are three times that of Connecticut, and so there are certain areas where the militarism is much more established as part of the culture of the society."
As for Great Hills, Elder explained that Maryland has conservative and liberal enclaves, but, "Great Mills High School is certainly in a red area. It is within two miles of the Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center, which is a naval facility, which is just about the size of the Pentagon. It's massive."
As part of the petitioning campaign, Elder wants to make sure parents understand an even more insidious part of the relationship between schools and the military. Even if their kids aren't in marksmanship programs, their data may still be passed onto military recruits.
Embedded in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a cornerstone of national educational policy, is a rule that says, "if a military recruiter requests the name, address, and phone number of students in a particular high school, then this high school has to hand it over, but the high school must tell parents they have the right to opt out."
The problem, Elder continued, is that this law "does not specifically say how the heck that's supposed to happen, so most schools really don't do much at all. They may put something in the student handbook, buried on page 36, or it may be buried on the website, but most parents don't know."