MEDIA WATCH: Are major national newspapers pushing JROTC, military high schools on Chicago model?

If a reader wants to know the editorial opinion of today's "news" papers, the best place to learn is by carefully tracing the "news" that appears on Page One and the biases inherent in the news selection itself.

It became obvious by the end of 2009 that at least two of America's major newspapers had decided that Junior ROTC was a very good thing. Both the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times ran articles praising Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs during the final days of 2009. While Chicago's vast expansion of militarism in the city's public schools during the first decade of the 21st Century is not explicitly on the agenda of former Chicago CEO and current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, it reads like the ground is being prepared for a national expansion of JROTC similar to the expansion of JROTC and "military high schools" that Chicago saw during the eight years (2001 to 2008) Arne Duncan was in charge of Chicago's public schools.

If part of "Race to the Top" becomes expanded JROTC and "military" public high schools across the USA, readers heard if first on New Year's Day in Substance.

Below here is the contribution from The New York Times:

More students turning to Junior ROTC programs, By Jordan Schrader - Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times via Gannett News Service (Thursday Dec 31, 2009 8:25)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Before enrolling in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Asheville High School, William Michaels says he struggled to keep his anger under control.

Now, the high school senior says, he doesn’t get in trouble much anymore, thanks to leadership skills shaped by Junior ROTC. He spends much of the school day — plus hours after school, some weekends and part of summer vacation — in the building where program students work out, hit the books and shoot air rifles.

“It’s more than a class. It’s like a giant support group,” says Michaels, 17.

An increasing number of teenagers are getting early exposure to military life through their high schools. Enrollment jumped 5 percent this year to 513,297 students in Junior ROTC programs, according to combined Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force statistics. That far outpaced the program’s growth from 2005 to 2008, those statistics show.

The growth is driven in part by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which directed the Pentagon to add high schools to the program. The goal was to have 3,700 programs by 2020. There are about 3,400, according to combined military statistics.

Students may soon be able to get involved even younger. A program modeled on the Army’s Junior ROTC program is due to start up next fall as a pilot in three yet-to-be named middle schools, says Col. John Vanderbleek, the Army program’s director.

Teens struggling through a physically and emotionally turbulent time in their lives find help in discipline and the influence of military-trained instructors, Vanderbleek says.

“You give them some structure,” he says. “Maybe it’s just the uniform — one day a week they have to wear the uniform, or they have to be accountable to be at the right place at the right time in the right dress.” Gene Bottoms, an education researcher who has visited hundreds of high schools, agrees. Participants seem to become more disciplined in their studies and more focused on goals, says Bottoms, director of the High Schools That Work program at the non-profit Southern Regional Education Board.

“The pride that these students display when you go in the schools who are in these programs is just amazing. You read it on their face. They walk with a certain confidence,” Bottoms says.

Cristina Gonzalez, 18, yelled out commands as her unit marched in its first drill competition. The Navy JROTC program at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, Calif., opened three months ago and has 167 students, says Chief Flor Buncab, one of the unit’s two staff members.

“It already is making a difference in my life,” Gonzalez said. “It’s helping build my leadership. Like before, I had it, but I never demonstrated it.” Gonzalez, a senior, has become the lieutenant commander of her battalion.

Apart from new units, enrollment may be on the rise partly because of a cutback in other after-school activities as schools cope with falling tax revenue, Air Force JROTC Deputy Director Greg Winn says.

Unlike other school groups, JROTC has the funding of the Pentagon behind it, allowing it to add schools such as Grossmont.

Gonzalez says she is deciding among the Navy, other branches of the military and college. But the group isn’t a recruiting tool, says J.D. Smith, director of Navy JROTC. Its goal is to cultivate good citizens.

“Our mission is public service, not necessarily military service,” Smith says.

Smith credits the uptick in new members to an increase in patriotism and civic pride.

Not all programs are growing.

The Marine Corps recently threatened to pull funding for schools such as Asheville High with less than the legal minimum enrollment for Junior ROTC units: 100 students or 10 percent of the student body. Maj. Ron Capes says his Asheville High unit — which has 59 students, down from 78 last year — is typical of units in Buncombe County, N.C., in seeing declines over the past decade. Worry about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may be partly to blame, he says.


January 1, 2010 at 6:44 AM

By: Al Korach

Retired teacher & Lt. Colonel

Someone once asked me, What did you learn in the military? I replied, "One of the things I learned was, if you are going for a job interview do not show up in jeans hanging below your crotch." With the nations school systems falling apart and respect for teacher and parental authority a distant memory something is needed in our schools to get things turned around. The military did not cause me harm but helped organize my life while providing my wife and I with lifelong benefits.

There are many policies that our country is engaged in that I do not agree with.In these turbulant times I feel that it behooves our countyry to have a strong military arm controled by elected civilians. NO! I do not believe in militarism as such.I do believe that the military is an honorable profession and a student has a right to proceed in that direction if he or she wishes. I cannot fight for the right of a teacher to join a union and then deny the right to proceed in a military career.

As a life long trade unionist I feel that one has a right to proceed in the careers of their choice. We have alredy driven the Boy Scouts out of the schools and replaced them with the local gangbangers. If we keep squeezing every decision we will end up a nation of mush.

January 1, 2010 at 2:37 PM

By: John Whitfield

It's a class issue

Though I am respectful of Al's stint in the military, isn't there something being overlooked here? That is, the class issue.

Not just who goes into ROTC programs, but who is sent to kill in war time.

Even Newsweek magazine did a piece on this a few years ago, that is, ROTC as a class issue. I was a Peace Corps vounteer in Costa Rica, a country that chose to abolish the military before 1950, so it does not, needlessly to say, invert tons of $ into a military industrial complex, much less spend billion$ / month on ongoing wars.

So needless to say, I have been against war ever since, and am against the sprouting up of ROTC programs in the poorer communities of Urban America, which Chicago already has an overabundance of military programs, in particular, the Navy taking over much over Senn High School years ago.

On the other hand, to join the Peace Corps, one needs to have a college degree, so it is not "robbing the crib" as these JROTC, and ROTC programs are, that is, "Reserved Officer Training Corps". They seem to have taken the place of a draft, that we had to endure during Viet Nam, recalling that some 58,000 young Americans perished during that prolonged conflict, people older than, and younger than myself. Plus how many hundreds of thousands were maimed, or stricken with agent orange or PTSD, that is, the "POST TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME". I wonder how many American soldiers are returning from Iraq, and Afghanistan with PTSD. How many have been maimed, besides the thousands of soldiers killed?

By the way lets not forget the millions of Viet Namese, and now Iraquis and Afghans that have been killed. And how hundreds of thousands of them have been maimed or stricken with psychological disorders? How many civilians? Isn't it true that "war is terrorism too?"

January 1, 2010 at 3:22 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher/parent

I agree that it is definitely a class issue. I, for one, can support a government that shows disrespect for its citizenship. Following is one example:

The U.S. House of Representatives/Senate votes themselves raises $4,700 and $5,300 per year.

At the same time, they voted not to give us a SS Cost of Living raise in 2010 and 2011.

Medicare premiums will go up $285.60 for 2 years.

There will be no 3% Cola which will mean a loss of $660 per year.

The total loss for the taxpayer will be $1,600 or $3,200 for a husband and wife.

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