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

[Editor/reporter's note: The following piece was first posted on December 31, 2010 at and has been expanded for this posting. Happy New Year. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance].

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.

The Chicago Tribune has also weighed in with a favorable story on JROTC and military programs. Below is the most recent Tribune story on JROTC.


October 9, 2018 at 3:29 PM

By: Robert M Lamont

posting George's name as a peace maker om the website of Vets for Peace Chicago Chapter

I have talked to Arny Stieber about putting GNS name and more on the VFP Chapter website.

A link to substance might work. Sharon, George, Arny and I would met at CPS Board meetings.

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