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Letter: ‘Data’ lie in defense of JROTC

‘Data’ lie in defense of JROTC

January 31, 2008

Substance:

Those of us who have addressed the Chicago Board of Education regularly in opposition to the expansion of military academies and JROTC in Chicago’s public schools have often bumped against the wall of supposed ‘data’ that Arne Duncan and Rufus Williams use to support their claim that JROTC and military schools are really “college prep” options and not parts of the great military recruiting machine.

As you already know, when pressed for the actual data, CPS avoids answering the question, then repeats the claims. This has been going on since we at Save Senn first challenged the military academies more than three years ago, and it continues in Chicago to this day.

I hope that you can share the article below from San Francisco, where one citizen demanded a source for one of those many “facts” that are bandied about on behalf of military schools and JROTC. And look at what he found by simply asking, “Can you prove that?”

Neal Resnikoff

Chicago, Illinois

JROTC and Military Recruitment

By Marc Norton, 2008-01-04

The Friends of JROTC (http:// friendsof jrotc.com/ jrotc-myths) website claims that JROTC is not a military recruitment program. This, the website claims, is a “myth... The JROTC program was not set up to recruit.” This is a common defense of JROTC by those who support this Pentagon program.

Unfortunately for the Friends of JROTC, their claim that JROTC is “not set up to recruit” is manifestly false. According to federal regulations for the Army, one of the goals of JROTC is to “create favorable attitudes and impressions toward the Services and toward careers in the Armed Forces.” These same regulations state that “all qualified students of JROTC” should be “encouraged” to “perform military or any other Federal service.”

What could be more clear? Does anyone really believe that the military would set up hundreds of JROTC programs merely out of a sense of civic duty?

It should come as no surprise that, nationwide, about 42% of JROTC graduates choose either to enlist, to go into a military service academy, or to enter a ROTC program in college.

Did some wild-eyed radical make up that number? No, sir. That number comes directly from the Army itself, in its fiscal report for 2005.

This figure is down a bit from the 45% reported by the Department of Defense back in 1993.

Now, try this number. In 2005, nearly 60% of San Franciscans voted for Proposition I, which states that it should be “city policy to oppose military recruiting in public schools.” This vote took place the same year that 42% of JROTC graduates nationwide were signing up.

Apparently, today, the majority of the School Board doesn’t feel it needs to pay much attention to the voters. We clearly need to concentrate their attention.

The next defense by JROTC supporters is to claim that fewer San Francisco JROTC cadets end up in a military career than JROTC cadets nationwide. This is undoubtedly true, and thankfully so. After all, this is San Francisco, not Omaha.

But, so what if there are less recruits in San Francisco? Even one student recruited into the military by way of JROTC is one too many. Two is twice too many. And it appears that the number may be quite a bit higher than one or two.

So, let’s look at that question. How many JROTC cadets are actually recruited in San Francisco? As we shall see, JROTC supporters have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble trying to answer that question in their less-than-honest attempt to dismiss the fact that JROTC is a recruitment tool for the military.

At the beginning of December, just a few days before the renegade School Board voted to extend JROTC’s grip on our students for another year, the San Francisco Business Times ran a putrid _editorial_ (http://san francisco.biz journals.com/ sanfrancisco/ stories/2007/12/10/ editorial1.html) lambasting the opponents of JROTC. One of their claims is that “fewer than 5 percent of JROTC members enlist.” The editors didn’t make it clear whether they were talking about JROTC cadets nationwide or just in San Francisco, but then who would expect such accuracy from this mouthpiece of the big business class?

Still, I contacted the Business Times, and asked where they got that 5% figure. The answer I got from Jim Gardner, their Managing Editor, is worth quoting at some length:

“The usual source cited for the 5% number you questioned is a report compiled by SFUSD a couple of years ago, though in response to a request, the SFUSD has been unable to turn up a copy that would allow me to verify that number.”

Who looks dumber — the Business Times or the school district?

But, wait, there is more from the Business Times:

“In any case, more recent numbers exist, though they did not when the editorial was written. A new SFUSD survey of 800+ JROTC students found that 15.7 percent have some interest in pursuing a military career.”

So, now we go from 5% to nearly 16%. Oops.

Tipped off by the selective leaking of this survey by the school district to the Business Times (and also to Jill Tucker at the Chronicle), your intrepid reporter requested a copy for Beyond Chron readers. More on the survey later.

But let me tantalize you with the fact that, according to this survey, 15.6% of the students who responded claimed that they were “placed in the program without my consent.” Oops again. Maybe this program isn’t so voluntary after all.

The final bit, for now, from the Business Times:

“...we strive to be as factually accurate as possible, regardless of what opinion we take editorially. As I can’t verify the 5% number for myself, and since a more up-to-date relevant figure exists, we will correct that fact in the online version of the editorial and publish a short correction in the print edition.”

Well, it is now well over two weeks later, and I have seen no correction in the online article or in the print edition. Oops, oops, and more oops.

Probably the biggest proponent of JROTC on the school board is Jill Wynns, who has been on the board ever since my kids were in grammar school. As people were filing out of the last board meeting on December 11, I encountered Jill, whom I used to work with in a now-defunct school/community alliance called San Franciscans Unified.

In a somewhat heated way I complained about her pro-JROTC vote. She responded coolly, I must say, claiming among other things that very few JROTC students join the military. I asked her if she could supply documentation for that claim. She immediately promised that she would.

Well, to date, she hasn’t. A couple of days later she emailed me, claiming that “JROTC cadet enlistment from SFUSD is that 2% enlisted in 2005. As far as we know about 5-6% of all SFUSD students enlisted that year. I am having confirmed the data source.”

A couple of days later, I contacted Jill again. She emailed back that “staff is getting the sources of the data. But, people are leaving for vacation, so, we’ll see. I won’t let it go.”

Well, I’m still waiting. We’ll see if the school district can come up with something for Jill, where they couldn’t for the Business Times.

Jill adds: “The 2% is verifiable, except that what kids do after they tell us their plans is hard to track.” Maybe for the school district, Jill, but not for the military.

Interestingly, the numbers Jill cites are the same numbers on the Friends of JROTC website: “Less than 2% of JROTC graduates in 2005 went on to pursue a military career, compared with 6% citywide.”

Did I mention that _Daniel “Jane Kim needs to die” Chin_ (http://www. beyondchron.org/ news/index.php? itemid=5148) is the webmaster of the Friends of JROTC website? This guy seems to pop up at every turn.

I doubt that Chin is very fond of me, but I figured no harm could come from emailing him and asking where he got his figures. He responded, and unlike the Business Times, Jill Wynns or the school district, he can actually cite his sources. After looking at what he sent me, however, I will venture to say that his numbers seem to be incomplete. But this article is already too long, so we’ll get back to Mr. Chin soon.

Copyright © 2008 by Marc Norton Marc Norton is a bellman at a small hotel in downtown San Francisco. Contact him at _nortonsf@ix.nortonsf@i_ (mailto:nortonsf@ix.netcom.com) , or through his website at _www.MarcNorton.ww_ (http://www.marcnorton.us/). 

This Letter was originally published in the February 2008 print edition of Substance.



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