Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Atlanta Journal-Constitution - DeKalb County school officials are forging ahead with plans to open a first-of-its-kind military-style public high school, despite a growing campaign by activists upset at the involvement of the U.S. Marines.

"It's the worst thing that's ever happened in Georgia education," said Michael Burke, a DeKalb resident and spokesman for the Georgia Veterans Alliance, a group that aligns itself with the work of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, among others. "The whole thing is just a ploy" to help the Marines recruit, Burke said. "We expect to fight it tooth and nail.". . .

"This is not a training ground to send kids into the military," said DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis, whose system, with 99,700 students, is the state's third-largest. "My job is not to look after a portion of children but all the children. One size does not fit all. For the mom who believes her child is capable of going to college but lacks discipline, this is a choice."

A DeKalb school spokesman said Monday the system has hired a commandant for the school, which system officials hope to open in August. The commandant was selected from a list of three candidates from the Marines. . .

The DeKalb Marine Corps Institute will be the first of its kind in Georgia, and joins an expanding network of such schools nationwide. The first public military academy opened in Richmond, Va., in 1980, and more than a dozen now exist in places from New York to Wisconsin.

One proponent has been Arne Duncan, recently nominated as the nation's education secretary after leading the Chicago public school system since 2001. Chicago opened the nation's first public high school run by the Army's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and now features six full-site military academies, among other military-style programs.

DeKalb officials say their school will combine academics with a military-style regimen for as many as 650 ninth- through 12th-graders. The school's commandant will handle anything not related to academic instruction. A principal will be hired to handle academics, which includes a focus on math and science.

According to Lewis, the Marines would share costs of operating the school, including paying for teacher salaries. DeKalb would pay for benefits.

Andy Kroll, Tom Dispatch - Duncan leaves behind a Windy City legacy that's hardly cause for optimism, emphasizing as it does a business-minded, market-driven model for education. If he is a "reformer," his style of management is distinctly top-down, corporate, and privatizing. It views teachers as expendable, unions as unnecessary, and students as customers.

Disturbing as well is the prominence of Duncan's belief in offering a key role in public education to the military. Chicago's school system is currently the most militarized in the country, boasting five military academies, nearly three dozen smaller Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs within existing high schools, and numerous middle school Junior ROTC programs. More troubling yet, the military academies he's started are nearly all located in low-income, minority neighborhoods. This merging of military training and education naturally raises concerns about whether such academies will be not just education centers, but recruitment centers as well. . .

Today, the flagship projects in CPS's militarization are its five military academies, affiliated with either the Army, Navy, or Marines. All students -- or cadets, as they're known -- attending one of these schools are required to enroll as well in the academy's Junior ROTC program. That means cadets must wear full military uniforms to school everyday, and undergo daily uniform inspections. As part of the academy's curriculum, they must also take a daily ROTC course focusing on military history, map reading and navigation, drug prevention, and the branches of the Department of Defense. . .

CPS also boasts almost three dozen smaller Junior ROTC programs within existing high schools that students can opt to join, and over 20 voluntary middle school Junior ROTC programs. All told, between the academies and the voluntary Junior ROTC programs, more than 10,000 students are enrolled in a military education program of some sort in the CPS system. Officials like Duncan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley justify the need for the military academies by claiming they do a superlative job teaching students discipline and providing them with character-building opportunities. "These are positive learning environments," Duncan said in 2007. "I love the sense of leadership. I love the sense of discipline." . . .

Without a doubt, teaching students about discipline and leadership is an important There is obviously a correlation between these low-income, minority communities, the military academies being established in them, and the long-term recruitment needs of the U.S. military. The schools essentially function as recruiting tools, despite the expectable military disclaimers.

Chicago Tribune typically reported in 1999 that the creation of the system's first military school in the historically black community of Bronzeville grew, in part, out of "a desire for the military to increase the pool of minority candidates for its academies." And before the House Armed Services Committee in 2000, the armed services chiefs of staff testified that 30%-50% of all Junior ROTC cadets later enlist in the military. Organizations opposing the military's growing presence in public schools insist that it's no mistake the number of military academies in Chicago is on the rise at a time when the U.S. military has had difficulty meeting its recruitment targets while fighting two unpopular wars.


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