Teachers vs. JROTC

At a 5,000-student, nearly all Latino high school in Los Angeles, the Junior ROTC program has lost nearly half its cadets in recent years, reports the LA Times. Some Roosevelt High teachers are trying to get the program dropped.

Teacher Gillian Russom said (color guard drill) training instills the wrong values: following orders, dressing the same and relying on rote memorization rather than critical thinking. “That’s necessary for a successful military, but does it create the kind of citizens we want?”

Presumably she oppposes the marching band too.

Nationwide, “40% of students who graduated from high school with two or more years of JROTC ended up in the military,” according to a recent survey. But only three Roosevelt cadets have enlisted in the last three years, says First Sgt. Otto Harrington, the instructor. They’re not qualified.

Only 5% of his cadets would even qualify to enlist, he said, because the rest are in the country illegally, couldn’t pass the military aptitude test, are in trouble with the law or are overweight.

One of LA’s lowest performing schools, Roosevelt is being “reorganized” in the hopes of improving student achievement and boosting the graduation rate.

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  1. I spent several years in the Army and it was a good experience for me. I am not a fan of JROTC, but it is really not intended to militarize schools or produce soldiers. I am not sure what it is for. Now in Russia and the Soviet Union, high school military training for boys is intended to produce soldiers. Why are so many people on the left against JROTC and ROTC, but they love the communist approach to everything else?

  2. If they get enough “recognition”, they can boost the graduation rate the old-fashioned way — cook the books.

  3. Andy Freeman says:

    I’d be a lot more impressed by a teacher who disdains the military if said teacher was producing students who surpassed military standards.

  4. wayne martin says:

    My short stint in the Army was very eye-opening, resulting in the end of my “adoration” of academia, and a realization that people in the education industry don’t know very much about the real world. I came to see “Education people” as being in that industry for their own purposes, and little interest in any “truth” but their own. In one year alone, I ended up spending time in the US, Europe and Asia, an experience allowing me to see first hand the differences in the cultures, mindsets and capabilities of people from each of these very different parts of the planet. I came back realizing that most of “crap” that people in the Universities were slinging about the military (and the Vietnam War) was just that—nothing more, nothing less.

    > The program’s critics see JROTC as a Trojan horse targeting
    > students in low-income minority schools with high
    > dropout rates. “We are a juicy target,” said Roosevelt social
    > studies teacher Jorge Lopez.

    The military offers people jobs (perhaps for life—just like teachers) which are generally interesting, require training, have reasonable pay, excellent benefits, offer a clear path for promotion, world-wide assignments, 30 days annual vacation, as well as other national holidays off, social benefits (such as clubs, golf-courses and other recreational opportunities), free travel (on authorized leave and space available basis), free housing, free food (for enlisted personnel), free educational opportunities including the opportunity to earn a college degree, and a pension for life after 20 years of service.

    One can only wonder if “teacher” Lopez is aware of these facts, and if so, which ones he feels demonstrate an attempt to “exploit low income minorities”? It would also be interesting for teacher Lopez to explain why so many kids at his school are dropping out, and what he expects life will be like for these kids?

    > Many teachers are openly hostile toward JROTC, Jesse said,
    > and some wear T-shirts that say “A War Budget Leaves
    > Every Child Behind.”

    The education system in the US consumes about $1T a year—more than twice what the defense budget was consuming prior to 9/11. Even now, with increased military spending, the US education budget is consuming just less than twice that of the Defense Department. For this vast “investment”, US students only graduate at about 70 percent, and only about 40 percent demonstrate the ability to read “at grade” on national and state tests. I wonder if the anti-military teachers in LA are aware of this fact?

    > Roosevelt students tell him he is being brainwashed to go into
    > the Army, but he said he thinks they don’t understand what the
    > program really is. It has taught him leadership and discipline, he
    > said, and he has thrived on its boundaries and rules.

    One of the key elements of US military doctrine is effective “every man is a leader”. This doctrine is implement in many ways, one of which is the “chain of command”. In the absence of the next person up-the-chain, each individual is supposed to take “command”, and do what is necessary to complete the mission with the resources at hand. This is taught by providing people opportunities with increased responsibility over time, and more-or-less constant review. (Checks-and-balances from a civilian point-of-view.)

    > He said that Guerrero, who often wears a “War is not the answer”
    > T-shirt and has a flag of the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara
    > hanging in her classroom,

    Guevara was a proponent of violent, Marxist revolution. He contributed to the military overthrow of Cuba’s government, and then moved on into South America to continue his path of death and destruction (hundreds of thousands have been killed by the Communists in Cuba and other SA countries). If “War is not the answer” is a message for Teach Guerrero, then why is killing in the name of Karl Marx not war? Why is living under the rule of a dictator like Castro (and presumably Guevera had be been able to overturn more governments) better than living in country like the US that needs a military to defend itself against people like Guevera? Teacher Guerrero, for one, needs to explain his seemingly contradictory views.

    > “Jesse, are you going to go to Iraq and die?” she asked.
    > “Why are you wearing a uniform? Aren’t you embarrassed?”
    > Jesse said he felt singled out by the question and told his
    > JROTC instructor about it.

    The article goes on to recount how the JROTC instruction “had it out” with teacher Guerrero, which prompted the Principal to get involved. However, it seems to me that this teacher should have been reported to the State Board of Education, with a request to review the actions of this (and the other teachers in this movement) to determine if the teacher had a right to conduct himself in a way that clearly involved the harassing of this student (and other JROTC). It might not hurt to look for a pro-bono lawyer to consider reviewing the actions of the teacher to determine if any civil actions could be brought against him.

    Teachers should be required by law to avoid engaging in political agendas in their classes. Off-campus, they should be free to engage in lawful political activity. On-campus, they are employees of the public education system—and should have boundaries on their political activities while “on the clock”.

  5. When a teacher in a public school uses his classroom for sustained political indoctrination, he is stealing, in at least a moral sense. He is using resources paid for by others–the building, the utility bills, his own work time–for purposes other than what they were intended.

    How is this different from stealing money from the till and donating it to one’s favorite political cause?

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    I’m struck by the irony: Gillian Russom and the other “educators” who so despise the military are able to express their left-wing flatulence only because far better men and women than they have, and still do, serve and sometimes die so that they can exercise the right.

  7. wayne martin says:


    The nine schools have been identified as Program Improvement year 5. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires school restructuring after a school has been designated as Program Improvement (PI) – or failing to meet academic improvement targets – for five years.

    Roosevelt High is one of the nine schools identified for “PI reformation” in 2005.

  8. Well said, Wayne Martin–

    Advancing a political agenda in a classroom is not only an abuse of power. It is eductional malpractice. Our job is to teach students how to think, not what to think.

    I have close to a dozen former students fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them discussed this option with me before enlisting. I advised them not to take what any recruiter says at face value and urged them to talk to their friends, relatives, or the friends of relatives or relatives of friends who had already enlisted and find out what as much as they could before making a decision.

    I supported the invasion in Afghanistan. I did not support the the invasion of Iraq. I respect and admire my students who want to serve their country and who are willing to die in that effort and ask them only to make an informed decision — about that and everything else.

  9. It appears to me that the teachers who think they are fighting militarism in their school do not know what militarism really is. Militarism is when military values and needs are valued more highly than civil values and needs. I do not see how JROTC in their school fits this definition. JROTC does not come out of their budget. I do not see how military recruiting or target shooting as currently practiced is militaristic either. I think they have confused the merely military with militarism. By their way of thinking Switzerland is a militarist nation because they have an armed force raised by universal military service and have a national tradition of marksmanship. Of course they may know the difference but dislike the very idea of a military organization so much they are trying to smear JROTC with an accusation of militarism. So they are either ignorant or liars.

  10. I have to say I had very negative feelings toward JROTC when I first saw it, very much like those who’ve opposed it. But the program in our school is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere, with some of the most dedicated and helpful instructors I’ve ever seen.

    I call a lot of parents, but with JROTC kids, I often go to their teachers, who frighten them even more than home. Perhaps that sounds negative, but I think it’s a good thing.

    Anyone who opposes JROTC ought to take a look at the program. It’s discipline intensive, and that’s great for teens. And while I may be naive, I don’t get the impression their being indoctrinated to confuse the Army with the Boy Scouts.

    Personally, I’d like to see more JROTC-style policies schoolwide.

  11. Should be “they’re” being indoctrinated. Sometimes I horrify myself.

  12. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Teachers who oppose JROTC should demonstrate their commitment by eschewing a government paycheck.

  13. My first two years, I taught in a school with JROTC. It was a great program at that school.

  14. Indigo Warrior says:

    Hypocrisy, that’s all it is.

    The US military doesn’t draft people, and hasn’t done for over 30 years. The US public school system drafts everybody at a very young age, or at least tries to. Some kids with supportive parents can get a deferment for being enrolled in a private school, or homeschooled,

    The US military is run on a coercive, hierarchical, elitist, and authoritarian basis. It however never claims anything to the contrary and is totally honest about it. Discipline is harsh but regular. The military tends to attract those people who benefit from such an environment. The government school system claimes to be “child-centered” and “student-centered” but such centering is often based on a hypocritical elitism unrelated to educational attainment or intellectual prowess.

    The US military has a certain amount of hazing. The public school system has much more, and prides itself that its Kafkaesque social minefield somehow helps students “get along with others.”

  15. wayne martin says:

    > The US military is run on a coercive, hierarchical,
    > elitist, and authoritarian basis.

    During my first five minutes of Officer Training School, we were shown a slide that said:

    “The US Serviceman’s compliance to orders is voluntary”
    (or words to that effect).

    My experience as an Officer was that this was most true.

    As to the suggestions that the US military is run on a hierarchical basis, this is true—it is the most effective way to transmit orders and information up-and-down a chain-of-command.

    As to the military’s being “elitist”, that would be hard to prove. While most of the officers (hence the folks running the show) are college grads, NCOs (who are the backbone of the Military and responsible for all of the heavy-lifting) typically are not. Most professional organizations require a BS as a requirement for employment–so is that “elitist” too?

    > Discipline is harsh but regular.

    Not since the introduction of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) was introduced after WWII could one claim that discipline is harsh. For the most part, most minor infractions result in an administration disciplinary action (loss of pay, sometimes a reduction in rank) at the company/ship level (basically a slap on the hand).

    > The US military has a certain amount of hazing.

    Perhaps hazing occurs in elite units (such as Green Berets or Seals), but not in general. Once people get out of Basic (and any other ) training, the Military becomes just another job. The only real difference (outside of combat), is that the wardrobe is yucky and folks get paid only once a month.

  16. I was paid twice a month.

  17. Bill Leonard says:

    My experience mirrors that of Wayne Martin — though I was a draftee, and served from 1966 through 1968, leaving the service as a specialist E5 (the equivalent of a buck sergeant.)

    I would disagree that the military is “just another job” at some level. That is true for the Air Force, and for a great man Navy occupational specialties, although Navy people do put in time at sea, separated from home and family. In the army, it is less true, and it is not “just another job” at all for those in the Marines or in Army, Navy or Air Force elite units of various types.

    I do believe the military is a viable alternative for a great many young men and women. What is almost neverarticulated in these discussions is that the military system is primarily aimed — certainly in the enlisted ranks — at young people fresh out of high school, and serving in what are, for most of us, maturing years — about 17 to about 21.

    I have observed that those who are most vocal in their anti-miltary sentiments typically are those who never have served, and who frankly have no idea what they are talking about. That of course includes those most vocal at Rossevelt High School in the issue in question.

    In my nastier moments, I think their views should get the response that is deserved. A steel-toed boot to the soft tissues is about right to start.

  18. Found an interesting photo essay on Chicago’s recent city-wide JROTC Drill-off with an accompanying article that had interesting information about high school graduation rates for JROTC students in Chicago:

    “Nearly one in five Kenwood High School students drops out, according to CPS numbers, and last year the Consortium on Chicago School Research reported that only about 30 percent students who graduate CPS enroll in four-year colleges.

    ROTC students graduate at very high rates, according to Harrell, who said that 71 percent of last year’s seniors went on to post-secondary education.”


  19. I wonder if the antimilitarism of the teachers might be motivated by jealously that JROTC is getting through to kids the teachers cannot reach. My high school teachers were completely unaware of what I learned about motivating young men in the Army. I do not mean acting like a drill sergeant.