Friday, July 26, 2013

Chicago Needs Schools for Education, not for War and Occupation

I was marching with other protesters at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters on Wednesday. In addition to massive teacher layoffs, we were trying to stop the conversion of the Ames School, in the Logan Square neighborhood, into a military academy.

I've urged everyone to raise the alarm about the way our kids are being lured into bearing the burdens of this country's military adventures. It is particularly disgusting to see the way films and video games glorify war and lure young people into combat and violence.

Military Penetration of Chicago Schools

What I didn't realize is the extent of military penetration of Chicago's schools.

An excellent overview is provided by this 2007 segment from Chicago Tonight about Chicago's military schools. At the time of that show:
  • 10,000 Chicago high school students wore a military uniform to class
  • Six (6) full academies: three (3) Army, one (1) Marine, one (1) Navy, one (1) Air Force (approved for 2009)
  • Four (4) other public schools with Army military academies within them
  • Thirty-six (36) traditional Junior ROTC high school programs
  • Twenty (20) middle school programs
Military academies in Chicago are:
Academies include a mandatory Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) instructional component.

Why to say "NO Military School at Ames"

As I see it, there are four big strikes against the military schools.

(1) Making the student into "the problem"

The principal selling point for military academies is "these kids need discipline" -- so let's crack down on them and break the back of their "rebellious ways."

Our young people are not "the problem" -- they are our future. An antagonistic, adversarial approach to young people is simply the wrong way to deal with them.

This is fundamental to being a parent and raising children -- you either understand it or you don't. And I suspect that is why, when Ames parents did a door-to-door community survey, 87% of the 357 persons surveyed did not want a military high school at Ames.

(2) Critical thinking? Fuggedaboutit!

Studies indicate that JROTC programs tend to encourage an uncritical view of American history and emphasize obedience rather than the evaluation of sources and critical thinking. (See Making Soldiers in the Public Schools: An Analysis of the Army Jrotc Curriculum by Catherine Lutz.)

Any way you think about it -- in terms of civics, in terms of economics, or just in terms of plain old responsible and loving parenting -- critical thinking is the most important inheritance we can give to our young people. That's what we need to foster in our schools -- not obedience.

(3) Violence is NOT the solution

At a time when we are struggling mightily to fight against the scourge of violence of all kinds in our community, it is simply unacceptable to legitimize -- nay, glorify -- the use of force and violence as the solution to problems. That is exactly what we do when we convert an academic school into a military school, put kids in uniforms, and start drilling them.

(4) Perverting the definition of "American"

There is a very cynical use of immigration reform to induce recent immigrants to the United States into the military. Putting a military academy in a majority Spanish-speaking neighborhood just serves to reinforce the undemocratic idea that a person has to be a soldier in order to be a full-fledged member of our society.

I guess what I'm struggling most to understand is: if the vast majority of the people in the Ames community don't want a military academy, who is left pushing for it? And why does he think he has any right to override the people in the community?

More information about JROTC can be found on the website of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY).

Related posts

The interest of the government in organizing and occupying and disciplining every moment of our young people's lives is not benign.

(See "Ownlife" - A Notion Too Dangerous for the State to Tolerate? )

In the old order of things, power places itself on display, and hopes that the population sees fit to obey. In the new order of things, power compels every member of the population to display himself or herself . . .  In the new order of things, the courts are bypassed and the instruments of discipline -- observe, classify, examine -- run rampant.

(See "Surveiller et Punir" Indeed!)

The hardest thing for me to understand about the whole effort to militarize Ames is, why would anyone want to go into a place that is dedicated to community involvement, creativity, and leadership development, and change the focus to "following orders"?

(See Military at Ames? No Sirree Bub!)