Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Military Academy Causes Controversy


Reading, writing, recruiting?
Debate rages as city's newest facility is dedicated
By Stephanie Banchero and Carlos Sadovi Tribune staff reporters
October 15, 2007

Chicago Public Schools, which already has the largest junior military reserve program in the nation, on Monday will commission the country's first public high school run by the U.S. Marines, much to the chagrin of activists who have fought to keep the armed services out of city schools.

The dedication of the Marine Military Academy on the Near West Side comes a few days after Chicago officials announced plans to open an Air Force academy high school in 2009. If that happens, Chicago will become the only public school district in the nation to have academies dedicated to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

District officials say the military-themed schools give students more choices and provide an opportunity to enroll in schools that provide structure, discipline and a focus on leadership. They say the schools emphasize academics, not recruitment.

"We have to think outside the box, and what existed before simply did not work for far too many students," said Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan. "These schools are popular and have waiting lists, so that tells me parents want more of them."

But critics argue the military academies and other district Junior ROTC programs unfairly target poor and minority teenagers for military service.

"We're already the most militarized school system in the nation, and the [district] officials just keep opening more programs, as if they have no problem being a recruitment tool for the military," said Brian Roa, a member of the National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth and a science teacher at Senn High School on the North Side. Senn shares a building with Rickover Naval Academy. "Chicago Public Schools should be in the business of educating children, not finding ways to indoctrinate them into the military."

Nearly a century old

The Junior ROTC was created in 1916 as a way to develop citizenship in teenagers. It grew incrementally for decades until the 1990s, when it dramatically expanded. Today, about 500,000 students are enrolled in high school military programs nationwide.

Chicago has the nation's largest junior cadet program.

More than 11,000 students are enrolled in the district's five military academies -- most of them low-income minority students -- and nearly three-dozen high school-based Junior ROTC programs. The district also has a Middle School Cadet Corps in 20 schools.

In general, the academies operate like regular public high schools. Students take a college prep curriculum and are taught by certified public school teachers. They have the same academic graduation requirements as other students in the district.

Cadets are not required to enlist in the military after graduation.

But military personnel work at the schools as teachers and administrators, and all academy students must enlist in the Junior ROTC, wear a military uniform and take a daily ROTC course that includes lessons on leadership, character development, drug prevention and military history. The cadets, as they are known, also stand at attention each morning for a uniform inspection.

"This is not a recruiting tool, but a way to help students succeed at whatever career they might choose," said Army Lt. Col. Rick Mills, who oversees the district's JROTC. "We intend to use the academies to take students who perform in the middle range and use the military model to enhance their postsecondary education."

Last week, at Rickover Naval Academy in Edgewater, students adorned in pressed white shirts, black slacks and shiny black shoes stood alongside their desks, awaiting the start of history class. Hands clasped to their side and feet together, they waited silently during roll call. Once their name was called, they answered, put their hands behind their back and stood at ease.

Many of the students interviewed at the naval high school, which opened two years ago, said they chose the school for its focus on discipline. Most said they do not intend to enlist.

Natassa Bourkas, a 16-year-old who plans to attend college, said she hopes she will stand out from other students applying to colleges.

"When people see that we went to a military school, they know we're obedient, we follow directions, we're disciplined," said the student, who plans to become a pediatric cardiologist.

Rest of article is Here.

I'm not as conflicted as you might think about this. I think there is a big difference between these academies, where children and their parents CHOOSE TO APPLY, and the provision in No Child Left Behind, which opened up our children's files to whatever military recruiter wanted them. I'm completely AGAINST that provision in NCLB. I don't think that they should be able to invade a child's privacy like that.

I am NOT anti-military. I support the military, and believe that it brings positive things to those who CHOOSE to partake of what the military has to offer. I understand why a parent would choose to send their child to a military academy. The main reason being guaranteed discipline, which, having that taken care of, leaves a lot of school time to do what the child is supposed to be there for in the first place - EDUCATION. For a number of parents, especially single parents of Black Boys, they look at the military school as a way to aid them in helping them shepherd their son into adulthood.

While I am stunned that Chicago will be the only place in the country with a military academy dedicated to all four main branches of the Armed Services, nobody is forcing these students and parents to apply. And, since it is their CHOICE, I believe they should be left alone. After all, we should support parents that are trying to make the best, positive choice for their child's education to help them succeed in this world.

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