Articles

JROTC Is Preying on Poor Students

A recent string of revelations about abuses by the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps presents an opportunity to rein in the military’s presence and power in public schools.

The G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School Naval JROTC Unit cadets at the Miami Beach, Florida Veterans Day Parade, November 11, 2022. (Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)01.08.2023 / Seth Kershner Scott Harding / Jacobin - The Pentagon’s signature program for instilling military values in American schools, the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), has a long history dating to 1916. But it hasn’t endured such bad press since the 1970s. In several damning articles, the New York Times revealed the structure of what’s wrong with high school military training: instructors who use their positions to prey on teenage girls, in-school shooting ranges built with grants from the National Rifle Association, and mandatory enrollment in some of the nation’s largest school districts — all abetted by school officials who fail to adequately monitor a program of such dubious educational value that many instructors lack a college degree.

These revelations have vindicated those in the “counter-recruitment” movement who for years warned of a largely unsupervised program taught by retired military officers. It also raises serious questions about why military training programs have any place in US public high schools.

The Pentagon spends around $400 million annually to provide training in military drill and “leadership” through the JROTC in more than 3,500 high schools, to approximately five hundred thousand students. Despite this presence, the program seems to operate on the fringes, with school officials exercising scant oversight even as instructors take their young “cadets” on extended travel to military bases and interschool competitions. Such conditions foster an environment rife with potential abuse.

The Times identified at least thirty-three JROTC instructors who had been criminally charged with sexual misconduct with their students, and found evidence that numerous other instructors were accused but never charged. According to the education outlet Chalkbeat, Chicago’s head of school military instruction quietly resigned last summer, three years after failing to inform officials of suspected sexual abuse by a JROTC instructor who was later arrested.

The Games Industry as 21st Century Imperialism & Its Cultivation of Fascism

Emil Lundedal Hammar / UiT-The Arctic University of Norway - The videogame industry is emblematic of what John Smith (2016) terms 21st century imperialism, where rich countries and multinational companies profit from ‘super-exploitation’ (Smith 2018) of the so-called Global South via global production chains. These relations of production result in repeated crises that in turn exacerbate violent, reactionary movements usually found in fascist tidings stemming from the inherent crises in capitalism (Traverso 2019; Jong 2020).

Like other mass-cultural forms, videogames are produced within and are enabled by a historical and material global network reliant on global capitalism (Dyer-Witheford and De Peuter 2009; Kirkpatrick 2013: 108). This is achieved via postcolonial access to slave labour extracting conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Sinclair 2015, 2016, 2017; Valentine 2018); the super-exploitation of countries like China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia (Fuchs 2017, Qiu 2017); the free-trade regulations of the centres of economic power; the precarious working conditions of software developers in North America (Consalvo 2008, O’Donnell 2014, Williams 2013) and in cheaply outsourced countries like Malaysia and Vietnam (Flecker 2016, Thomsen 2018); the exploitation of passion via ‘playbour’ by multibillion-dollar software companies (Dyer- Witheford and De Peuter 2009; Bulut 2020); the dominance of white heterosexual masculinity in game studios and the industry writ large (Srauy 2019; Johnson.

How Counter-Recruiters Take on the U.S. Military

Military recruiters count on economic hardship to lure young people of color to sign up. Counter-recruiters are working hard to thwart their efforts.

Susan from Sustainable Options for Youth (SOY) in Austin Texas High SchoolSep 6, 2022 / Aina Marzia / YES! Media - Year after year, the same foldable table is propped up near the entrance of a high school gym. People with the same uniform but different faces, all eager to tell you about a new “opportunity,” will sit idly at the table. There will be a sign in front of the table and a clipboard on top, ready to jot down any name that will take the bait being offered.

The U.S.’s “all-volunteer military” requires people, and the search for young high schoolers to fill the ranks of the armed forces is always ongoing. Further, the military tends to prioritize recruiting low-income minority kids because, as per Anthony Clark, a U.S. Air Force veteran, “Poverty is the draft.”


Racial and Socioeconomic Discrepancies in Enlistment

From embedding militarism into public schools to setting up shop inside schools, the military will seemingly go to any lengths necessary to get more boots on the ground. Programs like Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), while not directly affiliated with recruiters, attract large enlistments from high schoolers and are introduced to students as early as freshman year. In a report by RAND Corporation in 2017, it is estimated that more than 500,000 students are enrolled in Army training programs. Further, 56% of schools with such programs offered federal reduced or free lunch options, suggesting that they serve students near or below the poverty line.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, around 64% of enlistments are of people from household incomes below $87,000, and 19% are from household incomes below $41,691. Although the CFR classifies such people as “middle income,” many social scientists point out the increasing financial precarity of the American middle class, such as Alissa Quart’s 2018 book Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America. Such research highlights how the middle class is shrinking, making income data unreliable when assessing economic hardship. While there is a common belief that the armed forces are an “all-volunteer military,” the data suggests that low-income students often view the military as an economic opportunity.

Will Student Debt Relief Really Undermine Military Recruitment?

Military recruiters often target low-income youth. Will Biden’s student loan relief plan mean vulnerable youth no longer have to choose between debt and military service?

 

Army recruiters use Navajo heritage to promote military service Photo by Alun Thomas  U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion - PhoenixSeptember 28, 2022 / Frances Nguyen / Next City - Earlier this month, 19 House Republicans, led by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), sent a letter to President Biden to raise concerns over the “unintended consequences” that his student loan relief plan would have on the military’s recruitment efforts: “By forgiving such a wide swath of loan borrowers,” the letter read, “you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained as one of the fastest and easiest ways to pay for higher education.”

The plan would forgive up to $10,000 for borrowers of federal student loans who make less than $125,000 per year, and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants, a financial award for students from families with incomes below $60,000 annually. Under the plan, about 20 million borrowers could have their balances eliminated.

Indeed, one of the many reasons young recruits join the U.S. Armed Forces is to finance their education, particularly among low-income and recruits of color. A 2015 survey from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University found that 53% of veterans were motivated into military service for educational benefits. The relief plan would undoubtedly impact that side of the sales pitch for military recruitment, but how deeply will it undermine recruiting efforts – and is the crisis of recruitment actually a crisis?

Several counter-recruiters say it’s too soon to know the impact of Biden’s student debt relief plan on their work, in part because they anticipate legal challenges blocking the relief and because the plan doesn’t impact new or future borrowers. But ultimately, they say, the success of recruitment depends on another factor.

“The single biggest predictor of military recruitment is the economy,” Elizabeth Frank, who has been involved in counter-recruitment in Chicago public schools since 2004, says, pointing to what student debt cancellation advocates argue will ultimately be a boost to the economy.

“When the economy is good, recruitment suffers,” says Frank.

What I Discovered in the JROTC Curriculum

July-September 2022 / Lauren Reyna Morales / Draft NOtices - In the summer of 2020, I was recruited by the non-profit Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO) to review core textbooks used by the U.S. military in the high school Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program. Project YANO organized a team of 15 reviewers that consisted of individuals with backgrounds in either classroom teaching or education activism, or with special knowledge of subjects that JROTC claims to address in its curriculum (e.g., U.S. and world history, geography, leadership methods, etc.).

In total, eleven Army, Navy, and Marine Corps JROTC texts were reviewed. The reviewers included current and retired teachers, military veterans, and several educators with post baccalaureate credentials. I myself have been a classroom teacher for five years. I’m credentialed to teach English and Social Sciences in the state of California, and I also earned an M.A. in education from the University of Colorado, Denver. I personally reviewed an Army JROTC textbook titled, Leadership Education and Training (LET 3). I was eager to investigate the kind of curriculum JROTC utilizes to influence over 550,000 students at approximately 3,400 high schools. What, I wondered, is the U.S. military teaching to youth in their places of learning?

Subscribe to NNOMY Newsletter

NNOMYnews reports on the growing intrusions by the Department of Defense into our public schools in a campaign to normalize perpetual wars with our youth and to promote the recruitment efforts of the Pentagon.

CLICK HERE

Search Articles

Language

Donate to NNOMY

Your donation to NNOMY works to balance the military's message in our public schools. Our national network of activists go into schools and inform youth considering military service the risks about military service that recruiters leave out.

CONTRIBUTE