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June 13, 2005

The Children’s Crusade: Military Programs Move Into Middle Schools to Fish for Future Soldiers

From In These Times: Tarsha Moore stands as tall as her 4-foot 8-inch frame will allow. Staring straight ahead, she yells out an order to a squad of peers lined up in three perfect columns next to her. Having been in the military program for six years, Tarsha has earned the rank of captain and is in charge of the 28 boys and girls in her squad. This is Lavizzo Elementary School. Tarsha is 14.

The Middle School Cadet Corps (MSCC) program at the K-8 school is part of a growing trend to militarize middle schools. Students at Lavizzo are among the more than 850 Chicago students who have enlisted in one of the city's 26 MSCC programs. At Madero Middle School, the MSCC has evolved into a full-time military academy for kids 11 to 14 years old.

Chicago public schools are home to the largest Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program, which oversees the MSCC, in the country. When moving up to high school, Chicago's graduating eighth-graders can choose from 45 JROTC programs, including three full-time Army military academies, five "school-within-a-school" Army JROTC academies and one JROTC Naval academy.

Proponents of the programs tout leadership training and character development. But critics quote former Defense Secretary Gen. William Cohen, who described JROTC as "one of the best recruiting services that we could have." Read More

Posted by MikeBurke on June 13, 2005 | Permalink


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In April, a friend and I had a table at our local high school's career day. This was our third year of offering what some would call counter recruitment materials. We actually try not to have much negative to say about the military, but simply offer alternatives (particularly for college money) and urge students to get lots of information before signing on the dotted line. Things like talk to other vets, get it in writing, and take along someone to take notes when speaking to a recruiter.

This year the row of neatly dressed recruiters with thier glossy posters were joined by a celebrity, former sec. of state Lawrence Eagleburger. We hear he and his wife both complained about our presence. At one point a piece of our literature ended up on the table of a recruiter (surely by a smart aleck student). Well the recruiter blamed us for that, he told Eagleburger and he blew up. The former top diplomat of the United States of America yelled at the teacher who organized the event and stormed out in the middle of the event. I understand he later apologized to the teacher. You know, this just encourages me. We must be having an effect. Although I would have preferred to have a dialogue with him. My position is that the military (even with the risk of war duty) can be a good choice for some students. My objection is that schools allow these salesmen to come on campus and sell their product and do little to counter their sales pitch. Students are ill-equipped to verify the story the recruiters give them.

Posted by: robert legge | Jun 22, 2005 11:22:11 AM

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