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Put propaganda aside in military school review

The deliberations about establishing a military academy in the Rochester school district are taking place within a national mindset that glorifies everything military, deserving or not.

The military's own multibillion-dollar advertising campaigns, such as the one paying millions to the NFL to publicly glorify soldiers at football games, fuel this mindset, so the US military can still claim to be the finest fighting force in the world, despite its latest string of ignominious failures from Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria.

And the military remains an exemplar of discipline and character, despite a sordid record of civilian atrocities, hospital bombings, drone massacres, pervasive rape, and other unchecked violence and misbehavior.

And the military still exemplifies leadership, despite recent accounts by former generals that chronicle a culture of mediocrity, cover-up, and ineptitude throughout the higher levels of military command. As for effective training, the general in charge of a $500 million Pentagon program designed to train 5,000 Syrian rebels conceded in startling Congressional testimony to have trained, after a full year, only "four or five."

Given this broader confounding context, it's all the more critical, as members of the appointed commission and the school board consider claims about the value of military education, training, and leadership in public schools, to look beyond the crisp uniforms and demand hard data: reviewing the available evidence carefully.

They might start with findings from a recent study of Chicago's public military schools and JROTC programs, the most numerous in the country:

These programs are most frequently offered to, and accepted by, low-income communities of color, with the least schooling resources available.

If your only choices are a neighborhood school in need of repair or a new military academy, parents will often choose the more resourced school.

Military-themed schools are portrayed as essential because of stereotypes that urban youth of color are undisciplined, unruly, and need to be controlled.

JROTC instructors are paid substantially more than certified teachers and are afforded special treatment in class size and instructional resources.

Discipline in these militarized programs is constructed through the development of a rigid masculinity, both misogynist and homophobic.

The Department of Defense compensates the school district for only 40 percent of the cost of these military programs.

There is much for decision makers to consider in all this.

They might also reflect on one schoolmaster's published response to the very first proposal for JROTC in the public schools back in 1916, exactly a century ago, just in time for the horrors of World War I:

"If American boys lack discipline, let us supply it, but not through a system whose aim is human slaughter."


More breaks for 'brats'

It amazes me with all the land and empty useless buildings and lots in town they want to shove apartments next to Dino BBQ and Eastman House (News, February 15). Rochester is one of the poorest cities in the country and so segregated you'd think it's the south, yet apartment buildings that only rich brats can afford get tax breaks. It's disgusting.


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