These Grannies Are Helping to Plug the School-to-Military Pipeline at Its Source
When teachers are underpaid and schools are underserved, why do we pay veterans to encourage young students to join the military?
By Joyce ChuTwitter
An airman in the United States Air Force demonstrates proper firing position while using the M4 rifle, with students from Terre Haute North High School in Indiana on May 6, 2015. (US Air National Guard photo by SMSgt. John S. Chapman / Released) On a Wednesday afternoon last month, a group of gray-haired women with canes and Styrofoam guns lined the streets outside the New York City Department of Education’s headquarters in Brooklyn. “Get the military out of our schools!” they shouted, capturing pedestrians’ attention. “No more JROTC!” These were the courageous women of the Granny Peace Brigade, and they were there to protest what they see as the militarization of the city’s public schools.
In his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Mayor Bill de Blasio allocates some $1.6 million to fund Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs in high schools across the city. Under the program, schools pay retired veterans to teach a military-oriented curriculum approved by the Department of Defense (DOD). If a student decides to enroll, the JROTC class fills a period just like any other; it is incorporated into her daily schedule, and the student receives credit upon successful completion. Instruction may vary by school, but activities often include inspections, physical exercises, discussion of military-approved textbooks, exams, and lessons prepared by the instructor.
Some programs may also require students to dedicate their after-school hours to practice marching and shooting—activities that often occur on the school’s grounds. Nationwide, the costs of JROTC are even more startling. A 2004 study by the American Friends Service Committee found that schools across the United States were spending $222 million annually on JROTC instructor salaries alone. The DOD funds the rest of the program’s expenses: In 2013, that amounted to another $365 million. JROTC programs and military recruitment are strongest in poor and rural communities.
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