Should the U.S. Military be Educating our Public High School Students?

Portland Public Schools are actively considering a contract with the US Military to provide classroom instruction, direct practice in military skills like marching in uniform with guns, air rifle target practice, and guiding individuals’ career choices. The military subsidizes instructors’ salaries and some schools appear to have saved money by using the program as an alternative to hiring more teachers in subjects such as physical education or wellness.

The U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) calls itself a “character development and citizenship program for youth,” not a military recruiter. However, research by well respected media organizations like the New York Times and the Chicago Sun Times have documented egregious disregard for students rights. School districts have automatically enrolled a majority of freshman students into the program without students being notified. Teachers in these military schools within our schools are not required to meet school district hiring standards. Some only require a GED, or the ability to obtain an associate degree within five years. Plus, students in the program are expected to wear military uniforms throughout the school day several days a week.

The NY Times reviewed enrollment data on JROTC programs collected from more than 200 public records requests. The data showed that dozens of schools have either made the program mandatory or steered over 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes. Schools included public high schools in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Mobile, Alabama. Schools with those high enrollment numbers were attended by a large proportion of nonwhite students and those from low-income households.

While the military claims that these programs are not recruitment tools, “the Army says 44 percent of all soldiers who entered its ranks in recent years came from a school that offered JROTC,” according to the Times’ article.

Portland high school students deserve better. We are living in a time of climate chaos that will significantly impact the lives of younger generations. This is not a time to invest in training for military practices that destroy the environment and are huge producers of global warming emissions. We need skills development in our schools for careers in environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation.


About Pat Kaczmarek

Pat Kaczmarek has been a long time environmentalist, volunteering and working for a number of preservation and restoration groups over the years. In 2020, she became aware of the accelerating pace of global warming. Climate change awareness, education and outreach are now her central concerns because the future depends on our actions today.


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