Militarization of Chicago Public Schools

February 14 2006

The Chicago Board of Education (BOE) is rapidly militarizing the city's public schools.

Within the last few years the BOE has turned several high schools into military academies directly run by the armed forces, extended Junior ROTC programs (JROTC) to nearly 50% of the city's high schools, opened several Middle School Cadet Corps to enroll students age 11-14 in military training, and given military recruiters virtual unlimited access to Chicago's high schools.

Thirteen high schools have already been turned into "military academies" operated by the Army or Navy. The curriculum at these schools include courses in military tactics and history (presented from the imperialist point-of-view); the schools are run on the basis of military discipline.

In addition to the 13 military academies, Chicago has the largest JROTC program in the country, enrolling nearly 11,000 students at 30 more high schools. The BOE plans to increase the number of JROTC students to 15,000 by next year. JROTC also requires courses in military tactics, military training, pro-imperialist ideology, etc. JROTC costs the city more than $75,000 per school for a total of $2.8 million in 2003. Across the country, local school boards spend more than $220 million/year on JROTC.

And let there be no mistake about the purpose of JROTC which, in the words of former Defense Secretary General William Cohen, is "one of the best recruiting services that we could have."

Recently the BOE has also begun extending military training to children. Twenty-six schools have enrolled 850 children (age 11-14) in the after-school "Middle School Cadet Corp" run by military personnel who ultimately report directly to the Pentagon. In these schools, children drill with mock rifles and are inculcated with military discipline and ideology. Praising this program, Rick Mills, director of Chicago's JROTC programs, said: "If we have the opportunity to present ourselves at an earlier age, all the better."

While investing more and more of the resources of the public schools in building military institutions, the BOE has also opened the door of Chicago high schools to military recruiters.

Under the provisions of the "No Child Left Behind" Act, the public schools turn the records of all students (who don't "opt out") over to the military. Armed with these lists, Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel freely roam the cafeterias, recreational areas, classrooms, school fairs and hallways accosting students and looking for recruits. The recruiters harass students and their very mission, presence and conduct create an atmosphere of militarism and racism.

In Chicago, and across the country, the government is militarizing the schools because it needs more and more cannon fodder for its wars of conquest and empire.

This militarization is in direct antagonism to the entire premise of a modern educational system. It replaces the movement for enlightenment and truth with the poisons of militarism and racism. It substitutes fascist discipline for free inquiry. It foists, literally at gunpoint, the official ideology of the government, on the youth and children as well as undermines the freedom of conscience and inquiry of the faculty and other educational workers.

In sum, it turns schools from places for learning into institutions for training soldiers and spreading state-sponsored pro-war, pro-imperialist ideology.