Georgia Activists Slam U.S. Marine Corp High School

@spalladino (17925)
United States
May 12, 2009 10:45am CST
I ran across this story on the Military.com website and am interested in your thoughts about this. http://www.military.com/news/article/georgia-activists-slam-usmc-high-school.html?ESRC=eb.nl [i]No summer vacation or Friday night lights. It’s platoons instead of homerooms -- and a commandant keeping 13-year-old pupils on point. No one will ever confuse the proposed Marine Institute for "High School Musical," and that’s got a more than a few people fuming. Plans between the Marine Corps and a Georgia school district to establish a Marine high school has prompted vocal protests and raised the prospect of similar military-linked high schools appearing nationwide to offer disadvantaged but talented students alternatives to traditional schools Where some see a military sponsorship as the final alternative to decaying discipline in disadvantaged schools, others see a surreptitious attempt by the services to boost their numbers and promote a culture of violence. “Just like in the early Reagan years, when it became popular for CEOs to take over school districts, we may be on the verge of the military trying to bail out schools from their discipline problems,” said Georgia activist Tim Franzen. “If this succeeds, they will open others. I can see it spreading like wildfire.” In fact, the military – through Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs and other ad-hoc relationships – already is involved in secondary education throughout the country, most notably in Chicago, where Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped institute a robust military academy system before moving with President Barack Obama to Washington. The Corps has said it would like to expand the program if the institute in Georgia flourishes. But stiff resistance toward what many perceive to be an aggressive recruiting tool has dogged the project from the start. “We are opposed to recruiting children into the military this way at such early ages. This is the trend: Giving out free violent video games, inviting them to come and fire weapons to get them used to the idea of shooting. Thinking that nothing bad will happen,” said Grace Hawkins, a member of Atlanta Grandmother’s for Peace and the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. “This jolly idea, we will oppose it every way we can,” she told Military.com. The proposed Marine Institute in Atlanta’s suburban DeKalb County is designed to be an enhanced JRTOC program, providing talented but at-risks students an educational environment to thrive. The 102,000-student population in school system is overwhelming minority – 75 percent African-American – and has a 75 percent graduation rate. The proposed institute is the result of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act. A provision in the act called for the Defense Department to partner with school systems that serve at-risk students to implement similar programs, according to Bill McHenry, director of the Corps’ JROTC program at its Quantico, Va.-based Training and Education Command. The school is not a feeder program for the armed forces, he said, as attendance does not translate into a military obligation. Instead, it brings the focus and discipline of the Corps to secondary education with the aim of preparing students for college, McHenry said. But a perceived back-door scheme to establish the school, as well as a lack of clarity on specific details – including costs – have prompted threats of legal action. “There has been some quick maneuvering without the taxpayer’s knowledge,” said Michael Burke, a Vietnam veteran who represents the Georgia Veterans Alliance. “We think there’s been some shady dealings going on and we want to know what is really happening here.” Burke insists he’s not anti-military. “No one who knows me can call me that,” the 10-year Army veteran told Military.com. “I want people to understand that 13 years old is too young to be shoving the military down these kids’ throats.” From the signing of the defense funding bill last year to recently announced plans to open the school to freshman this fall, few can argue the process has moved slowly. But a lack of transparency persists. Neither the Marine Corps nor the DeKalb County School System would provide Military.com with a cost estimate for the school. The Pentagon also declined to provide costs for the larger program included in the Defense Authorization Act, which extends across the services and their respective JROTC programs. Franzen, who is leading a campaign against the school with the Quaker-run American Friends Service Committee, told Military.com he obtained documents that showed the school will cost approximately $14 million to establish and run its first year. Plans call for an additional 400 JROTC units to be established nationwide by 2020, according to Chris Arendt, deputy director of accession policy at the Pentagon. But it’s unclear how these additional JRTOC units will fold into plans for military-linked academies and institutes. The proposed DeKalb school is designed to provide promising at-risk students looking for more of a challenge than the traditional public school setting can offer. “We want to find the students who are not normally placed in an environment where they could go to college but have the potential to go to college,” McHenry said in an interview. “And then we provide the opportunity in this proposed institute.” A Georgia Department of Education spokesman said it will be similar to a magnet or charter school in many ways, but with a military theme. “We have received some e-mails in our office from concerned parents. We feel like it’s good to have the debate and have it publicly,” Dana Tofig told Military.com. “As long as students have the choice to attend and the school follows state and federal law, we don’t see a problem.” McHenry describes an institute that is far different from traditional high schools. Teachers will remain with students throughout their four-year course of study for greater continuity. The educators must be armed with a master’s degree in their field. Students will attend year round, with periodic short breaks in lieu of a conventional summer break. And there will be no athletics, but lots of clubs. “The things that sports teams normally teach, we teach as a matter of our JROTC program,” McHenry said. “We are here to prepare these students for college.” The Marine Institute in Georgia would be at least the second school with Corps’ fingerprints. The service is currently involved in the management of a similar academy in Chicago, although McHenry said the two are not identical. There are seven military-linked academies in Chicago. Franzen said officials in Georgia tout the success of the Chicago academy, but he asserts records from a handful of the Chicago schools show they are far from exemplary. “These schools are not exceptional,” Franzen said, admitting he was not able to gather records from all the Chicago academies, including the Marine Corps version. “The graduation rates are not higher than the Illinois average and the test scores are not higher than the Illinois average. These schools are simply not outstanding academically.” Despite protests from DeKalb residents, the local school board has already selected a temporary site for the Marine Institute and hired a principal. McHenry said the Corps is waiting for is approval from Acting Secretary of the Navy, B.J. Penn. All involved expect further obstacles as the plan moves forward. “Any time you are starting up a new institution, it’s difficult,” Tofig said. “When you are trying to do something that’s different, sometimes that creates a lot of challenges.” Burke plans to be one of those challenges. “We are working very hard to educate the DeKalb community that we don’t have to turn our schools over to the military to instill discipline,” Burke said. [/i]
4 responses
@xfahctor (14128)
• Lancaster, New Hampshire
12 May 09
First, let me say this, I don't think military affiliated schools should be used as a form of diciplin or punishment. Serving in the military should be seen as a privilage and an honor, not a punishment. though military type dicipline and routine is good for troubled kids, I just don't want to see them associated with this type of punishment. That being said, I am all for a military highschool as an optional alternative. I think the more options there are for education the better. The right kids can gain a lot from such a school.
@spalladino (17925)
• United States
14 May 09
I believe so, too. There are too many promising kids who are robbed of a good education, which is the foundation of everyone's future, because of a combination of the lack of discipline in most public schools and the peer pressure they are subjected to every day that they are there.
@jonesy123 (3950)
• United States
12 May 09
I don't see it as a military recruiting type of activity. I, however, see it as a way for schools to get rid of troubled students and give them the discipline they need but the regular public school is not allowed to dish out anymore. If schools would be allowed to enforce more discipline without the fear of repercussions as in law suits and job loss. I don't mean they need to go back to paddling the kids. But what ever happened to after school detention? Now it's in school, just as long as they don't sit in the classroom disrupting the others. Kids can run wild, nothing can be done. Most of them don't even know what proper discipline is and they just see good behavior as a way to get a reward. Of course for most of those trouble kids the parents think they are all little angels. They won't be able to fill those military type schools, if it's a choice.
@spalladino (17925)
• United States
14 May 09
The high school that my three older children attended had no discipline whatsover and the staff were extremely intimidated by the parents of the students as well as the students as well. My middle daughter used to call me from her math class one year because the teacher was rarely in the classroom. Where I live now in Florida, the school doesn't permit students to be disruptive or to break the rules because they have the support of the parents.
@irishidid (8563)
• United States
12 May 09
I can only go by what my brother's experience was. He went to military school then went on to join the navy and later the army. He isn't prone to a "culture of violence" and neither are those he attended school with. I've never seen a more disciplined group of men. Before attending my brother was a bit of trouble and had anger issues. I did find out years later that my brother didn't like it there and begged my mom to let him come home. She made him stay. It was his idea in the first place. I guess my mom's reasoning was the money and I can't say I blame her. It should only be a choice and not mandatory. No one is forced to join the ROTC and I think it should be the same for this.
@spalladino (17925)
• United States
14 May 09
I think if something like this had been available to me when my son was a teen he would have actually graduated from high school. He's my only son and the only one of my four who chose to quit school over my strong objections, but I really had no choice because he had no motivation and simply wasn't going. I went so far as to drive him to school and he would walk in the front door and out of one of the back doors. I believe that a different atmosphere would have worked well for him. Now, at the age of 32, he's planning to join the Reserves and to get his GED while a member.
@Adoniah (7515)
• United States
12 May 09
This is a regular High School, not a boarding school. The kids come home every night. I think it is a good idea. If there is anything wrong going on the parents would know immediately because the kids DO come home every night. There is no committment to jioning up although that is probably the hope of the military after investing so much time and money into the program. The only problem I have with the program is that they say the scholatic part is no better than it would be before. That is the wrong attitude. They should strive for excellence in all areas. The military should be well educated. They say that they are preparing these kids for college. That seems to be a misstatement. Shalom~Adoniah