(PresidentialHill.com)- The New York Times reported that thousands of high school students were getting automatically enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), a program funded by the US military to teach leadership skills, discipline, and civic values.
JROTC programs, which are taught by military veterans at about 3,500 high schools nationwide, are supposed to be elective. According to the Times, the Pentagon has said mandatory JROTC courses go against DoD guidelines.
Despite that, the New York Times found thousands of public school students were being automatically enrolled in the course with some students being told JROTC is a requirement.
Using public records requests, the New York Times found that dozens of schools nationwide have made JROTC classes mandatory or have “steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes.” Among them are schools in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, and Mobile, Alabama. The majority of the schools mandating JROTC have a majority of nonwhite students, the Times reported.
According to the Times, parents in some cities are upset that their children are being forced to wear a military uniform, obey the chain of command, “and recite patriotic declarations in classes they never wanted to take.”
The high school principals who support the program say it helps to motivate struggling students while teaching them self-discipline and a sense of camaraderie.
According to research, JROTC students have better attendance and graduation rates, and generally have fewer discipline issues at school.
But critics claim that JROTC programs are “brainwashing” students by steering them to a career in the military rather than attending college.
According to the Times, some critics say the schools mandating JROTC have a financial incentive to do so since the military subsidizes the salaries of JOTC instructors while requiring schools to maintain a certain enrollment level to keep the program.
Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a former JROTC student, said the program is not operated by the recruiting arm of the DoD but by the educational branch of the military. It is aimed at helping teenagers become effective students and more responsible adults.
However, Schwegman added, the Pentagon does not ask high schools to make the program mandatory, noting that since we have an all-volunteer military, JROTC “should be a voluntary program.”