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JROTC: The Military in America’s High Schools: Homeroom Or War Room? A Debate

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“Several hundred teenagers dressed in patent leather shoes and crisp green U.S. Army uniforms are greeting andbackslapping each other in the crowded school hallway. Suddenly, a drum corps thunders to life, and the studentshustle into a cavernous hall, where they snap to attention. Chests out, butts in, chins up, and right hands thatsmack their foreheads in simultaneous salute. Stone-faced student “commanders” walk along the formation, writingdemerits for missing ties, untied shoes, and other infractions. A girl behind me drops to the floor and sweatsthrough a set of push-ups. “I forgot my name tag,” she explains breathlessly.

“Is this West Point? The Citadel? Boot camp? Try again: It’s a typical morning at the Chicago Military Academy, apublic high school in the most militarized school system in America. More than 9,000 of the city’s students, some asyoung as 11, are enrolled in school programs run by the U.S. military. Chicago is in the vanguard of a growingnational movement that is responding to the problems of struggling inner-city schools by sending the Marines ­ andthe Army, Navy, and Air Force. The city is home to the nation’s largest contingent of programs run by the JuniorReserve Officer Training Corps, a program established by Congress in 1916 to develop citizenship and responsibilityin young people. Long limited to classrooms in conservative Southern states, JROTC is now in the midst of thelargest expansion in its 85-year history.”So, is Junior ROTC creating a new generation of citizens or a new generation of soldiers? Today, on “Democracy Now!in Exile” we’ll have a debate. But first we will speak with journalist David Goodman, who recently spent severalweeks traveling the country for an article about JROTC in Mother Jones magazine.


  • David Goodman, journalist.
  • Lt. Col. Rick Mills, Director of JROTC, Chicago Public Schools.
  • Rick Jahnkow, program coordinator, Project YANO.
  • Cadet Tammi Jordan, Junior, Chicago Military Academy, Bronxville.
  • Cadet Yosepha Infante, Patton Academy at Faragut High School.
  • Zach London, Student, Albany High School.
  • Derek Francis, producer, “Military Myths: I Want You!”

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