Monday, November 26, 2007
Military training program for teens expands in US
Published: Sunday November 25, 2007
Bring your books to class. Come for extra help if you need it. And wear your uniform with pride.
"Young men, you think you can get a haircut and say I'm done for two or three weeks. WRONG," Sgt. Major Thomas Smith Jr. intones.
"Young ladies. There's been no problem with your uniforms but there is a problem with your ties. Again, I will go through it again. Wear your ties when you come to my class."
One in 10 public high school students in Chicago wears a military uniform to school and takes classes -- including how to shoot a gun properly -- from retired veterans.
That number is expected to rise as junior military reserve programs expand across the country now that a congressional cap of 3,500 units has been lifted from the nearly century-old scheme.
While military officials say the junior reserve programs are not used as recruiting tools, about 30 to 50 percent of cadets eventually enlist, according to congressional testimony by the chiefs of staff of the various armed services in February 2000.
This is particularly troubling given that the programs are concentrated in low-income and minority neighborhoods, said Sheena Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Chicago branch of the American Friends Service Committee which lobbies against the programs.
"If you want to teach discipline and leadership then do it for everyone and don't make them wear (military) uniforms," Gibbs said. "Students (at regular schools) protest that they have to still share books but the military academy has laptops."
At Chicago's Marine Military Math and Science Academy, the first public Marine academy in the nation and the fifth military academy run by the city's school district, it's easy to see how signing up for service would be a logical post-graduation step.