In April of 1995,
the American Friends Service Committee published Making
Soldiers in the Public Schools: Analysis of the Army JROTC Curriculum.
The Army updated Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) textbooks
in 1997 (December 5,1997), although those textbooks have not necessarily
reached many or even most JROTC classrooms. The new text, "Leadership
Education and Training 1" (LET 1), used in 9th and 10th grade classes,
contains the most substantial revisions since 1989 (July 24, 1989). We
compare the old and new versions of the curriculum.
changes have made the curriculum even more clearly oriented toward
recruitment and public relations for the military than before.
In a few respects,
the changes are clearly meant to neutralize criticism of the JROTC curriculum
(in Making Soldiers in the Public Schools and elsewhere), particularly
by removing at least some ethnic/racial slurs from those earlier texts.
In many more respects, the changes have made the curriculum even more
clearly oriented toward recruitment and public relations for the military
than before. The new curriculum makes even larger claims for the program’s
benefits and encourages JROTC cadets to advertise it to others. No significant
changes were made to the general tenor of the curriculum, and so it remains
highly propagandistic, authoritarian, simplistic, and riddled with historical
- Claims that
the positive effects of taking JROTC will last a lifetime.
The text says that the program can build character in ways other high
school classes cannot ("Speaking of character, the JROTC program has
it JROTC offers many opportunities for teamwork, advancement, and
self enrichment that are not available in other high school courses."
LET-1, p. 3). This disparages the work of high school teachers in other
subjects and undermines the prospect for learning in those other contexts.
It claims the program can boost self-esteem, graduation rates, communication
skills, and reduce drug use rates, and that it can make students better
Americans. The revised version makes broader and more specific claims,
while the earlier one simply says it provides many benefits to the individual.
- The section
on military career opportunities has been expanded.
It is more extensive than that on civilian career opportunities.
- A lengthy section
on leadership has been added.
as desirable the authoritarian idea that leadership is defined as influencing
others to accomplish the mission rather than more egalitarian, conscience-based,
or consensus-based views of leadership.
- History sections
are introduced with new reminders that they are not meant to cover all
topics in U.S. history.
"Remember, as the unit title suggests, we are presenting only an overview
of American history. Detailed information on these topics is covered
in subsequent leadership education and training levels and, of course,
in your high school social studies classes" (p. 245). However, the JROTC
text continues to present its historical material as an accurate synopsis
of central themes in U.S. history. This is particularly problematic
when some school districts allow JROTC credits to substitute for social
error and a right-wing political agenda are reflected in the selection
and presentation of facts and historical statements.
Some additional errors introduced by the changes include:
A. The claim that
international terrorism is a central public preoccupation as the century
ends. Public opinion surveys show people are more concerned about health
and medicine, the education of their children, taxes, violence in their
neighborhoods, and so on. In any case, domestic terror in the most murderous
instance in Oklahoma City committed by two Army veterans has killed
more Americans than international terrorism.
new classroom projects encourage students to promote the JROTC
program among other students.
B. The claim that
the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima because it did not want
"the war with Japan to continue for months, or possibly even years,
which would result in the loss of additional American lives" (p. 258).
Top U.S. decision-makers in fact knew that the war was almost over,
and that Japan had offered to surrender if the emperor would not be
deposed, which ended up being the actual terms of Japan’s surrender.
C. The new edition
also eliminates mention of the fact, present in the first edition, that
the hydrogen bomb could destroy a major city and millions of people,
giving an even more distorted view of modern warfare which does not
show its devastating consequences for human life and the environment.
- Several new
classroom projects encourage students to missionize or promote the JROTC
program among other students.
Project #1, for example, requires students to make a JROTC marketing
brochure. It says "the JROTC instructor staff may use your brochure
to ‘sell’ the Army JROTC program to other students" (p. 68). This is
a rare teaching device in other course work, including comparable optional
courses, such as band. Teachers of those subjects rely on the intrinsic
rewards of their subjects to draw students, or do not have enough resources
to support the additional students that successful promotion would bring
in. In addition, positions students can fill in a JROTC unit include
the Battalion Public Affairs Officer, who is instructed to disseminate
propaganda in the school newspaper and community on a regular basis
("to create an outstanding image of the cadet battalion," p. 297). These
parts of the curriculum are consistent with the military recruitment
and public relations goals of the JROTC program, which the text passes
on as a student responsibility.
- Political agendas
have sharpened in the treatment of the gun control controversy.
The text minimizes the significance of popular desire for such controls,
which surveys show are preferred by the great majority of Americans.
Where the older edition says many people are fighting for gun control
laws, the new one says, "select groups of people are fighting for gun
control laws." This new wording suggests that discredited interest groups
are behind this movement rather than large numbers of average people.
Where the older text said, "The Second Amendment to the Constitution
guarantees the right to bear arms," the new text gives a more extensive
interpretation: "This amendment prevents the government from prohibiting
the ownership of weapons by citizens, and it protects their right and
duty to serve in the armed forces" (p. 281).
- Racial stereotypes
have been introduced in the textbook's new sections on brain function.
For example, it cites research that claims African-Americans and Indians
are right-brain dominant (associated with the preference for having
a good time rather than being on time, and being active rather than
thoughtful) and whites are left-brain dominant (associated with logic
and rationality rather than intuition and preference for art or athletics
over intellectual pursuits).
- All units on
drilling with guns and marksmanship have been deleted from the core
first year textbook.
This change has been made in response to criticism of the program. It
should be noted that many JROTC programs continue to have marksmanship
components; however, these sections have been removed from the core
first year texts designed for use in all programs.
- New sections
have been added.
A short discussion of service learning through JROTC projects has been
added. A new section on "Working Out Conflicts" is included. It focuses
on understanding the causes of violence and conflict and on communication
skills useful for identifying and resolving conflicts. This perspective
on conflict is absent in the understanding of war, the military, and
international relations contained in other sections of the text.