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July 2000

Community Opposition Sends Marine JROTC Unit Into Retreat

by John Amidon 1 | 2

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4. Work with the material you have.

If it is a Marine Corps program and you only have Army JROTC materials to use, use them and keep insisting that the school board and administration provide you with the appropriate material.

5. Recognize issues of race and class.

Youth of color are disproportionately represented in both JROTC and the enlisted ranks of the military. We also saw that the program has negative impacts on young people who are less well-off economically. They are often tracked into low-level military jobs. Be aware that people in power may not see these connections or may think that JROTC is an opportunity for young people.

6. Arrange to have many individuals opposed to this program speak at school board or other meetings, write to newspapers, etc.

It is most important to have students, parents of students, and folks who live in your school district (all people who have a stake in the district) speak. Over a period of several months, Veterans for Peace and others spoke at both school board meetings and PTA meetings. Both are good places to make contacts and circulate information on the problems of JROTC.

Letters to the school board and letters to the editor in local papers were very important. It is likely that no one in your community, including the school board, teachers, administrators, and activists, has any expertise on JROTC. Study of the materials available through the American Friends Service Committee and Veterans For Peace gave us the information we needed to speak out.

7. Set up public informational seminars and leaflet the community heavily.

Go to rallies, stand in front of movie theaters, talk with church groups. Make sure the leaflet states clearly and concisely the points you wish to make. Listen to JROTC proponents; you may learn to answer questions you hadn't yet thought of.

8. Look for any challenges or issues in the targeted school and ask whether the military is the best solution.

For instance, school taxes may be very high. Ask why the taxpayer must subsidize the Pentagon and why it is necessary to duplicate programs since leadership skills are often taught in other courses. Find out the performance level of your school. How are the students doing? Are there problems with drug use, drop-out rate, etc.?

Remember that no studies have been undertaken to show that JROTC has an ability to help with such problems. Pentagon claims are unsubstantiated.

9. Address budget information and the role of the military.

Taxpayers are being asked to subsidize a military recruitment program while the Pentagon has a budget of approximately $270 billion. Stress that the military is not the Department of Education. Demand strict financial accounting. Per student, JROTC often has a very high cost. Ask for all local documentation pertaining to the program, including accurate and complete information about costs. This proved very difficult to do here. We still have no real idea of what this program would have actually cost, if approved.

10. Point out the connections between JROTC and military recruiting.

Normally any connection has been denied by the JROTC program, but several military statements, such as Army Policy Memorandum 50 (1999), point out these links. Don't let the military misrepresent what it is doing. Point out that we need quality education for our children, not military recruitment programs.

11. If possible, document every claim you make with strong reference material.

12. Get into the schools.

We did a Veterans for Peace presentation for the high school students.

13. Be willing to spend money on your effort.

Peace work is a good thing to spend money on. Keeping substandard education out of our schools is a good thing to spend money on. Ask your friends and support groups for financial help. It doesn't usually cost that much to be effective. Copying will probably be your biggest expense. Postage, phone calls and research expenses are also likely. In Albany our campaign cost approximately $350.

14. Demand and elect high quality, accountable school officials.

Ultimately, we will have to run intelligent and thoughtful candidates for the school board. Without people who genuinely care about young people, we will continue to have a substandard school board populated by those who are willing to write off the young for political expediency. This is the only long term solution for each community and must be seriously undertaken to ensure quality public education.

15. Remember to speak the truth even if some find it unpleasant and work for quality education.

Be forceful and confrontational when necessary but remain nonviolent and civil. Finally, inspired opportunities will be presented along the way. Be open to them and to the still, small voice within. When these moments come, act on them with vigor and thankfulness.

About the Author:

John Amidon is a member of Veterans for Peace. He lives in Albany, New York.

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