A recent article highlighted some troubling trends with Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs that target minorities for recruitment into the military-directly or indirectly. The Chicago Reporter points out that Chicago Public Schools is home to the largest junior reserve program in the country, with more than 9,000 cadets enrolled in programs at 45 of the district’s 104 high schools. Ninety-three percent of Chicago junior reserve cadets are African American or Hispanic, according to March figures from the CPS’ Department of JROTC. More than 70 percent of junior reserve programs are offered in high schools located in majority-black or majority-Latino ZIP codes.
I participated in Army JROTC at Calumet High School in Chicago all four years and loved it! I was the 2nd highest ranking officer and even was presented an award and medal by our leader, Sgt. Parker and the CPS Superintendents for a city competition I won. Yes, I put this on my college applications! I was also in honors classes and in a Principal Scholar’s program promoting Engineering with extra Math and Science classes that I also loved! Even though we learned history and about some wars as do students taking American and European History, we also learned about discipline, leadership skills, marksmanship, military history, & drill routines. I was a class leader and enjoyed other facets of JROTC. We received ribbons for being on the honor roll, etc. There were scholarships available, but if students do ROTC in college all 4 years, they were required to go into the military.
“In a February 2000 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, the armed service chiefs of staff testified that 30%–50% of graduating JROTC cadets go on to join the military overall where 50% of those from Air Force JROTC go to the military.” General Colin Powell said in his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey, that “the armed forces might get a youngster more inclined to enlist as a result of Junior ROTC,” but added that “Inner-city kids, many from broken homes, found stability and role models in Junior ROTC.” Former United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen referred to JROTC as “one of the best recruitment programs we could have.”
The armed forces was ordered to be integrated by President Truman in 1948. Out of approximately 1.1m in the army, more than 80 percent of soldiers are male, and 61.4 percent are Anglo; 20 percent are black, with 11.7 percent Hispanic. “There are only 53 minority generals among 391 in the Army, or 14 percent….
The Army’s Cadet Command, which oversees junior and senior ROTC programs in 1,731 high schools and 1,000 colleges, has taken steps to diversify the force.” However, high schools are focusing on educating students to be College and Career Ready. I suppose this option would include those who might want to pursue military careers. I do think this article raises a good concern to make sure we do not have a conflict of interest where we lag in investment and effort to better educate our students so that the military can be better filled while possibly targeting minorities to do so. With that said, we shouldn’t overlook the benefits of exposing our students to multiple subject areas and interests that might make school itself more bearable for some. Click here to see other benefits of JROTC.