JROTC is a program in many American schools (including 1 in 4 urban schools, which are largely lower-income and majority-POC) which essentially acts as vocational training for the military, funnelling students into the US’s grotesquely enormous military-industrial complex. It’s a critical plank of recruitment for the US war machine, which demands thousands of fresh hot bodies every year. For example, a former naval leader boasted at a Con­gress­ion­al hearing that 40% of Naval JROTC participants joined the Navy after graduation, which is a very high conversion rate. The Pentagon spends US$400 million to run this program each year.

Advocates for the program usually claim there are benefits for students themselves, and not just for the military. For example, former mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, claimed JROTC “provides students with the order and discipline that is too often lacking at home. It teaches them time management, responsibility, goal setting, and teamwork, and it builds leadership and self-confidence.” (Note that ten public high schools in the city of Chicago have been caught out effectively forcing students to participate in JROTC – along with schools in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Mobile.)

The reality of the program, though, is that it’s a militaristic propaganda machine with basically zero educational value. In many states, instructors are not required to have any teaching qualifications, or a college degree at all. Dozens of them have been busted using their positions to coerce female students into sex, and at least one higher-level administrator (in Chicago, again!) has been busted trying to cover this up. Less horrifyingly but still a bit horrifyingly, the program also requires participants to wear military uniforms to school and do marching drills. They also take students out of school, on tours of military bases.

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