Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

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Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby Freakzilla » 26 May 2009 16:23

May 12, 2009
Military.com|by Bryan Mitchell

No summer vacation or Friday night lights. It’s platoons instead of homerooms -- and a commandant keeping 13-year-old pupils on point.

No one will ever confuse the proposed Marine Institute for "High School Musical," and that’s got a more than a few people fuming.

Plans between the Marine Corps and a Georgia school district to establish a Marine high school has prompted vocal protests and raised the prospect of similar military-linked high schools appearing nationwide to offer disadvantaged but talented students alternatives to traditional schools

Where some see a military sponsorship as the final alternative to decaying discipline in disadvantaged schools, others see a surreptitious attempt by the services to boost their numbers and promote a culture of violence.

“Just like in the early Reagan years, when it became popular for CEOs to take over school districts, we may be on the verge of the military trying to bail out schools from their discipline problems,” said Georgia activist Tim Franzen. “If this succeeds, they will open others. I can see it spreading like wildfire.”

In fact, the military – through Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs and other ad-hoc relationships – already is involved in secondary education throughout the country, most notably in Chicago, where Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped institute a robust military academy system before moving with President Barack Obama to Washington.

The Corps has said it would like to expand the program if the institute in Georgia flourishes. But stiff resistance toward what many perceive to be an aggressive recruiting tool has dogged the project from the start.

“We are opposed to recruiting children into the military this way at such early ages. This is the trend: Giving out free violent video games, inviting them to come and fire weapons to get them used to the idea of shooting. Thinking that nothing bad will happen,” said Grace Hawkins, a member of Atlanta Grandmother’s for Peace and the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition.

“This jolly idea, we will oppose it every way we can,” she told Military.com.

The proposed Marine Institute in Atlanta’s suburban DeKalb County is designed to be an enhanced JRTOC program, providing talented but at-risks students an educational environment to thrive. The 102,000-student population in school system is overwhelming minority – 75 percent African-American – and has a 75 percent graduation rate.

The proposed institute is the result of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act. A provision in the act called for the Defense Department to partner with school systems that serve at-risk students to implement similar programs, according to Bill McHenry, director of the Corps’ JROTC program at its Quantico, Va.-based Training and Education Command.

The school is not a feeder program for the armed forces, he said, as attendance does not translate into a military obligation. Instead, it brings the focus and discipline of the Corps to secondary education with the aim of preparing students for college, McHenry said.

But a perceived back-door scheme to establish the school, as well as a lack of clarity on specific details – including costs – have prompted threats of legal action.

“There has been some quick maneuvering without the taxpayer’s knowledge,” said Michael Burke, a Vietnam veteran who represents the Georgia Veterans Alliance. “We think there’s been some shady dealings going on and we want to know what is really happening here.”

Burke insists he’s not anti-military.

“No one who knows me can call me that,” the 10-year Army veteran told Military.com. “I want people to understand that 13 years old is too young to be shoving the military down these kids’ throats.”

From the signing of the defense funding bill last year to recently announced plans to open the school to freshman this fall, few can argue the process has moved slowly. But a lack of transparency persists.

Neither the Marine Corps nor the DeKalb County School System would provide Military.com with a cost estimate for the school. The Pentagon also declined to provide costs for the larger program included in the Defense Authorization Act, which extends across the services and their respective JROTC programs.

Franzen, who is leading a campaign against the school with the Quaker-run American Friends Service Committee, told Military.com he obtained documents that showed the school will cost approximately $14 million to establish and run its first year.

Plans call for an additional 400 JROTC units to be established nationwide by 2020, according to Chris Arendt, deputy director of accession policy at the Pentagon. But it’s unclear how these additional JRTOC units will fold into plans for military-linked academies and institutes.

The proposed DeKalb school is designed to provide promising at-risk students looking for more of a challenge than the traditional public school setting can offer.

“We want to find the students who are not normally placed in an environment where they could go to college but have the potential to go to college,” McHenry said in an interview. “And then we provide the opportunity in this proposed institute.”

A Georgia Department of Education spokesman said it will be similar to a magnet or charter school in many ways, but with a military theme.

“We have received some e-mails in our office from concerned parents. We feel like it’s good to have the debate and have it publicly,” Dana Tofig told Military.com. “As long as students have the choice to attend and the school follows state and federal law, we don’t see a problem.”

McHenry describes an institute that is far different from traditional high schools.

Teachers will remain with students throughout their four-year course of study for greater continuity. The educators must be armed with a master’s degree in their field. Students will attend year round, with periodic short breaks in lieu of a conventional summer break.

And there will be no athletics, but lots of clubs.

“The things that sports teams normally teach, we teach as a matter of our JROTC program,” McHenry said. “We are here to prepare these students for college.”

The Marine Institute in Georgia would be at least the second school with Corps’ fingerprints. The service is currently involved in the management of a similar academy in Chicago, although McHenry said the two are not identical.

There are seven military-linked academies in Chicago.

Franzen said officials in Georgia tout the success of the Chicago academy, but he asserts records from a handful of the Chicago schools show they are far from exemplary.

“These schools are not exceptional,” Franzen said, admitting he was not able to gather records from all the Chicago academies, including the Marine Corps version.

“The graduation rates are not higher than the Illinois average and the test scores are not higher than the Illinois average. These schools are simply not outstanding academically.”

Despite protests from DeKalb residents, the local school board has already selected a temporary site for the Marine Institute and hired a principal. McHenry said the Corps is waiting for is approval from Acting Secretary of the Navy, B.J. Penn.

All involved expect further obstacles as the plan moves forward.

“Any time you are starting up a new institution, it’s difficult,” Tofig said. “When you are trying to do something that’s different, sometimes that creates a lot of challenges.”

Burke plans to be one of those challenges.

“We are working very hard to educate the DeKalb community that we don’t have to turn our schools over to the military to instill discipline,” Burke said.

© Copyright 2009 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


I'd like to sign my kids up now! :D
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby Eyes High » 26 May 2009 17:07

Yeah, what's the big hub-bub. It's not like the kids would be forced to attend. From what I gathered from the article, it would be up to the parents and child if the dhild attended the "military" schools.

I think it is a good idea/alternative.
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 26 May 2009 17:32

Don't they already have the option to send thier kids to military school? I don't get the big deal either.
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby Omphalos » 26 May 2009 18:19

Theyre worried about a slippery slope. Military succeeding in Atlanta and then being introduced into other school districts with discipline problems. Its boils down to an issue of racism, like siting a power plant in an economically depressed and mostly minority district. Theyre afraid that the military will have some success, that this will spread, and soon it will become mandatory, or lead to a lot of the underclasses winding up as soldiers while the rich white kids sun themselves on the beach. Blah-blah-blah.

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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby Freakzilla » 26 May 2009 20:21

Omphalos wrote:...or lead to a lot of the underclasses winding up as soldiers while the rich white kids sun themselves on the beach. Blah-blah-blah.



I think that's the main concern. But it's BS, the military is already at least half minorities. At least it was when I was in, and that was like 15 years ago.

That's not an official number and I don't care to check, just from my observation.
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby GamePlayer » 26 May 2009 23:25

The element of racism is certainly obvious in the motive. But racism aside, this schooling sponsored by the Marine Corps is simply a side effect of failing educational institutions due to poor social policy, funding issues, depressed economic conditions and the usual host of trickle-down effects that happen whenever social/economic circumstances sour. We experienced similar problems in Alberta during the years of government cutbacks as our leaders grappled with provincial debt. Administrators of the education system were desperate to obtain funding that could somehow sustain an acceptable level of instruction. They turned to community donations, local business, oil companies, service companies, you name it. There were all kinds of interesting deals made. If anyone has ever read Fast Food Nation (2001) by Eric Schlosser you'll find all kinds of disturbing corporate deals that were brokered between U.S. educators and business just to keep the school doors open.

On the flip side, I can understand the Marine Corps desire to get a footing into schools and improve their public image through positive community contributions. Recruitment in the U.S. has been on the decline for decades, particularly recently among young African Americans. The media image of the military is also disgraceful. I'll spare everyone a lengthy rant on how the modern obsession with anti-gun sentiment and demonization of video games links into that. Course, the current economic times also increases military recruitment and the military is probably thinking now is as good a time as any to move forward with plans to improve their recruitment and their public image.

Personally, I'd say give it a shot, with caveats. Human beings (particularly Americans) are great for going to ridiculous extremes and critics are within their rights to worry about a slippery slope. I can see unchecked Marine Corps schools turning into a national controversy some 15 years down the road. But keep everything transparent and answerable to the actual educators running the system and it's worth a shot. Even if the Marine Corps schools do no worse than current systems, what's the harm?

Course, if the government would simply deal with it's debt, ensure responsible economic/social policy and properly run the school system (like what we pay these politicians for), this wouldn't even be an issue :)
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby trang » 27 May 2009 00:59

Well now thats a whopper of a story... that lands in mine and every former Marines cross hairs. Spending 10 years in the ACTUAL Marine Corps... opposed to an educational academy that implements the Corps Discipline and Doctrine are way different animials.

People comming out of an academy are not and will not be US Marines, plain, simple, to the point, no grey area. Corps philosophy doesnt in anyway gurentee a successful student.. or better quaility student. If you know anything about the Military.. its teaching trickles down to the weakest link.. bringing every member of a team to a PRODUCTIVE status.. not an Overachieving or Outstanding status.

The educational doctrine would not be focused on Warmongering, and learning 57 ways to kill someone with a pungi stick....thats just overreactive imaginations of those people opposed to the idea.

Offering educational options to communites Im all for, and believe they should be looked at for the merits to the common good.
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby SandChigger » 27 May 2009 07:36

Wait a minute ... what's the 57th way? :?


I don't see any problem with this, with safeguards against coercion to join, etc. etc.

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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby SandRider » 27 May 2009 23:15

:puke:
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Re: Georgia Activists Slam USMC High School

Postby SandChigger » 28 May 2009 02:44

:P
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