Rick Jahnkow -
Just about everyone views the National Rifle Association as the leading champion of gun culture in the United States. When there is a mass shooting — even one as outrageous as the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary — we have learned to expect the NRA to uncompromisingly oppose any government response that would limit the rights of gun owners.
Schools, on the other hand, are viewed as the daytime guardians of our children and are expected to have an equally uncompromising stance against weapons and violence. Zero-tolerance policies commonly allow for the expulsion of a child just for bringing a toy resembling a weapon to school, and students are typically barraged at school with messages against joining gangs and using violence to resolve conflict.
Surely it would be inconsistent, then, if schools were to sponsor programs designed to acclimate kids to violence; and we certainly wouldn't expect them to be actively teaching students the skills needed to become shooters. That would be incredibly absurd, right?
Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in a large number of our high schools, where local school districts and the Pentagon are co-sponsoring Junior ROTC marksmanship training.
Think about it: a child can be disciplined for bringing a squirt gun to class, but school officials and the Pentagon get a pass when they train students to use rifles with shooting ranges inside our schools. And despite the dangerous implications of giving such a mixed message about guns to young people, this program receives little or no critical attention from the media, politicians or gun control groups who are protesting school shootings and societal violence.
JROTC's Background and Scope
For those of haven't heard, there are now approximately 3,400 secondary schools with units of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, a military training and recruiting program open to students as young as age 14. Founded in 1916, it is operated jointly by the host schools and individual military branches. Instructors are retired officers employed by the local school district. Over half a million students are enrolled in the program and attend daily classes that teach them military customs and demeanor. They are assigned ranks, required to wear uniforms at least once a week, learn to march, and study history, civics and other subjects from Pentagon-supplied textbooks. Students are graded according to how well they can demonstrate that they have internalized military behavior, values and culture. Unlike college ROTC, there is no military obligation with JROTC; however, according to testimony in Congress, 30%-40% of JROTC cadets eventually join the military.