School to Prison Pipeline: Military Influence in Schools

Rebecca Perez -

During a Mission: Readiness press event in San Diego on the importance of physical fitness for national security, U.S. Marines led students in various physical activity demonstrations to emphasize how the school is meeting state PE requirements.This segment in my series of the School to Prison Pipeline is on the influence that the military has on our school systems.

During my research I have found that there are actually two known military generals that have actually been superintendents of our schools. The first is former General Anthony J. Tata, who was the superintendent of Wake County, NC and the second is Major General John Stanford who was superintendent of Seattle.

But why has our education become so careless, thoughtless, and meaningless that we are able to use the MBA mentality. (MBA mentality: where the skills of management are so generic that one can seamlessly transition from one type of organization to another. Such as here; from militia to education.)

Some people who have supported Tata in taking this position used the defense that he has had previous experience working under former Chancellor of DC, Michelle Rhee, as the Chief Operating Officer of public schools. In that position Tata was in charge of purchasing, technology, food service and supporting areas. However, I don’t believe I am the only skeptic who disagrees with his taking of office. After all, though those are major parts of running a good educational system, none are the core purpose of it. Therefore I continue to believe that he still should not have been able to be superintendent.

Continuing on, there is a organization that is worth mentioning when it comes to this topic. That organization would be Mission: Readiness. For those just being introduced to Mission: Readiness you should know this; it is an organization started and run only by military commanders that promote investments in education, child health and parenting support.

In fact Mission: Readiness actually once stated: “High quality early education is not only important for children it benefits but also critical to ensuring our military’s long-term readiness… Investing in high-quality early education is a matter of national security. Recruitment and retention challenges could return if America does not do a better job now of producing more young men and women qualified for service. We must ensure America’s national security by supporting interventions that will prepare young people for a life of military service and productive citizenship”

This mission statement is basically saying they want to prepare us for a life in the combat boots, and not once was a route into college ever even suggested. And what is most upsetting? They say they advocate for low-income, at risk children. And it’s not only from this sea of kids that the military gains the bulk of their recruitment but it is these children that don’t really have many other choices but to recruit.

Reading this, one can’t help but wonder what kind of education do these military leaders want for us then? The answer isn’t all too difficult to grasp and not too difficult to find. They want skill and drill, standards driven, assessment burdened curriculums. Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar?Why isn’t this surprising? Because this would prepare us for skill and drill basic military training, standards driven military discipline, and test-based military promotion.

Rethinking Schools is a teacher’s magazine you may have read me speak of in a previous post. They believe that our schools should; be teaching us citizenship, have goals for creativity, critical-thinking, and compassion, have meaningful questions in collaboration with attention to issues of fairness, and act with courage, conviction (firmly held belief) and imagination, and foster empathy (certainly not apathy), ecological consciousness (knowing what part you have in the great scheme of where you live; your family, town, city, country and even the world.) and engage inquiry (questioning or asking for information) and collaboration.

Sadly, that isn’t the education we are getting…


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