America’s Tween Soldiers

Seth Kershner -

August Say, 12, holds out his arm to determine where he should stand in class in the new Dragon Leadership Corps at his middle school in Bowling Green, Ohio. Last year, Henry F. Moss Middle School in Bowling Green, Ohio, offered students a brand new course. And, as a headline in the local newspaper proclaimed, this was “not your traditional class.” For starters, the teacher—an army sergeant—had told the Bowling Green Daily News that one of his goals was to expose these seventh- and eighth-graders to “military values” that they could use as “building blocks” in life. To that end, students in the class earn military style ranks, engage in army-style “PT” (physical training) and each Wednesday, wear camouflage pants and boots.

This is the Moss Middle School Leadership Corps, part of the growing trend of military-style education for pre-adolescents.

Middle school military programs are younger cousins of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), a Pentagon program taught by retired military officers and present in more than 3,500 high schools nationwide. Although there are strong similarities with JROTC— military-style uniforms, close-order drills, a curriculum that emphasizes patriotism and military history—the key difference is that JROTC is supported by federal funds and middle school military programs are not, by federal law. That means the continued existence of the middle school programs depends on state or district funding and, in some cases, charitable contributions.

Although the localized nature of the programs and the variety of names they go by—most commonly “leadership corps” or “cadet corps”—make them difficult to quantify, a review of programs by In These Times in more than a dozen states found that there are at least 97 public middle schools currently offering military-style education.

Read more on In These Times

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