Saturday, February 23, 2008

Teachers Against Militarized Education—TAME the Beast!

Decommission Public Military Academies
A National Call to Action

As military recruiters across the nation fall short of their enlistment goals and the number of African Americans enlistees continue to decline, the Department of the Defense (DOD) has partnered with the Department of Education and city governments to sell its “brand” to young people.

Today, Chicago has the most military-branded public school system in the nation. When an Air Force high school opens in 2009 it will be the only city in the United States to have public academies representing all branches of the military.

This recruitment tactic is effective: Nearly half of the students participating in public military schools and JROTC programs, according to the DOD’s own reports, enlist after graduation.

Six reasons all citizens should oppose public military schools and programs.

1. Public education is a civilian, not a military, system.
Public education in a democracy aims to broadly prepare youth for full participation in civil society so that they can make informed decisions about their lives and become full and active participants in civil society. The DOD has a dramatically more constrained goal in our schools: influencing students to “choose” a military career.

2. Military programs and schools offer a substandard education.
Instead of receiving a well-rounded education, students study subjects like “Military Science” and “Army Customs and Courtesies.” With that kind of preparation, it is no surprise that at Chicago’s Carver Military Academy only 49% of its seniors graduated in 2007.

3. Military programs and schools target low-income youth of color.
The Chicago Board of Education targets low-income, primarily African American, communities for military-themed high schools, while upper-income white communities are offered gifted, magnet, and college prep schools and programs. This reinforces a negative and unfortunately familiar message: poor youth of color merit second-class education.

4. Military schools and programs promote obedience and conformity.
Confusing obedience with self-direction, and conformity with independence, Mayor Daley has claimed that military programs promote discipline and leadership. An authentic commitment to youth development would start by offering all students what the most privileged youngsters receive: art education, dance and music instruction, theater and performance, sports and physical education, clubs and games, after-school opportunities, science and math labs, lower teacher-student ratios, smaller schools, curriculum that promotes critical thinking, and more.

5. Military schools are a last resort, not a real choice.
The rhetoric of “choice” absolves CPS officials and politicians of leadership responsibilities. Because most CPS students have been denied a first-rate public school education, they are not able to test into the best public high schools. Instead, they are urged to “choose” from among the high schools that will accept them. Better-funded military schools or decaying neighborhood schools—which would you choose?

6. Military schools and programs practice double standards and discrimination.
Although the Chicago Board of Education, City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois all prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, the United States Military condones discrimination against lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men. Military schools and programs willfully ignore the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students can’t access military college benefits or employment possibilities, and that LGBT teachers can’t be hired to serve as JROTC instructors in these schools. This double standard should not be tolerated.

Call to Action
Let’s bring our schools home! Join TAME in this call for a moratorium on any new military-themed public schools or programs.

Email me your name at to add to this Call to Action.
Email Mayor Daley at and tell him to keep our public schools military-free.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

It’s Not the End of Senn High School

Fifteen members of the Senn High School Strategic Planning Committee, including students and school staff members, met with Alderwoman Mary Ann Smith last week. They talked for over an hour and a half, but Smith refused to endorse either Senn’s Plan or process, which are both impressive. To date, the Committee has surveyed, focus grouped, interviewed, brainstormed, been “expert” advised and more, to come up with a Plan that can keep Senn as a single school serving the needs of all its students. Smith, on the other hand, is promoting her own “plan” for the school, created by…who knows? All that’s clear is that Smith wants to close Senn and open in its place four small schools in the building, three with selective admission policies, meaning they won’t accept all kids in Senn’s attendance boundaries, within which 70% of its students currently live, and one voc tech school. Senn’s plan calls for keeping the school united and open to all students, with programs to serve the different needs in the building.

Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, has said that Senn will take in a freshman class in Fall 2008. That’s good news, but the work to keep Senn open isn’t over.

The next Strategic planning Committee Meeting will take place on Feb. 9 at Senn, in Room 115, 9:00 AM. Everyone is invited to show up and be part of the important community work of improving public education. You’ll meet parents, students, teachers, local residents and a host of others who care about what happens in our local schools. It’s good work. Please do it.