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Education Reporter

Junior ROTC Under Fire

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In 2006, the San Francisco Unified School District became the first in the nation to abolish its Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program. (See Education Reporter, Feb. 2007). Now many are working to make Los Angeles USD the second to do so, a recent L.A. Times article revealed.

The article concentrated on anti-JROTC and anti-recruiting activities at Roosevelt High School, where the number of JROTC cadets has dropped 43% since 2002. In 2003, a Roosevelt speech therapist formed the Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools (CAMS), which is now part of the United Teachers of Los Angeles Human Rights Committee. CAMS operates in 50 of the 61 LAUSD high schools. Only 30 have JROTC programs.

Across the school district, cadet enrollment has dropped 24% since 2003, which people on both sides of the issue attribute to the organized campaign. Nationwide, the JROTC program has grown over the same period of time.

At Roosevelt and elsewhere, CAMS teachers act not only against JROTC, but also against the war in Iraq, and the U.S. military in general. Teachers show anti-military and anti-war films such as Students Not Soldiers, Arlington West, and The Ground Truth. They pass out pamphlets with titles like "Don't Die in a Dead-End Job! Information for Young People Considering the Military," and wear T-shirts with slogans like "Books not Bombs" and "A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."

At least one CAMS member, 11th-grade history teacher Martha Guerrero, has expanded her strategy to include ridiculing JROTC students during class. She explained her behavior in moral terms: "I just tell them things I know are right or wrong. I stand against war, against JROTC." Guerrero - whose name, ironically, means "warrior" in Spanish - hangs a flag in her room that displays the face of Che Guevara. Che Guevara spent years of his life in guerrilla warfare, founded forced labor camps, and acted many times on his stated belief that "to send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary."

Local groups like CAMS work to oppose JROTC in at least half of the states, with high concentrations of groups in California, New York and Pennsylvania.

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