The AP puts it best: “The U.S. Army wants middle school students.” And indeed they do. According to the article, “The Army is collaborating with the National Association of School Boards to develop a so-called JROTC-plus program that would use the high school JROTC curriculum as a basis for a middle school program.” But the latest effort to instill the value of militarism in today’s youth is more subtle than in the past; rather than training kids to kill “gooks”, for instance, children are taught to kill “our brothers and sisters of the Orient.” Progress.
Still, some parents — damned Naderites, most likely — caught in the feverish grip of commonsense are likely to question whether the military’s interest in expanding its Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to 6th and 7th graders might have some ulterior purpose, some raison d’être other than the stated goal of instilling the “values” of “citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment.”
That’s why the military keeps folks like Colonel John Vanderbleek around. The director of the Army’s JROTC program, Vanderbleek allays parents’ fears, explaining that the program aims solely at inculcating American values in “students at that age before they make decisions that put them at risk.” Like joining the military, presumably.
Also, “If you get into the leadership program and see what it is, you lose suspicion that they are recruiting,” says Vanderbleek, the reason Congress authorized the military to start ROTC/JROTC programs in the 1916 National Defense Act of course being not to recruit officers for the U.S.’s impending involvement in World War I — heavens no — but to teach young men basket weaving and how to walk little old ladies across the street.
And the military recruiters that hung around my high school chatting up 14 year olds about the supreme awesomeness that is the U.S. armed forces were there because they just really liked Taco Tuesdays.