The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Forced Military Classes in Public Schools

Jan 9, 2023

More public high schools in poorer areas are forcing students to take military-run Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) classes. JROTC is supposed to be voluntary. The Pentagon provides instructors and textbooks so long as 10% of a school’s students choose to take the class. But now many schools are making it mandatory.

Half a million students are in JROTC. Schools where more than half the students are enrolled in JROTC are now found in many big cities all across the country, as well as in many rural areas. The program operated in 3,500 high schools last year, more than double as many schools as during the Vietnam War. The military intends to raise the number to 6,000 schools by 2031.

Veterans run these classes with military discipline. Students must wear military uniforms, and instructors often yell orders. The textbooks are chosen by the military, without review by educators. The books are obvious pro-militarist propaganda. For example, a discussion of the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, when Native Americans were forced to leave their land, neglects to say that many died on the road. A discussion of the Vietnam War repeats the long-debunked lie that a U.S. Navy ship was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964.

Administrators defend their increasing reliance on JROTC by saying the military discipline controls some rebellious teenagers. What they don’t say is that as public school districts receive less and less funding to hire enough teachers, the military subsidy makes their budgets easier to balance.

JROTC is part of how the capitalist system tries to prepare young workers to submit to a life of exploitation—and a world at war.