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Education Wed Nov 04 2009

Arne Duncan Is Unqualified Case File: Militarization

Andy Kroll reports on how Arne Duncan forged the most militarized school district in the country.

Yet a closer investigation of Duncan's record in Chicago casts doubt on that label. As he packs up for Washington, Duncan leaves behind a Windy City legacy that's hardly cause for optimism, emphasizing as it does a business-minded, market-driven model for education. If he is a "reformer," his style of management is distinctly top-down, corporate, and privatizing. It views teachers as expendable, unions as unnecessary, and students as customers.

Disturbing as well is the prominence of Duncan's belief in offering a key role in public education to the military. Chicago's school system is currently the most militarized in the country, boasting five military academies, nearly three dozen smaller Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs within existing high schools, and numerous middle school Junior ROTC programs. More troubling yet, the military academies he's started are nearly all located in low-income, minority neighborhoods. This merging of military training and education naturally raises concerns about whether such academies will be not just education centers, but recruitment centers as well.

Rather than handing Duncan a free pass on his way into office, as lawmakers did during Duncan's breezy confirmation hearings last week, a closer examination of the Chicago native's record is in order. Only then can we begin to imagine where public education might be heading under Arne Duncan, and whether his vision represents the kind of "change" that will bring our students meaningfully in line with the rest of the world.

Yes, I added double emphasis, because it says middle school. Twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. Thanks, Arne.

So, President Obama, why did you make this man our chief educator? For his track record of militarization?


Roland S / November 7, 2009 2:17 AM

How is a military academy at the high school level any different than a high school that prepares students for an automotive career or a performing-arts career? Serving in the military is a career like any other, moreso than at any previous point in history. At graduation, these students still have the choice to do whatever they like - going to college, getting a local job, or entering the military if they so choose. Recruitment even in standard high schools is perfectly acceptable, last time I checked.

Junior ROTC programs are less about a strict military lifestyle and more about exposing children to the opportunities they can get in the armed forces. I don't see you calling out the Boy Scouts for their quasi-military theme.

Bernard / November 10, 2009 11:05 AM

The point left out is, Chicago's slew of military schools is only for black and Latino students. The idea is that "those kids" need military discipline while white and middle class learn best through the liberal arts. "Those kids" are also dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at a much higher ratio.

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