Ban ROTC From Public Schools

The Parkland school massacre should be the justification for banning ROTC from public schools.

Peter Wang, Alaina Petty, and Martin Duque were murdered by ROTC. They were their students trained to take a bullet for their classmates, their comrades. They are to receive military medals for their bravery and Wang has been awarded a posthumous admittance to West Point. Nicholas Cruz was, in part, trained by ROTC at the same school and wore its shirt on the day of his killing spree. Whether victims or perpetrators, the military in our schools has a responsibility for this bloodshed. These innocent children, the victims, had to have been caught up in the moment, as any person would be. Their actions were based on instinct but also training or conditioning. Nearly all teenagers today are exposed to impersonal mass murdering video games, like Mortal Kombat. For them, death is gory and glory, but unreal. Death is finite, until they get to the next level. Violent death is not something most kids are really exposed to face to face. How unreal and horrifying the situation must have been for these 3 and 14 others!

These three children in particular should have been like any other teen in such a situation. Running for their lives and letting instinct take over, even if that meant sacrificing themselves for others. The three of them had the truest form of altruism in their hearts and souls. But how much of that was conditioned by serving a military?

Many would argue that ROTC trains leaders and instills discipline in our students. However, its primary purpose is military recruitment. With the US involved in endless wars, there needs to be an endless supply of recruits, and where else to get them but from public schools, especially in poverty districts where the false promises of a great future awaits them if they join. It’s why it’s called a ‘poverty draft’. It’s in the upper middle income schools where they really expect officers in training.

The US is a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It has violated such agreements in the past by imprisoning Omar Khadr in Guantanamo, who as a child soldier fought against an invading army and killed an American soldier. We look at the past horrors of Sudan and war torn areas all over the world where children are either forcefully conscripted or indoctrinated early on to be a soldier, and then given such opportunities by the state or warring parties.

The child, even a teenager, has not developed the full cognitive abilities to make ‘adult’ decisions. Children who are minors are protected by law from harm, whether it be restrictions at the workplace, behind a wheel, or owning a firearm. Being part of a paramilitary organization that trains in drills, rifle actions, partakes in field trips to military installations, etc., is the very indoctrination of the child, potentially turning him or her into a child soldier, or a young adult with a child soldier’s mentality. Move away from ‘Call of Duty’. Here’s a real rifle for you, or even a tank if your unit is so lucky. And you get to wear a uniform with medals at your school, even Air Force sweats on Fridays are allowed as part of the school uniform.

We must look at the totality of what ROTC offers in a public school and come to the conclusion that it is not our charge to create child soldiers for a decaying empire.

Myles Hoenig is a veteran of the Prince George's County Public School system in Maryland, USA. He's a long time activist for social justice. He lives in Baltimore. Read other articles by Myles.