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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is AFSC's experience working with young people?

AFSC has an 80-year history of involving youth in humanitarian service projects and in programs working for peace, social and economic justice. Today the AFSC has youth-oriented programs in many offices in the U.S. and abroad. These programs address a range of issues: violence-reduction and the peaceful resolution of conflicts; war and military service; lesbian and gay issues; and youth leadership for peace and justice-making. Many AFSC offices have internships, mentorships and volunteer opportunities for young people.

AFSC and many other youth-serving organizations are working at the grassroots level to develop a pro-youth agenda and provide positive opportunities for youth. While these programs don't have billion dollar budgets and TV advertising campaigns like the military's, they are providing a real alternative way for youth to make a difference.

Why are you criticizing the programs that the military has designed to help our youth?

We believe that students should be taught by people who are trained and certified to do that job. Our public education system, though it is underfunded, has developed programs that address the need for leadership training and provide discipline and role models for youth. But while funding for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) has grown, funding for school counselors, for sports, music, drama, conflict resolution and other activities has been cut in many of the very same school districts. Let's expand these programs, give them an opportunity to work, and work to improve our public schools.

Bringing in the military is no substitute for addressing the challenges of our school system. The military and the schools have two different purposes. The military's job is to prepare for and to fight wars.

Why are you critical of the military?

AFSC is opposed to militarism, the dominant role that the US military plays in U.S. society. We are not hostile toward people who join the military.

Even though there is no credible military threat to the US in the world today, the military continues to have a stranglehold on federal government spending and the US economy. Military solutions -- wars -- are often favored over peaceful means of resolving international disputes. At the same time our government says that we cannot afford to spend money on dealing with basic human needs.

It's a problem when we can commit $300 billion annually to maintain our military, but we "cannot afford" programs to eradicate unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, or inadequate childcare, education, and health care. Similarly, it's a problem when there are school districts that can offer JROTC programs but "cannot afford" to provide kindergarten.

Militarism skews all our options. No person should feel like joining the military is his or her only option for getting a job, paying for college, or escaping a violent community. We strongly believe that the policies and practices of our schools and government institutions should be driven by the needs of our people, and particularly our youth, not by the needs of a massive and powerful military establishment.

Where's the connection between JROTC and violence? Are you saying JROTC cadets are going out and killing people?

We do not claim that the publicized cases of JROTC cadets and instructors engaging in violent and criminal behavior constitute a pattern. (On the other hand, it is clear that some JROTC participants fall far short of the high standards of behavior the program claims to instill.)

But an increased military presence in schools -- complete with training in how to shoot a rifle -- sends the wrong message to youth about our values. We live in a country where the death rate from firearms among children under 15 is the highest among industrialized countries, 12 times higher than the combined rate of 25 other industrialized nations. Schools choose to sensitize -- or further desensitize -- youth to the consequences of using weapons.

Many schools have adopted a stance of zero tolerance for weapons and made it a priority to teach students to find alternatives to aggressive behavior. What is the message we want our schools to convey to young people about weapons: how to use them safely, or not to use them? We would argue that developing the skill and "discipline" to shoot straight is not a valuable instructional objective for our schools.

Besides your opposition to the marksmanship parts of Junior ROTC, are there other reasons you believe JROTC should not be in our schools?

Concern about JROTC’s connection with violence is not the only reason we believe JROTC is not the best answer for our country’s students. Following are some more.
Learn more...
Does JROTC belong in our schools?

We are concerned that JROTC does not give students the best foundation they need for life after high school. Schools need to provide their students with sound educational preparation. Educators now recommend that all students – regardless of their post-high school plans – take academically challenging college preparatory classes. Participation in JROTC often limits other options by taking the place of subjects such as advanced mathematics, foreign languages, or other electives. Students in JROTC may not be exposed to or offered other opportunities, such as counseling, academic, or vocational preparation for non-military careers. Additionally, a survey of state colleges and university systems showed few signs that JROTC helps students meet college entrance requirements.
Learn more... Is JROTC a Wise Use of Class Time?

Many members of the school community – including educators and parents – have raised concerns about the content of the JROTC curriculum. The texts, furnished by the military, present history in a dogmatic and biased way, glorifying the role of the military and warfare. The program emphasizes memorization and obedience over critical thinking skills. School administrators typically fail to exercise control over or say in what is taught in JROTC classrooms.

Although JROTC is usually an elective, sometimes it is not entirely voluntary. In some schools (such as several in Washington DC), students are automatically enrolled in JROTC and have to request permission not to be in JROTC. In the fall of 1999, the first public all-JROTC school, a public school run by the military, opened in Chicago. No one should be forced to take this program.

JROTC diverts scarce resources at a time when school budgets are often being cut. The cost to the school district (what it must pay in addition to what the Department of Defense pays) is often much more – sometimes double – than the price estimates provided by the military. In 1998-99, local school districts paid over $222 million for JROTC personnel costs. In some schools or districts, such as Lansing, MI, these rising costs have been a factor in keeping JROTC out or terminating existing programs. JROTC instruction is often more costly (per student) than academic, non-military instruction (such as math or English).

Increasingly, JROTC is being touted as the answer to school problems, especially in inner-cities, even though such claims are not substantiated. Many other (non-military) programs have proven track records in reducing the dropout rate, training young people in useful skills, teaching leadership and management skills, and demonstrating good citizenship. We believe that JROTC is not the best means of solving school difficulties or ensuring that young people receive quality education.

Is there a link between JROTC and military recruiting?

JROTC proponents assert that the program is simply an opportunity to help students develop leadership and citizenship skills. They assert that JROTC is not a recruitment program. However, in February 2000, US Secretary of Defense William Cohen told the House Armed Services Committee that JROTC "is one of the best recruiting devices that we could have." Indeed, approximately 40-45% of all cadets who complete JROTC enter the military (Department of Defense figures).

Military school-based activities such as JROTC are designed to boost recruitment in one way or another. Young people are led to think of military programs as vocational training or as a fun school activity for credit. Consequently, they are left with a false and unrealistic view of what it means to hold a job where a person could be ordered to go to war.

How do I get out of the Delayed Entry Program?

The Delayed Entry Program (also known as the Delayed Enlistment Program or DEP) allows a young person to sign up to join the military up to a year before she or he reports for active duty training. Many young people sign up during their last year of high school and then finish school before starting military training. People in the DEP are not yet members of the military.

Getting out of the DEP is much easier than you have probably been told. You do have a right to get out. If you are having second thoughts for any reason, it is best to get out now. It is much more difficult after you have started training.

For a variety of reasons, you may decide that the military is not for you. If you would like to get out of the DEP, you must write a letter stating that you are no longer interested in the military, that you want to be separated, and your reasons why. After you decide to leave the DEP, you are likely to face a lot of pressure from your recruiter. Keep in mind that threats are not true and that separating from the DEP will not have bad consequences.

See our "Ask Us" section for more detailed instructions and places to find help and advice.

I’m turning 18 soon and I’ve heard that the law says I’m required to register for the military draft. What are my options?

It is true that the law says that every male must register for the draft within 30 days of his 18th birthday. At present there is no actual draft.

Your choices are not easy, but you do have them! Either you register or you don’t. It is only after Congress reinstated a draft and you received an actual notice calling you up for military service that you could try to obtain a "deferment" (a postponement of military service) or "exemption" (a release from military service). At that point you could present information about medical or family problems, your objection to fighting in all wars (conscientious objection), or other reasons for not being drafted. These options are not available to you at this point.

Some people register but place messages stating their opposition to war in the margins. This is a form of protest and does not necessarily have any legal significance later if you should apply for a deferment or exemption.

The maximum penalties for non-registration are stiff (prison and/or fine), although current government policy is not to prosecute people accused of failing to register for the draft. Instead, the draft agency has relied on a series of coercive federal and state laws that deny benefits to young people in order to muscle them into complying.

Both registering and not registering have their risks. The risks associated with not registering are obvious: possible prosecution or the loss of certain benefits, such as federal and possibly state financial aid, certain government jobs, and participation in federally-funded job training programs. On the other hand, persons who register may find it more difficult to avoid the draft later.

There is no "right" choice for everybody who is opposed to a draft. You have to make a decision for yourself based on what you think you can live with. Many men do choose, for a variety of reasons, not to register. The prospect of being forced into the military just doesn’t sit well with many young people.

AFSC produces a draft information packet. It includes information on the financial aid law, alternative sources of aid, what to do if the government identifies you as a non-registrant, etc. (Order it.)

Where do you get your information?

All of our work is carefully researched and documented. Our statistical information is generally obtained directly from government sources, mostly the Pentagon and the Education Department.

In addition, AFSC staff have worked on the issue of military involvement in schools for several decades, both in our national office and in communities around the country. AFSC staff and volunteers work closely with young people, educators, parents and other community members who are concerned about education. We often work in schools where the U.S. military is active. While military programs like the JROTC are certainly popular with some students and educators, the concerns we raise have been strongly expressed not only by us, but by other parents, students and staff at schools across the country.

Our analysis of the JROTC program is also based on our own review of all the JROTC textbooks, as well as on evaluations of JROTC curriculum materials that have been conducted in a number of school districts. For a detailed list of sources, see the academic study of JROTC, Making Soldiers in the Public Schools.

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