There are bad ideas, and there are very bad ideas, ones that never should have seen the light of day.
A bad idea was sidewalk ATM’s: withdraw money while standing on the sidewalk and get mugged instantly. A very bad idea is Junior ROTC.
ROTC stands for Reserved Officer Training Corps, a program run at many colleges and universities. It trains college students to become military officers at places other than West Point or Annapolis. The government helps pay for school while the student takes military classes and training, then the student owes the government several years of service in return.
Junior ROTC is different. Junior ROTC pushes the program down to the high school level. It is a recruitment program for the military well before the student reaches the age of 18, which is the minimum age for enlistment. Junior ROTC begins to groom high school students for military recruitment as early as age 15.
The stated purpose of Junior ROTC is to teach kids discipline, respect for authority, and patriotism. Many critics of Junior ROTC believe it is a recruitment program plain and simple, latching onto our kids at an age way too early for them to be introduced to the military. After all, the military is about warfare – killing and being killed – it’s not Scouting.
A kid can learn discipline, respect, and patriotism participating in the school band as well as he can J-ROTC. Some of the most disciplined and respectful kids I know are on the school soccer team or the chess club. They are not being groomed for combat when they are still too young to drive the family car. This is America, not Sparta.
Grooming kids for combat is an inherently bad idea. It is bad enough recruiters trawl the high schools in depressed areas of our country, looking for kids who have few options in life and see the military as “a way out”. Now we are making these recruiters part of the faculty of our schools, turning institutions of learning into recruitment centers.
Does the local bank have a loan officer on the faculty, recruiting kids for a banking career? Probably not. Does the local chapter of the I.B.E.W. have an electrician on the faculty, grooming kids for a career in the trades? Nope. Business people and craftspeople are those who build individual lives and entire societies. But, increasingly, we find staff sergeants in high school classrooms recruiting kids for combat, teaching them drills, parade marching, and military history. Next step, Afghanistan.
And when they come back, if they come back, they are five to seven years behind in development of their high school peers who did not sign up. And far, far too many of them end up standing in line at pantries and soup kitchens, looking for all the world like the walking wounded they are.
Junior ROTC is as bad an idea as hydrogen blimps. Remember the Hindenburg? It was only a matter of time before it would come crashing down in a ball of flame, killing dozens. Junior ROTC strikes me as the Hindenburg of “elective programs” in high school. It should be killed off before it goes down in flames, taking many young lives with it.