Funding allocated by the U.S. armed forces to support high school students in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is money well-spent and should be increased, an independent study released last week says.
JROTC builds self-discipline, teamwork, motivation, and confidence in young people, concludes the report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a private, nonpartisan policy- research institute in Washington.
“Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps: Contributing to America’s Communities” is available for $17.95 by calling the Center for Strategic and International Studies at (202) 887-0200.
“Everywhere we looked, there was a decrease in discipline problems [for participating students],” said William J. Taylor, the organization’s senior vice president for international-security affairs in an interview. “In many cases, it is a substitute for parents who are working or not there when kids come home. JROTC picks up slack--it is a haven.”
The programs, run through the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, are taught as elective courses at more than 3,000 high schools nationwide. Some 388,000 uniformed JROTC students will take part in the program during this school year.
Critics contend, however, that the military uses JROTC to track high school students and sell them on serving before they have considered other career options. They also charge that there are hidden costs for school districts.
“It is a diversion of attention and resources from other kinds of changes needed in schools,” said Harold Jordan, the coordinator of the National Youth and Militarism program in Philadelphia.
JROTC courses are led by active-duty and retired military personnel and teach good citizenship, personal responsibility, and service to country. Unlike college-level ROTC, the program does not obligate students to join the military. The U.S. Department of Defense spent $166.48 million on JROTC in the current fiscal year.
Center researchers looked at the success of JROTC in public schools in Chicago, Washington, and El Paso, Texas, between November 1997 and April 1998. They found that the participants in Washington reported higher grade point averages and SAT scores, fewer absences and infractions, and a lower dropout rate than their peers. JROTC members in El Paso committed fewer infractions than other students, while participants in Chicago had higher grades than their peers, the report says.
JROTC programs benefit poor and minority students most, the report says. African-Americans made up 33 percent of all participants nationwide during the 1996-97 school year, up from 26 percent in 1994-95. Hispanics made up 10 percent of those in JROTC programs during the 1996-97 school year, up slightly from 9 percent in 1994-95. White students comprised 41 percent of JROTC students during 1996-97, down from 50 percent in 1994-95.
The future of JROTC, however, is uncertain, according to the report.
The number of programs stopped expanding in 1996, it says, and adequate funding remains a problem. The study says more JROTC funding is needed.
The Department of Defense recognizes the importance of JROTC, Lt. Col. Tom Begines, a department spokesman, said in an interview. The Army plans to increase the number of JROTC programs, and other armed services are considering expanding, too, he added.