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Thousands of American teens are being forcibly enrolled in J.R.O.T.C. classes

There are approximately 3,500 high schools across the country that offer J.R.O.T.C. programs taught by veterans; per the Pentagon, it is a violation of its guidelines if they require students to take part in them. However, a New York Times investigation found that thousands of public school students were being forced into the classes based on an explicit requirement or were automatically enrolled.

More than 200 public records requests revealed that dozens of schools have made the J.R.O.T.C. mandatory or steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade to the program, including Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, and Mobile, Ala. The Times found that most of these schools had a large proportion of nonwhite and low-income students enrolled.

J.R.O.T.C. has been a point of debate since its founding more than a century ago. The antiwar movement of the 1970s led some school districts to restrict the recruitment of high school students to serve in Vietnam in response to protests. In most schools, enrollment requirements gradually disappeared.

These issues, however, are re-emerging today, as parents say their children are forced into military uniforms, obey commands, and recite patriotic declarations in classes they never wanted to be in.

“If she wanted to do it, I would have no problem with it,” said Julio Mejia, a parent in Fort Myers, Fla., whose daughter tried to get out of a required J.R.O.T.C. class in 2019. “She has no interest in a military career. She has no interest in doing any of that stuff. The only word I can think of is ‘indoctrination.’”

It is essential to recognize that forcing high school students to participate in J.R.O.T.C. programs raises serious questions about the autonomy of children and their potential for indoctrination into a military mindset.


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