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Beyond Chron
January 4, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Marc Norton

Note:  The Friends of JROTC website, quoted below, went off-line minutes after this article was posted on Beyond Chron. Visitors to the Friends of JROTC website now get a message claiming that the site "is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance."

Please also take note:  As stated below, according to a recent survey of over 800 San Francisco JROTC students, 15.6% of the cadets who responded claimed that they were "placed in the program without my consent." Maybe this program isn't so voluntary after all.

The Friends of JROTC website claims that JROTC is not a military recruitment program. This, the website claims, is a "myth... The JROTC program was not set up to recruit..." This is a common defense of JROTC by those who support this Pentagon program.

Unfortunately for the Friends of JROTC, the claim that JROTC is "not set  up to recruit" is manifestly false. According to federal regulations for the Army, one of the goals of JROTC is to "create favorable attitudes and impressions toward the Services and toward careers in the Armed Forces." These same regulations state that
"all qualified students of JROTC" should be "encouraged" to
"perform military or any other Federal service."

What could be more clear? Does anyone really believe that the military would set up hundreds of JROTC programs merely out of a sense of civic duty?

It should come as no surprise that, nationwide, about 42% of JROTC graduates choose either to enlist, to go into a military service academy, or to enter a ROTC program in college.

Did some wild-eyed radical make up that number? No, sir. That number comes directly from the Army itself, in its fiscal report for 2005.

This figure is down a bit from the 45% reported by the Department of Defense back in 1993.

Now, try this number. In 2005, nearly 60% of San Franciscans voted for Proposition I, which states that it should be "city policy to oppose military recruiting in public schools." This vote took place the same year that 42% of JROTC graduates nationwide were signing up.

Apparently, today, the majority of the school board doesn't feel it needs to pay much attention to the voters. We clearly need to concentrate their attention.

The next line of defense by JROTC supporters is to claim that fewer San Francisco JROTC cadets end up in a military career than JROTC cadets nationwide. This is undoubtedly true, and thankfully so. After all, this is San Francisco, not Omaha.

But, so what if there are less recruits in San Francisco? Even one student recruited into the military by way of JROTC is one too many. Two is twice too many. And it appears that the number may be quite a bit higher than one or two.

So, let's look at that question. How many JROTC cadets are actually recruited in San Francisco? As we shall see, JROTC supporters have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble trying to answer that question in their less-than-honest attempt to dismiss the fact that JROTC is a recruitment tool for the military.

At the beginning of December, just a few days before the renegade school board voted to extend JROTC's grip on our students for another year, the San Francisco Business Times ran a putrid editorial lambasting the opponents of JROTC. One of their claims is that "fewer than 5 percent of JROTC members enlist."

The editors didn't make it clear whether they were talking about JROTC cadets nationwide or just in San Francisco, but then who would expect such accuracy from this mouthpiece of the big business class?

Still, I contacted the Business Times, and asked where they got that 5% figure. The answer I got from Jim Gardner, their Managing Editor, is worth quoting at some length:

"The usual source cited for the 5% number you questioned is a report compiled by SFUSD a couple of years ago, though in response to a request, the SFUSD has been unable to turn up a copy that would allow me to verify that number."

Who looks dumber -- the Business Times or the school district?

But, wait, there is more from the Business Times:

"In any case, more recent numbers exist, though they did not when the editorial was written. A new SFUSD survey of 800+ JROTC students found that 15.7 percent have some interest in pursuing a military career..."

So, now we go from 5% to nearly 16%. Oops.

Tipped off by the selective leaking of this survey by the school district to the Business Times (and also to Jill Tucker at the Chronicle), your intrepid reporter requested a copy for Beyond Chron readers. More on the survey later. But let me tantalize you with the fact that, according to this survey, 15.6% of the students who responded claimed that they were "placed in the program without my consent." Oops again. Maybe this program isn't so voluntary after all.

The final bit, for now, from the Business Times:

"...we strive to be as factually accurate as possible, regardless of what opinion we take editorially. As I can't verify the 5% number for myself, and since a more up-to-date relevant figure exists, we will correct that fact in the online version of the editorial and publish a short correction in the print edition."

Well, it is now well over two weeks later, and I have seen no correction in the online article or in the print edition. Oops, oops, and more oops.

Probably the biggest proponent of JROTC on the school board is Jill Wynns, who has been on the board for ages, ever since my kids were in grammar school. As people were filing out of the last board meeting on December 11, I encountered Jill, whom I used to work with in a now-defunct school/community alliance called San Franciscans Unified.

In a somewhat heated way I complained to Jill about her pro-JROTC vote. She responded coolly, I must say, claiming among other things that very few JROTC students join the military. I asked her if she could supply documentation for that claim. She immediately promised that she would.

Well, to date, she hasn't.

A couple of days later she emailed me, claiming that "JROTC cadet enlistment from SFUSD is that 2% enlisted in 2005. As far as we know about 5-6% of all SFUSD students enlisted that year. I am having confirmed the data source."

A couple of days later, I contacted Jill again. She emailed back that "staff is getting the sources of the data. But, people are leaving for vacation, so, we'll see. I won't let it go."

Well, I'm still waiting. We'll see if the school district can come up with something for Jill, where they couldn't for the Business Times.

Jill adds: "The 2% is verifiable, except that what kids do after they tell us their plans is hard to track."

Maybe for the school district, Jill, but not for the military.

Interestingly, the numbers Jill cites are the same numbers on the Friends of JROTC website: "Less than 2% of JROTC graduates in 2005 went on to pursue a military career, compared with 6% citywide."

Did I mention that Daniel "Jane Kim needs to die" Chin is the webmaster of the Friends of JROTC website? This guy seems to pop up at every turn.

I doubt that Chin is very fond of me, but I figured no harm could come from emailing him and asking where he got his figures. He responded, and unlike the Business Times, Jill Wynns or the school district, he can actually cite his sources. After looking at what he sent me, however, I will venture to say that his numbers seem to be incomplete. But this article is already too long, so we'll get back to Mr. Chin soon.