June 27, 2008

"I'm Not Sure, But I Can Guess..."

"...San Francisco's extremely Left."

I'm sure it's not much of a surprise to anyone, but this is a little too much, though. It seems that the San Francisco school board voted 4-2 to phase out the Junior ROTC program over the next two years. I'd like to be funny about this, but frankly, it's just reprehensible. How can four individuals decide to eliminate a program that has been a part of the SF school system for the last 90 years?

A former teacher, Nancy Maniacs...oh, I'm sorry. That's Nancy Mancias. Nancy said "We need to teach a curriculum of peace." That's going to make that "History of World War II" chapter very difficult, I'm guessing. Or maybe not...

Chapter Ten: The Fireside Chats
And then Franklin Delano Roosevelt began what were known as "Fireside Chats." These were chats where FDR and Hitler got together in front of a warm fire to drink tea, braid each other's hair, and talk over their differences. Hitler apologized for trying to kill all the Jews and take over the world, and FDR forgave him and gave him a big hug. The next morning, all the guns had turned into chocolate. The end.

Let's call the cancellation of this program what it is: pushing a political ideology upon students. Full stop.

Mark Sanchez, one of the board members who voted to end the program:
"I think people should not despair too much," Sanchez said. "I think now the work begins -- to work within the community to develop new programs that will fulfill the needs of our students."
As opposed to what? The extra work that isn't required to continue the program already in place that was already fulfilling the needs of 1,600 of your students? I'm anxious to see just what these new programs will be, and just what "needs" those programs will fill. I've watched while higher education has become increasingly compartmentalized and esoteric in term of its programs, resulting in graduates often unprepared for life outside academia. Add to that increased college costs and you end up with a significant number of graduates with a tremendous amount of debt, and a degree that qualifies them to...well...teach in academia, I guess. That, in an already saturated market, no less.

Are they worried about the safety of the JROTC students? Then perhaps we should get rid of sports programs as well, especially full-contact sports, like football. Certainly JROTC stands a better chance than sports of fulfilling at least one student need: that of making a living. Only 252 players were selected for this year's NFL draft, for example.

But why stop there? Let's get rid of some of the other aspects of the curriculum that might prove dangerous to the students. First thing to go? Driver's Ed. Over 42,000 people were killed in auto accidents in the U.S. in 2001 alone. And as of 2008, it's the number one killer worldwide of persons aged 10-24. Based on the 2006 casualty rate, the U.S. would have to be in Iraq for over 50 years to equal one year of domestic auto deaths. One last, sobering (but appropriate) comparison:
If you made a yearbook containing the photos of those killed this year, putting 12 photos on each page, it would have 3,500 pages.
How many pages in a San Francisco yearbook, I wonder?

Encouraging the little moppets to stay out of a car is good for them. It's good for all of us.

Maybe we should eliminate schools all together. After all, the CDC estimates about 20,000 people die every year from the flu. Home schooling might cut that number down significantly, no? (BTW, both numbers are higher than the number of homicides for the same year.)

Oh, and you can forget physics and biology, too. At least for those who want to become astronauts, anyway. Percentage-wise, that could be one of the most dangerous professions of all. They have to face radiation (possible cancer/sterility), mechanical failures, effects of zero gravity, fires and explosions, and any other risks of being shot into space. Whew. Spirit of exploration, my eye. Lets not encourage that.

Sandra Schwartz, member of the American Friends Service Committee:
"We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions. In a healthy democracy... you contain the military. You must contain the military."
That's right. The military does nothing. Well, except secure our liberty. Oh, and safeguard those civilian institutions Sandra was talking about. But that's it. Secure liberties and safeguard institutions. And provide discipline and direction. Secure liberties, safeguard institutions, provide discipline, and that's all. Oh, crap...providing money for college. Secure, safeguard, discipline and money. And nothing else. (Kudos to anyone who recognizes the film reference!)

Maybe they aren't worried about the safety of the JROTC students, but if that's the case, then someone has some 'splaining to do because I just can't see another reason that justifies this policy. I can understand wanting to place restrictions on recruiters; depending on the conditions, I might even agree with them on that one. After all, the military does have a bit of a reputation for "questionable" recruitment tactics. But that's not what's been done here. Besides, when it comes right down to it, I'm not sure that the promises made by a military recruiter are any more exaggerated than, say, the promises made by a college recruiter to a student interested in Medieval literature. "It's a fast growing, wide-open field." "Don't worry, I'm sure you can get student loans." "It's a very flexible degree." Uh-huh. And the financial aid check is in the mail. (My apologies to you ML majors out there, but I call 'em like I see 'em.)

I suppose the board members might think that the JROTC program encourages students to enter the military. (See Nancy's quote) In that case, I'd be curious to know what their thoughts are on an abstinence-only sex-ed program. I only ask because it would seem a little odd to me to argue one the one hand that telling students to stay away from sex is an ineffective deterrent, while at the same time arguing that keeping students away from a program like the JROTC is going to prevent them from joining the military, if that's what they're really interested in.

I found a nice quote by Claire Bindis, a health policy professor at University of California at San Francisco. She's talking about sex-ed, but I think the main idea is valid in this case as well:

There's a lot of people who believe knowledge is dangerous, that if you give kids more information about condoms they'll go out and have sex.

"But isn't it better," Brindis asked, "to give young people and our large immigrant population the tools to plan? I can't think of anything more moral."

Me either. Ultimately, I find it distressing that four individuals can make such a politically-charged decision that will affect 1,600 or so students. I don't know what's worse--the fact that they actually voted to end the program or their astounding arrogance in thinking that they were being anything but self-serving.


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