Monday, June 30, 2008


Help save valuable youth program
by Paul Kozakiewicz
Editor of the Richmond Review and the Sunset Beacon
from the July Richmond Review

Some good, civic-minded citizens are working hard to send the SF School Board a pointed message: Don't use our kids for political purposes.

The School Board voted in 2006 to eliminate the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) from the city's high schools within two years. Because a suitable replacement for the program could not be found, the deadline was extended one year.

Volunteers have until July 7 to get 10,000 signatures from registered city voters to qualify a measure to save JROTC on the November ballot.

The popular JROTC program has up to 1,600 students participating during the school year. It helps them, the vast majority of whom are Chinese-Americans, gain self respect and the confidence to become leaders in our military and our society at large.

About 2 percent of them will go into the military, becoming the lieutenants, captains and other officers that will make life-and-death decisions for the bulk of the armed forces, enlisted men and women on the front lines defending our country at home and abroad. The other 98 percent learn life skills that will serve them well as they move forward with their careers.

The School Board in 2006, led by Green Party members Mark Sanchez and Sara Lipset, and joined by Dan Kelly and uber-lefty Eric Mar, voted to end the program to take a stand against the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. (The measure would have died in committee, as all bad rules and laws are supposed to, if School Board member Norman Yee didn't vote for it.)

Then, on June 17 of this year, less than a week after school ended for the summer break, the School Board tried to pass a measure that would have eliminated physical education credits for students in JROTC. The sneaky measure, which only had a 24-hour notice, failed on a 3-3 vote when the measure's co-sponsor, Jane Kim, missed the meeting. Mar, Sanchez and Norman Yee voted to eliminate the credit, while Jill Wynns, Hydra Mendoza and Kim-Shree Maufas had the common sense to reject their colleagues' sleazy maneuvering to gut the last year of the JROTC program.

But on June 26 the School Board called for another hearing of the same issue. This time the school board succeeded in eliminating the credit for JROTC classes in the upcoming school year.

With the passage of the School Board's cowardly vote, many students might not be able to afford the extra time required to take an elective course, and attendance in the program will suffer. These School Board members tried to eviscerate the program with as little notice as possible in the first available days of the summer break, when students are away from school enjoying their vacations. A fine democratic example these School Board members set for our youth.

Those in favor of eliminating the P.E. credit say the JROTC program isn't up to snuff because a certified instructor is not teaching and a lawsuit might possibly be filed sometime in the future by Public Advocates. I think JROTC physical education requirements can be modified a little if need be to bring the program up to statewide standards.

These School Board members are willing to sell out the Chinese community, the military community and all of the students in the SF Unified School District to make a little point for their perception of forwarding the gay rights movement. And one of them, Eric Mar, thinks he's going to be the next supervisor representing the Richmond District. Sanchez is also running for city supervisor. Give me a break!

Now the anti-military zealots on the School Board are getting heat from gay veterans. On June 19, at Alexander Post 448, a San Francisco lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) veterans' group comprised of honorably-discharged veterans, announced its full support for the San Francisco JROTC program.

"It has become necessary for our group to publicly support the JROTC program because we feel the information put out by the School Board regarding discrimination against the LGBT community is misleading and blatantly untrue," the group's press release said.

"The truth is the San Francisco JROTC program does not discriminate based on gender, race or sexual orientation. For the School Board to use our LGBT community and the challenges we have faced, in civilian life and in our country, to further their political agenda is unconscionable. The School Board's fight against the JROTC is one of politics from which the students and their families will be the ones paying the price," the veteran's group said.

In the Richmond District, we have a Veteran's Affairs Hospital and medical center at 42nd Avenue and Clement Street. Thousands of veterans who have honorably served our country are being treated there from numerous conflicts, including the current war in Iraq.

The vote to end the 90-year-old JROTC program does a disservice to all of those who have been injured or died serving in our nation's armed forces.

I hope the fine San Franciscans working with Friends of JROTC and Choice for Students succeed in putting this issue on the November ballot. Although the measure is only advisory, it is a message that needs to go our clear and loud:

* Don't discriminate against students, primarily Chinese students, by eliminating a program that has shown immense success helping them overcome shyness and the fear of social interaction, while gaining confidence and knowledge to develop into community leaders. The JROTC is not a replaceable program. Proposing ethnic studies as a replacement is a joke.

* Don't mock the men and women who serve, or have served, our country in the armed services. These warriors protect the freedoms we hold dear and have done so since the Revolutionary War.

* Don't use our children as leverage to make your narrow, small-minded points opposing US government military policy.

Please sign a petition to get the JROTC measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Then we can vote to send a clear message to the School Board---restore the JROTC program to our high schools.



At 10:18 AM, Blogger Belle said...

Kudos! Thank you for posting this.

If you have time to sign the petition today, please send me an email and I'll let you know where Lowell students are today.

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I'd like to sign the petition, but your email on this comment is not usable! Send me an email message at

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

June 29, 2008
The Richmond Review
Fax: 415-831-0465

Dear Editor,

Your editorial in favor of the JROTC program missed the mark on several points. First, the high school program does not lead directly to being an officer if a student joins the military upon graduation. Such a student simply gets a promotion from private E-1 to private E-2 upon completion of basic training. If a student wants to become an officer, they must either go on to the college ROTC program or be accepted to and graduate from Officers Candidate School (OCS) while in the military.

Second, JROTC is not simply a leadership program. In 2000, General Eric K. Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the United States Army, testified to Congress about JROTC students, saying, “30 percent of them end up joining the Army ( ).” JROTC is a military recruiting program. I graduated from Galileo High School in 1966 as a 1st Lieutenant in JROTC, and I recall that out of five of my friends in JROTC (four of whom were Chinese), four joined the military, and three went to Viet Nam. Why? Because JROTC taught us military beliefs and values - including absolute trust and obedience to authority rather than critical thinking - and filled us with heroic images of infantrymen in combat, helicopters flying overhead, etc., just like in the recruiting posters. Local advocates may claim that JROTC is “not a recruiting program,” but common sense tells us that the Army would not spend money and resources on a program unless it gets something back from it. What it gets is new recruits - our children.

Lastly, neither the peace movement nor JROTC opponents “mock the men and women who serve.” On March 1, 2006, the military newspaper, “Stars and Stripes,” reported that, “Seventy-two percent of troops on the ground in Iraq think U.S. military forces should get out of the country within a year, according to a Zogby poll released Tuesday (” If we truly support the troops, we should listen to what they have to say. As a member of Veterans for Peace, I work closely with Iraq Veterans Against the War and with active duty soldiers. Two weeks ago I was in Texas talking to soldiers from Fort Hood. They report that sentiment against the war continues to run high and many soldiers simply want out. We support the troops, which is exactly why we oppose using and abusing them in wars for oil.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Wong

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Is there something wrong with young people being interested in joining the military to defend their country? The reality is that opponents of JROTC oppose the US military in all its manifestations, as if, as per Supervisor Sandoval's famous remarks on Fox News, we don't really need a military and/or it's essentially a shameful activity we don't want to support. Obviously, if you think the US military is a shameful enterprise, the people engaged in that enterprise must also be tainted.

You cite a 2006 poll of those serving in Iraq, but since then the surge has helped radically reduce the level of violence in that country. Any bets on what a similar poll would show today? US forces in Iraq are now engaged in a successful enterprise and I bet any poll taken today would reflect that.

At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support the concept of young people learning to make choices. This is an important component of maturation. I would add that such decision should be based on a comprehensive understanding of any question. On the question of joining the U.S. military, I believe that such a comprehensive understanding should include a multi-faceted education pertaining to the question. For this question, I would support ROTC if there were also a program that taught what the military has done in its professional capacity as the military (and violent) representative of the United States and U.S. interests abroad. As a Japanese American, I am very familiar with how the military was instrumental in the incarceration of Japanese Americans in WW II and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Please don't try to sell me the line about the nuclear bombings ending the war or that there was a "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor that justified the illegal arrest and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The internment of Japanese Americans in World War II was ordered by civilian authorities---including President Roosevelt--- not the military, as were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (President Truman). These were both bad decisions, but you can't pin them on the military.

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like we both agree that JROTC is a recruiting program. That's good, because that's the truth, and the JROTC proponents should be upfront about that fact.

As for the military, I for one believe that we do need a military. But I do not believe in abusing the military by using it in wars for oil or other wars not legal or moral in nature and not in our national interest. While our national leaders may have chosen to taint the military with illegal and immoral wars, I believe it is really the corrupt leaders who are tainted, and that the military itself is not "essentially a shameful activity" if used correctly. As I said clearly in my letter, I support the troops. I do not support the Bush administration. There is a huge difference. Just as I support the military when used correctly, I also support GI resistance to being used illegally and immorally, and being abused.

As for bets on what a poll taken now would show, I would bet that what the soldiers themselves told me last month is the truth; that sentiment against the war continues to run high in our Army. The surge has not changed one basic underlying reality; most Iraqis want us out. Even al-Maliki has asked for a timeline. They don't want to be our enemy, they simply want their country back. Either we can return it to them in an orderly fashion, or it will be just a matter of time before they return to fighting us for it. While the surge is on, both the Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias are laying low, resting, rearming, and regrouping. Many of the Sunni insurgents are now working for us, but can turn against us again if we indicate that we will never leave. Our soldiers know this, and they want out before this happens.

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

But JROTC is only partly a recruiting program, since most participants don't end up in the military. I don't have any problem with teaching/learning respect for the US military, along with the other benefits.

Yes, Iraqis want us out but not out too quickly. The surge has been so successful that Obama may actually be able to start withdrawing US troops when he takes office---and send them to Afghanistan, where another successful surge is needed.

There's never much of a consenus about which US wars are immoral. I think the US effort in Kosovo under Clinton was justifiable morally, and it was done with no American casualties. I think the war in Afghanistan is justifiable, since that's where Osama Bin Laden was based and where the 9/11 terrorists were trained.

And I think the war in Iraq can be defended on moral grounds. If the US can leave behind a more or less functional Iraqi society that can handle its own security, that will be a Good Thing and good for that part of the world, which has a dearth of democracies. The US is going to get out of Iraq; everyone involved is only quibbling over the timetable now.


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