This piece is written by my father, Arnold Stieber who is the Chicago coordinator for Veterans for Peace. He was infantry in the Army stationed in Vietnam from 1970-1971.
Serious stuff - dressing youth in military garb, training them to follow orders, having them do calisthenics and march in formation, exposing them to weapons, and telling them they are defending their freedom. It certainly looks like "terror training" when it's done by "others". But when this form of training is done in Chicago Public Schools it's called "leadership".
In 2013 several members of the Chicago Chapter of Veterans For Peace attended the annual Memorial Day parade along State Street. It is billed as the largest Memorial Day parade in the nation. Expecting to see a somber parade commemorating all those killed in wars, the veterans were appalled to see thousands of Latino and black children in military uniforms marching in precision.
Upon investigation and a Freedom of Information request, the members of Chicago Veterans for Peace found that Chicago Public Schools is the most militarized school system in the world with over 10,000 children receiving some form of military training, at a cost of over $17 million/year.
$17 million funded by Chicago Public Schools, while CPS claims that is "broke".
Many myths have been offered for having the military in the lives of youth. "Children do better academically in military academies". Children thrive when they are given opportunities, resources and recognition in any environment. Give them opportunities, resources and recognition in a music academy, a science academy, a poetry academy, or a traditional classroom, and they will thrive. "Military training is good for children" and for some "it's a way out". These myths and others have been built up over many years. More than $600 million of our tax dollars are spent each year selling us the military. Repetitively we are told that the military is about "freedom", "honor" and "service" and that we should feel proud when our children join the military. We are not told that the military model is conflict resolution by violence. We are not told that the military model is humanly, environmentally and financially expensive. We are not told that the military model is the antithesis of democracy. We are not told that war is a business and that many corporations are committed to expanding their business.
The military taught me how to dehumanize and kill. That is what the military teaches.
Despite the common claims of recruiters, generals, corporate media and politicians, as veterans we can tell you that when the military is sent in, they are there to dominate any person or group that is rightly, wrongly or unnecessarily identified as an enemy, and that the military's core method is violence. Domination and violence, and consequently the military, have no place in the lives of youth or our schools.
Thus we, the Chicago Chapter of Veterans for Peace, are pursuing a many-pronged campaign to raise awareness of the epidemic of militarization in public education. Our initiative is called "Education Not Militarization". Most visibly we will soon roll out a billboard campaign whose goals are to generate dialogue and action and remove the military from the lives of Chicago youth. See NoMilitary.org. Our Speakers Bureau consisting of veterans of various conflicts, with a focus on youth and classrooms, is also available.
We seek to build a movement to remove the military model of domination and conflict resolution by violence from the lives of youth, and to turn Chicago Public Schools into a national model for teaching cooperation, nonviolent conflict resolution skills, and restorative justice. Join us.
17 million a year could do a lot to help educate CPS students instead of indoctrinating them with the lies of the military. Remember Education Not Militarization.
If you are interested in finding out about the campaign to get the military out of Chicago Public Schools please click here. Please click here to find out about the Chicago chapter of Veterans for Peace. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Veterans For Peace is an international 501(c)3 organization of military veterans and allies whose main focus is to abolish war. Our motto is Peace at Home, Peace Abroad. We are the only veterans organization in the world that is recognized by the United Nations.