“JROTC, Realtors, Elections…”

by on October 30, 2006

Dear Editor,

I was deeply disappointed by the October 25th article about the proposal to eliminate Junior ROTC from our schools. I have to say that I expected much more from a news source that tries to balance the Chronicle in San Francisco.

The article was part of a long and continuing misunderstanding about the role of the JROTC program in San Francisco high schools. As a high school newspaper editor, and as a progressive liberal, and as an active member of JROTC for three and a half years, I can say with certainty that your article failed to inform the public about the issues that are at the heart of this controversy, favoring instead to incite prejudice through stereotypes and lies.

Firstly, the article failed to explore the reasons for which students, parents and administrators are all unanimously in support of the program. The fact is JROTC is the one program in the district that consistently produces positive results. Within its curriculum, which is accredited by the CITA and the SACS (civilian accreditation organizations), are courses on conflict resolution, diversity appreciation and analyzing differing viewpoints. In addition, students are required to participate in classroom debates, for which they must research and report on many different perspectives and viewpoints on any controversial issue. JROTC also provides a place for which many at-risk youth can stay off the streets for long hours after school and get help from other students with their academic or personal problems.

How does a balanced, progressive news agency warp these qualities into “the most institutionalized sources of militarization?”

One reason is the deep misperception that JROTC is a recruitment program. While that may have been true when the program was founded in 1916, the JROTC program in San Francisco today has the exact opposite effect. JROTC itself is not required to fulfill a recruitment quota, nor do instructors get any reward or compensation if their students choose to enlist. In addition, recruitment statistics district-wide over the past decade show that JROTC students are less likely to join the military than non-JROTC students. This is because JROTC students are better informed about the military and more aware of the underhand tactics used by recruiters to trick people into joining the military. Indeed, in my junior year, two U.S. Marine recruiters came to our school to sponsor a pull-up competition and hand out recruitment flyers and interest forms. It was my JROTC instructor who went down, told them that they were violating the district’s non-recruitment policy, and insisted that they leave. Since then, recruiters have been very careful to avoid trying to talk to JROTC cadets.

If BeyondChron had made any effort to understand the other side of this controversy, they would have realized that the crux of this issue is not that “that the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) does not offer enough leadership programs of its own,” but that students, parents and educators, people who work in our schools and with our youth on a daily basis, understand the value of the JROTC program. The SFUSD does offer leadership programs such as Peer Resource and Student Government, and many students choose to participate in those programs. But for students who have chosen to take JROTC over these other leadership programs, it is because the atmosphere in JROTC, as it is run in San Francisco, suits their personality better than any other program. The vast majority of these students will never enter the military, but they can still benefit from this program, as it stands today.

Articles such as these only increase the widespread misconception about the JROTC program in San Francisco. Contrary to the rhetoric by the Board of Education, JROTC regulations specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, sexual orientation, national origin or disability. (In other words, even if we wanted to discriminate the Army wouldn’t let us.) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) does not apply to instructors because JROTC instructors, as retired military officers, are not required to adhere to DADT, and may claim whichever sexual orientation they wish and still teach JROTC classes. Nor does DADT affect students within JROTC. Several years ago, the top cadet in San Francisco, responsible for organizing and coordinating JROTC events in all the schools, came out about her homosexuality in part because she felt that the JROTC atmosphere was the one place where she felt accepted. She then graduated and he went on to win the Mr. Transgender beauty pageant.

And yet, the authors of the Board resolution still claim that the program discriminates. But they have never actually gone to a school and seen a JROTC program themselves. (Jill Wynns is the only Board member to date who has, and she supports JROTC.) Like BeyondChron, they prefer to listen only to the stereotypes and misconceptions that support their own personal ideology. This is not the way public officials in a democratic society should make decisions that affect the public, and it is certainly not the way independent, responsible journalism should be reported to the public.

No program designed by the district will have the 90 years of refinement and evolution that has created the JROTC program of today. And even if it could, the district has proven historically that extra-curricular programs like these are the first budget fodder when the next round of budget cuts hits the schools. Remember GATE? Remember middle school creative arts electives? Remember Dream Schools? If the Board of Education wants to prove that their replacement program has value, and that it won’t be dissolved in the next budget crisis, they should find a program, implement it in the schools, and then compare it with JROTC to see if one can replace the other. But the Board of Education has no replacement program, and the resolution upon which they will be voting on Nov. 14th, doesn’t call for one. It only calls for the elimination of a program that has been proven to provide students with opportunities not found anywhere else in the district, on the promise that a suitable replacement program can be found sometime in the future, only deprives students of the chance to learn conflict resolution, diversity appreciation and analysis of different viewpoints, all opportunities that are currently offered only by JROTC.

This is not a recruitment program, this program does not discriminate, and only students and parents who have seen the program first-hand are willing to see past that stereotype. If BeyondChron were genuinely interested in providing a voice in the community for progressive ideals, they would never have published such an ill-researched and one-sided article.

Daniel Chin Freshman, UC Berkeley Lowell High School, ’05/’06


Editor,

On Wednesday, the same day I received the No on H mailer, there was a D6 candidate forum at the building I live in.

Because both the No on H and Rob Black campaigns are funded (in an “ethical” manner) by the same Board of Realtors, I brought my mailer with me in visual support of a question I wanted to ask him.

Obviously, the building pictured on the mailer violates a number of building and health and safety codes. If that building is currently occupied by tenants, the landlord should be in prison * or forced to live there. If it is not currently occupied by tenants, then Prop H would have no bearing on repairs made to it.

My question to him was that he speak truth to power: State publicly (on his website, in printed materials his campaign distributes, and at other speaking engagements) that the Board of Realtors’ Prop H mailer deliberately misstated the scope and effect of the proposition in order to scare voters. As a measure of his sincerity and integrity on the matter, I asked him to make a very clear refusal to accept any direct or indirect support from the Board of Realtors. That seems a pretty easy thing to do. After all, because the Board of Realtors is so deliberately engaged in a disinformation campaign on Prop H, an honest, ethical and independent candidate for public office must surely want to distance his campaign and himself from them.

Black claimed to be unfamiliar with the mailer so I gave him mine. He promised to review it, but returned it to me when he left.

I also asked him if he’d sought an injunction against the Board of Realtors and Golden Gate Restaurant Association for unauthorized use of his likeness. He replied that as a candidate for public office, he obviously wants his picture and bio to be widely distributed. Apparently, he forgot that he told the Bay Guardian:

“I don’t support the anonymous pieces. If people are doing it on my behalf, I don’t want it.”

The Board of Realtors is lying about Proposition H. A reasonable voter should worry about their other statements during this election * and the next.

Scott Bravmann, San Francisco


To The Editor:

Paul Hogarth is correct that progressives need to field candidates for each and every supervisorial seat. That would challenge corporate candidates as well as give lift to progressive ballot measures in a district that would otherwise be out of play. But given the way that the combination of IRV and Public Financing interact in contested elections with well funded corporate candidates, we would do well to run many candidates for each seat, each candidate running under public financing. That would take care of the “supply side.”

In District Six, a corporate lawyer, former employee of Republican political lawyer Jim Sutton, used public financing and the spending cap as a fig leaf to allow his wealthy corporate backers to illegally pummel D6 voters with hit pieces against Daly. Since both candidates had signed the spending cap, required as a condition of accepting public financing, this offered Daly a Hobson’s (not Fredrick) choice of being unable to respond to the attacks or breaking the law by breaking the spending cap he’d signed. Had there been two or three other progressive candidates in the race who had taken public financing, the playing field would be more even and D6 voters would be informed that Rob Black is hardly an urban hipster, rather a cog in downtown’s machine. I have yet to receive any literature exposing Black’s representational frauds.

But the “demand side” must be a paramount factor in the political calculations of progressives. There are many land use plans that are ripening on the progressive east side. There is currently a battle brewing over housing affordability requirements for these plans. It is a matter of progressive political survival in San Francisco that we fight the construction of almost exclusively luxury housing for people who don’t live here, people who hate what makes San Francisco unique, and for people who will vote against us.

Supervisor Maxwell’s legislation requiring new plans in the east side to adhere to the law as specified by affordability targets in the Housing Element of the General Plan is a good first step, but for some reason they exclude the Octavia/Market plan which only calls for 15% of units to be below market.

If we want to see District Six swing from progressive to conservative in 2010, then let’s pile on the new luxury housing without 1:1 inclusionary affordable. If developers cannot build under such constraints, then they can take their capital elsewhere.

If progressives entitle more luxury housing in the east side at a ratio less than 1:1 of inclusionary, then we are committing citywide political suicide.

Marc Salomon

You can submit letters to the editor by clicking on this link: rshaw@beyondchron.org
or by writing to:
Beyond Chron
126 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-771-9850 (phone)
415-771-1287 (fax)

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