Today, I participated in a focus group for the Rochester City School District. The topic was whether the District should open a Military School. Before I get to the focus group, let me put this a bluntly and simply as I can…
There should absolutely NOT be a public military school in Rochester (or anywhere else for that matter).
As for the focus group…working the sign in table was a member of the Rochester Police Department. Not a good sign. There were about 30 members of the community in the audience. A few of them, fellow officers. There were also people who I assumed are in ROTC, in full uniform. Of the uniformed people, it may have been 50% of them were people of color. Of the rest of us, I would say over 80% of us were white.
There were different categories you could could put yourself in: educator, parent, community member, etc. I could have gone with a number of them, but I chose educator. So I sat in a group of 5 people with a group leader and an “observer”. All of us were white. The “observer” is a teacher in the district who is also in the military.
In our group, the entire conversation was recorded and we were told that a report will go to specific committees of the School Board and they will be available to the public. I look forward to seeing just how our comments will be represented.
I’m not going to use this blog to describe each person in my group or what they said. But I will summarize the conversation. All 6 educators in that room agreed that the kids in RCSD are under insurmountable pressures, most are dealing with some kind(s) of trauma. We also agreed that there shouldn’t be as huge an emphasis on testing. We were all on the same page with the concept that we should be dealing with the Maslow stuff before we deal with the educational stuff.
[Side note: you may disagree that schools shouldn’t be handling emotional issues, homelessness, abuse, etc., but you literally can’t teach kids who have PTSD. So people in education can’t wait for the rest of you to stop dicking around and get to helping our children.]
In the group, I added my own stuff. What a military school would stress is not healthy for traumatized children. The School Board should be leading the fight against the state and federal governments to end high-stakes testing. The structure of a military school is not developmentally appropriate for our children. Having a school that teaches obedience and compliance instead of critical thinking and peace is not what our children need. We’re talking about a publicly funded military academy while the Regional Academy has been sitting on a shelf for almost 10 years; a school that was developed by over 150 members of the community including educators, parents and Nazareth College.
Except for me, everyone in the group was in the military or had family who is/was in. So I quickly decided not to say the following. It’s unconscionable that the idea would be floated to have the children who are abused, neglected and broken be led to become cannon fodder for our military, so that they can be abused there and spit back out to be neglected as veterans. And children of color, I may add.
I’m sorry, but I don’t thank veterans for their service, because our military does not defend our country, but protects the interests of the ruling, corporate class. I chose not to bring this to the focus group because it was not meant to be a debate, and I did not go there to directly insult life choices other people have made. We were giving our individual opinions and I did not intend for the time to become an argument on this. But when this gets pushed past the committees and comes to a vote in front of the full School Board, I will definitely be there saying these things. And I will also say the following…
Any member of the Rochester City School Board who votes for a public military school should immediately resign, because those who do have given up and have no positive, productive ideas on how to improve this school district.
Which side are you on?