"To balance the picture" peace activists and the struggle for equal access in Chicago schools, 1980-1985

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Author: Seth Kershner
Date: Annual 2014
From: American Educational History Journal(Vol. 41, Issue 1-2)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
Document Type: Essay
Length: 7,278 words
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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For more than forty years, parents, teachers, veterans, and community activists have engaged in grassroots resistance to the military's presence in schools. Currently consisting of around seventy-five local groups, the small but sophisticated counter-recruitment movement takes a variety of forms: activists (or counter-recruiters) visit schools to engage with students and share information on non-military career options; lobby for legislation that might regulate how the military operates in schools; and, encourage youth to become involved as activists. Counter-recruiters are motivated by a concern over the way military recruiters often fail to give students the full story about the enlistment contract or life in the military; they also object to how a military presence in schools endangers traditional educational values like critical thinking (1) (Harding and Kershner 2011). Since counter-recruiters depend on access to schools to do their work, it is significant that starting in 1982, a series of legal challenges established that activists had constitutional rights to the same level of school access given to military recruiters. One of the landmark cases in this fight over "equal access" was Clergy and Laity Concerned vs. Chicago Board of Education (1984). In this article, I recount the history of Clergy and Laity Concerned and demonstrate how it contributed to building a national movement to demilitarize schools.

The historical study of campaigns against militarism in schools remains underdeveloped. This is a glaring omission, given the breadth and history of this activism. Militarism has been defined as an "ideology that promotes a central role for the military and its personnel in state and society" (Eichler 2012, 4). Militarism in the educational sphere is what happens when the presence of military recruiters on school campuses becomes a matter of routine, or when "military science" is taught alongside the three R's. In the United States context, the militarization of education sparked widespread debate following World War I. Far from being a fringe topic, those who denounced militarism in education included some of the leading public figures of the day, such as John Dewey (1927) and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1926).

Most of the historical studies that do exist focus on World War I and the interwar years. Susan Zeiger (2003) shows how teachers responded to the spread of Junior ROTC (JROTC) during the Great War, and James Hawkes (1965) discusses campaigns against the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) on university campuses between 1920 and 1940. While a number of scholars have examined Vietnam-era campus activism in relation to the ROTC (e.g., Kennedy 1991), the historical literature on high school level anti-militarist campaigns gets significantly sparser for the years following World War II. While C. Kalani Beyer (2009) focuses on the growth of JROTC in Hawaii, he only briefly discusses the backlash against that form of militarization in the 1960s. James Dohle (2001), Rhonda Lee (2007), and Rick Jahnkow (2006) all address micro-histories of counter-recruitment campaigns in the post-Vietnam era, but their studies are as yet unpublished. Thus, this article will make a much-needed contribution to the literature...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A394347447