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Community wants Navy out of high school

By Lou Paulsen - LINK
Published Nov 19, 2005 11:19 AM

In a closed ceremony accessible only to accredited media and invited guests, Pentagon brass and local Democratic politicians on Nov. 7 celebrated the military occupation of the south wing of Senn High School in this city’s diverse Edgewater neighborhood.

The “Rickover Naval Academy” has taken a third of the school’s space, now off-limits to regular students and teachers. Senn High School has lost classrooms, two labs, a gym and 20 teaching positions. Class sizes are the largest ever. But while Senn teachers struggle to provide textbooks and manage with a single computer for 1,500 students, money flows freely into the academy.

In December 2004, the Chicago School Board voted to create the academy despite massive public opposition and a protest walkout of 700 students.

Democratic politicians in Illinois—from war hawks like Mayor Richard Daley and Alderperson Mary Ann Smith to supposed “doves” like Sen. Dick Durbin and Congressperson Jan Schakowsky—have closed ranks behind the Naval Academy, declaring, “We need a strong military.”

Struggling to find enough soldiers for its wars, the military has massively targeted the multi-national Chicago public schools for indoctrination and recruitment. “I believe in military academies all over this city,” Mayor Daley has declared. Three other military academies have been created, and 10,000 public school students from the sixth grade up drill in uniform in “Junior ROTC” and “Cadet” programs. Some 18 percent of them later join the military.

Resistance continues

But teachers, students and community continue to resist. Organized as the Coalition to Save Senn (www.savesenn.org), they got media attention when they picketed the dedication ceremony.

On Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day, they held another rally where veterans and parents of war dead told the real story about military recruiting.

“They come in their fancy ‘Army of One’ suits and play basketball with the kids and tell them, ‘Nice shot, kid, you’ll be a great soldier one day,’” said Cody Camacho of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “They don’t tell you about the depleted uranium, how it’s in all the armor and shells and it gets in the air like a dust, and there are 11,000 vets of the first Gulf War who died of it, and we used more of it in the first month of 2003 than in the whole first Gulf War.

“They don’t tell you how you get faced with certain choices in combat and afterward you can’t give back the nightmares.”

Juan Torres, a hotel worker from Argen tina, remembered his son, Juan Manuel Torres, a reservist killed in Afghanistan under mysterious circumstances. (See www.uncoverthetruth.org for more.)

He recalled, “The recruiting guy told me, ‘Nothing happens to the reserves.’ The military, they are liars. If they had good intentions they would talk to the family, not go behind the back of the family.”

Students and organizers told about how they have struggled to distribute anti-military material at Senn, Sullivan High School and elsewhere. They also read the names of the Illinoisans who have died in the Iraq War and the names of some of the thousands of Iraqi civilians killed.

Representatives of the Gay Liberation Network, Vietnam Veterans against the War and other organizations also spoke.

The struggles at Senn and elsewhere have spurred the creation of the Chicagoland Coalition Opposed to the Milita rization of Youth. (www.ccomy.org)


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