A first of its kind, "Breaking the War Habit" — focuses on the historical and contemporary role of the military’s involvement in American education.
October 3, 2022 / Maynard Seider / The Berkshire Edge - At a time when bipartisan support for war and its funding has not been higher, and when any opposing sentiment earns one the label of “Putin apologist,” if not censored, a new book entitled “Breaking the War Habit” and co-authored by a Berkshire County writer, is welcome news.
A first of its kind, the book focuses on the historical and contemporary role of the military’s involvement in American education. Currently, recruiters visit some high schools as much as 100 times a school year, and military officials teach a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp (JROTC) curriculum in more than 3,200 high schools that enroll more than 550,000 student “cadets.” Not so long ago, mandatory enrollment in ROTC at the college level was commonplace. Now, it still exists in some form in over 1,700 colleges and universities. At the same time, resistance to military programs in America’s high schools and colleges has a rich history. This history is well told by the authors.
Subtitled “The Debate Over Militarism in American Education,” the book’s lead author is Seth Kershner, a University of Massachusetts Ph.D. candidate in history from Sandisfield, and his collaborators are Scott Harding and Charles Howlett. They trace the first opposition to militarism in the country’s schools to the preeminent educational reformer, Horace Mann, who in the 1830s “insisted that schoolchildren learn that war is not heroic and demanded that history textbooks devote less attention to the subject.” In a pattern that will repeat itself well into the 20th and 21st centuries, however, the coming of war and war itself valorized military values and demanded loyalty to that end.
In fact, during the Civil War, in 1862, the government passed the Land-Grant College Act (the Morrill Act) which gave subsidies and land to state colleges with the proviso that their male students be enrolled in military training programs, the precursor of ROTC. At the same time, some high schools introduced military training programs, though federal funding for secondary level training wouldn’t become a reality until World War I.
"Student loan forgiveness undermines one of our military's greatest recruitment tools at a time of dangerously low enlistments," Banks wrote in a tweet as Republicans continue to attack the White House for the announcement that it would be canceling $10,000 in student loan debt for millions of Americans.
Though the White House is limiting forgiveness to those making under $125,000 per year, conservatives have attempted to paint the plan as a handout to the rich. Banks's comment appears to undercut that message, implying that lower-income Americans might no longer see joining the military as a path to a college education that wealthier families can typically afford without volunteering for service.