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New military high school spurs ‘Peace Academy’

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

As the District continues to expand Junior ROTC high school military offerings by opening its new Philadelphia Military Academy this fall, some community groups are promoting non-military alternatives for students, including creating a high school focused on peace and conflict resolution.

The District’s first stand-alone military school, the academy, in Northwest Philadelphia, has enrolled 170 ninth graders this fall. The school day includes a daily JROTC class, physical training, drilling ceremonies, and a "college preparatory" curriculum, says Lt. Col. Russell Gallagher, the District’s JROTC head.

"Our goal is not to teach them to be soldiers, but to teach them to be leaders," said Gallagher.

Spurred by the creation of the military academy, a coalition led by Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth has proposed the creation of a new "Peace Academy" to nurture high school students as leaders through peace and conflict resolution. District officials have endorsed the idea, and the group plans to submit an official proposal this October to open the school in September 2005 for about 200 ninth graders.

Oskar Castro, with the Youth and Militarism Program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), said he is concerned the District’s new military academy will "make students more prepared to join the military than go to college or work a civilian job." Nationally, student enrollment in JROTC programs is linked to high military enlistment rates.

Castro’s organization is helping craft the Peace Academy proposal and is one of 20 member groups that recently launched the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, a campaign opposed to "the growing intrusion of the military in young people’s lives."

Gallagher says, except for military colleges and universities, "We won’t allow military recruiters into the school."

In addition to the military academy, JROTC programs are projected to serve almost 2,500 students at 11 District high schools this fall, including military schools-within-schools at Germantown, John Bartram, and Franklin High Schools.

To learn more about the Peace Academy, contact 215-563-5848 or dennisb@pccy.org. For more information on the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, call 215-241-7176 or email NNOMY@afsc.org.

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