Lunch not guns: programs cut while low-enrolment military training continues

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January 19, 2016 by realrenewal

In the midst of cuts to school lunchrooms and academic programs, Regina’s school boards continue to subsidize a failed military training program promoted by the Brad Wall government.

As of late January, just 13 students had enrolled in the program for 2016, well below the target of 40 students. This marks the second year of low enrolment, despite intensified recruitment workshops across the system. Nine students completed the program in 2015.

“Why are our schools privileging the military training program over other programs and services?” asks Florence Stratton, a member of the Making Peace Vigil group and RealRenewal.

Stratton urges members of the public to come out to school board annual electors’ meetings to ask questions about program priorities. Regina Public’s meeting is Jan. 26 at Martin Collegiate, while Regina Catholic’s is Feb. 1.

The army provides the same training offered to summer reservists, but as part of the school day, while the school divisions are responsible for delivering related for-credit social studies education.

Regina Public allocates a social studies teacher to teach at the Armory, although just four of the 2016 enrollees are public school students, down from five in 2015.

Board officials have so far declined to provide a detailed breakdown of staffing costs, saying only that expenses are shared with the Catholic board based on enrolment.

Meanwhile, other specialized programs with higher enrolments have been cut. This includes the outdoor experiential learning program, Trek School, which dipped to 15 students after being cut to half-days, making the course’s signature field trips untenable.

As well, Regina Public has cut five English as an Additional Language teachers, cut a $6,000 annual grant to school community councils in low-income neighbourhoods, and announced plans to eliminate noon hour supervision.

Board officials have stated it will be army’s call whether or not to continue its school-subsidized military training and recruitment program.

When the program was announced in fall 2014, Col. Ross Ermal told the press he hoped the program with “revitalize the (military) reserves” in Regina, and that students would “vote with their feet.”

Yet despite being offered $2,000, few students were eager to join a social studies course that required them to actually enlist in the reserves. Rather than taking lack of interest as a “vote” – as has been the case for other programs like Trek School and IB – both school boards doubled down on recruitment.

The theory was that students needed help filling out the army’s enlistment forms, however the extra time and effort invested by school staff, military personnel and students had less than spectacular results.

The Making Peace Vigil group gives credit to Regina’s youth for displaying a level of common sense that seems to have escaped government and school board decision-makers.

“Despite the $2,000 incentive, the vast majority of Regina Grade 11 and 12 students have voted with their feet against the military training program. They had said ‘no’ to being educated for war. They have shown themselves to have better values than all the government officials who have supported the program,” a PeaceQuest pamphlet states.

 


Statement from the American Public Health Association on school-based military recruitment:

Although adults in the active military service are reported to experience increased mental health risks, including stress, substance abuse, and suicide, there is evidence that military service for the youngest soldiers is consistently associated with health effects far worse than for those who are older. This suggests that military service is associated with disproportionately poor health for those in late adolescence. These negative outcomes for teen soldiers, coupled with significant evidence that the adolescent brain is not equipped to make accurate risk calculations, leads APHA to conclude entry into the military should be delayed until full adulthood. For these reasons, the American Public Health Association opposes military recruiting in public elementary and secondary schools.

 Full statement

Regina Making Peace Vigil Pamphlet

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