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Battle Lines Drawn On Military School-Magnet Plan Has Opponents Arguing Whether Program Would Build Character Or Exploit Lower-Income Students

Picture this: Hartford middle and high school students standing at attention in formation for morning roll call, walking quietly in single file through school hallways, addressing their teachers as `Sir' and `Ma'am' and sporting neatly pressed military uniforms.  Are we talking about child soldiers?  Not exactly, but close, a public military magnet school.  It's a school that the new superintendent of schools, Steven J. Adamowski, says the district should consider. Ditto for Mayor Eddie A. Perez, chairman of the school board, who also suggests a role for boot camp, a residential reform school and perhaps some other residential magnet school if funding can be identified.

Beyond Hartford, the idea has caught the attention of educators in some urban districts seeking to find a way to impose a sense of order and discipline among children who often lead chaotic lives at home.  "The idea is to put them into schools with high expectations and standards of behavioral norms that spill into other areas of their lives," said Henry Levin, professor of economics and education at Teachers College at Columbia University and director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education based at Columbia

But what some see as a path to order, others see as exploitation.  Dave Ionno, a Vietnam veteran who lectures students in Hartford about the realities of war, says it's immoral to place military schools in poor cities where children are desperate for resources to pay for college.  The debate comes at a unique moment in American history. The post-Sept. 11 mood, combined with a spotlight on troubled urban youths and the challenges in improving their academic achievement, creates fertile terrain for the structure offered by military academies, experts say.

This article appeared in the December 4, 2006 edition of the Hartford Courant.,0,4893652.story?page=1&coll=hc-headlines-education


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