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DoD Starbase program

With Messmer Catholic High School reconsidering a contract with Department of Defense for a high school military program and with Marquette University showing signs of listening to our plea to Teach War No More there seemed to be hope that demilitarizing education in Milwaukee was gaining some attention. But on TV news tonight we heard the Department of Defense has signed a contract with the Milwaukee Public School system for it’s Starbase program. The vision of Starbase is: “To raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which will provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce that can meet the advanced technological requirements of the Department of Defense.” Starbase in Milwaukee will start as a program for 5th graders. The first year it will take about 1500 students out of the classroom and to the National Guard Military base once a week for five weeks.

The news talk about the Starbase military program in Milwaukee was about ‘at risk’ students working on rockets and all kinds of interesting stuff.
Struggling with the military for the hearts and minds of our youth is a difficult challenge. In Egypt and many countries the struggle between the military and the people is clear. In the USA many do not see any struggle and, in fact, take pride in the military being interwoven in our daily lives.

This morning Father Roy Bourgeois, leader of SOAWatch returned my call. The mission of SOAWatch is to close the US Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. This School of the Americas (SOA) is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Soldiers are trained in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at this School of Assassins.

I had called him last weekend when I was feeling discouraged about our efforts to stop “teaching war” in our education system in Milwaukee. By telling me his own stories of struggle to act on his own conscience and by his uplifting voice he encouraged me to be persistent in breaking the silence on the militarization of our society, particularly here in Milwaukee in our education system.

The Department of Defense, USA military, has, with Starbase, opened up another front in the struggle for the minds and hearts of youth in Milwaukee. Do we take the defensive or be silent? I think in conscience we have no choice but to Break the Silence and work to Stop Starbase.

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