STUDENTS OR SOLDIERS?: THE QUESTION OF SCHOOL CHOICE AND EDUCATIONAL EQUITY THROUGH THE LENS OF THE OAKLAND MILITARY INSTITUTE
Public military charter schools have introduced a military-model of structure and discipline within the American public school system. Starting in 1980 and fully taking off at the turn of the 21st century, this alternative style of education spread to cities all over the country, with the strongest presence in underserved urban areas. The school choice movement, the de-regulated economy of the Bush Administration, and 9/11 era civil-military relations provided the perfect storm for the U.S. military to permeate the public school system. Students or Soldiers?: The Question Of School Choice And Educational Equity Through The Lens Of The Oakland Military Institute investigates the Oakland Military Institute (OMI), established in the fall of 2001, as a case-study for how the military component of public military charter schools affects the education and identities of American youth. Based on multiple sources of data and methods including: the study of OMI's administrative documents, classroom observation, and formal interviews with faculty, staff, alumni, and families, this thesis examines the influence of the military model on educational choice and equity. This thesis argues that OMI, as a school that enrolls predominantly working class students of color, exposes underserved communities to a military culture and identity that their affluent counterparts can afford to avoid. Within the framework of the charter school debate, this socialization of Oakland youth through the military model complicates the nature of free choice in education and re-imagines the identities of working class students as "disciplined" cadets and soldiers.
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