Warning Signs: Joppatowne “Spy High”

In August, Joppatowne High School in Joppa, MD, reportedly became the first public school in the US to offer students vocational training for a “homeland security career path”.

Officially called the “Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness core”, the classes are designed to meet the needs of the “emerging job market of the region”. Joppa is in a region neighboring Baltimore and Washington DC that is densely populated with defense contractors and security firms. The Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where new military equipment is tested, is Hartford County’s largest employer with more than 15,500 military and civilian.

“It is estimated that the Homeland Security industry is increasing from the 40 billion dollar business of 2004 to a 180 billion dollar industry by 2015. The program at Joppatowne High School will introduce students to careers and educational experiences available in this ever-growing industry.”

From Hartford County Public Schools website

Leah Beaulieu, HSEP program coordinator, told a gathering at Aberdeen that after an overview on national security and terrorism, students would “research and create their own emergency action plans”.

According to Beaulieu, the training program is a special project of Frank Mezzanotte, magnet programs coordinator for Harford County Public Schools. Messanotte, she added, was inspired by the programs Aberdeen and other area defense contractor have to offer high school graduates. It reportedly receives the support and funding from state and federal governments and unspecified defense contractors.

John Wallace, a science teacher at a different high school, played a key role in creating the program. Wallace, according to Beaulieu, is a former Navy commander who retired from Aberdeen’s Chemical Biological Defense Command (now the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center).

“This is an excellent program to provide real world experience and prepare high school students for graduation”

John Wallace, former Navy Commander and chemical-biological warfare specialist

An article about the meeting in Aberdeen’s newsletter says Beaulieu received an enthusiastic response and offers of help from Aberdeen’s staff.

“We have subject matter experts on Explosive Ordnance Disposal, security operations both physical and intelligence, and incident management and response,” said Col. Bobby Towery, commander of the 61st Ordnance Brigade and the U.S. Army Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School.

“We have the ability to coordinate training demonstrations or actual classes on EOD forensics and the process for obtaining security clearances,” Towery added. “We believe that we could help coordinate and facilitate just about anything that the program would need from the Department of Defense. We are committed to seeing this program excel.”

Speaking in “Black Ops Jungle: The Academy of Military-Industrial-Complex Studies” on Mother Jones, David Volrath, executive director of secondary education for Harford County Public Schools, said Joppatowne High School also hopes to offer “Arabic or some other nontraditional, Third World-type language.”

“We do want to encourage higher education,” Volrath says. “We also want to be realistic. Some of these defense contractors will have huge security needs, and the jobs won’t require four years of college.”

Mother Jones says the program is not without critics. The article quotes Jonathan Zimmerman, director of New York University’s History of Education Program, as saying that if it offered students an “intellectually curious curriculum, I’d send my daughter there. But my fear is that they will instead teach a series of predigested truths about keeping our country safe.”

Young Pioneers in 1983 Soviet Tajik

from Wikipedia

While the Joppatowne High School security program might be seen as a school district merely adapting its vocational education program to the “reality” of the local job market, I find highly disturbing a program that recruits public high school students into classes that teach personal “emergency action plans” and may require federal “security clearances”.

Historically, totalitarian regimes have supported “youth corps” designed to groom impressionable children for roles as committed adult spies, soldiers, or party bureaucrats. Lenin’s Young Pioneers placed children as young as ten into special classes and clubs.

Could it be that I’m just nostalgic for my high school days, when the only kids you didn’t want to meet alone in the boy’s restroom were the guys from the shop class, immoratlized in “Grease”. Somehow I don’t see future movies about the high school antics of the “Blackwater Boys“.

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