Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Developing Leaders through High School Junior ROTC: Integrating Theory with Practice. [Reserve Officer Training Corp.]

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Developing Leaders through High School Junior ROTC: Integrating Theory with Practice. [Reserve Officer Training Corp.]

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Many programs and opportunities exist in secondary education to develop leadership in high school students. From athletics to dubs to student government, students are given numerous venues to act as leaders to their peers. However, very few high school students are provided any type of formal leadership training through an educational process.

Approximately 3,000 high schools in the United States offer Junior ROTC (JROTC) as an elective in their curriculum. Although the four military services offer separate programs, as a whole, JROTC is a youth development program designed to educate students for citizenship and to provide leadership opportunities for personal growth. An academic curriculum of leadership instruction prepares students to assume greater responsibilities in leadership roles within the JROTC unit. This integration of academic instruction with applied leadership skills is a unique and effective method of teaching leadership in an academic environment.


Academic programs of leadership instruction are a growing phenomenon in educational institutions throughout the nation. Education for leadership is viewed as being of major importance to higher education; approximately six hundred universities and colleges address leadership studies through an academic curriculum of instruction or experiential campus organizations and programs (Shriberg, et. al., 2001 and Bass, 1990). Rogers (1991) argues that leadership development is a responsibility, not an alternative, for the nation's secondary educational system as well; one of its major goals should be to promote good citizenship and develop leadership skills in students by providing students an opportunity to work with their peers and adults in an environment that provides the support and experience necessary for leadership development. Rogers (1991) states:

   No other institution has a greater responsibility for the education of 
   leaders than the public schools. It is the only institution in our society 
   that all children attend. It is the primary institution responsible for the 
   preservation of values and fights basic to our democracy. 

Secondary education emphasizes leadership development through athletic teams, school clubs, student government, 4H, and other organizations that are interested in the development of young people (Bass, 1990). However, a review of the literature regarding academic leadership instruction at the secondary level reveals that very little classroom academic instruction is provided to develop an understanding of leadership theory. The state of Florida has recognized the need for formal leadership training by adding a course entitled "Leadership Skills Development" to the Florida Curriculum Frameworks that any school in Florida can offer as an elective credit (Rogers, 1991). However, throughout the rest of the nation, many students are expected to perform basic leadership functions in a number of roles, absent any academic instruction in leadership theory.

One program, however, does exist in secondary education that integrates a curriculum of academic instruction in leadership theory with opportunities for cadets to apply that theory to leadership roles. Junior ROTC (JROTC) is an academic course of instruction that combines the advantages of military leadership training with those of secondary education; the curriculum is designed to promote citizenship and develop leaders.

Leadership theories emanate from the definition of leadership. Barker (1997) argues that while virtually every definition of leadership encountered in both scholarly and practitioner oriented writings focuses on the knowledge, skills, abilities, and traits of the leader which are presumed to be the most successful in getting followers to do what the leader wants them to do, there is no reasonable agreement on what traits and behaviors are leadership traits or behaviors. …

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