New Jersey: “He’s His Mother’s Boy; Go and Get Him”

  • Gerald E. Shenk


In March 1916, about a year before the United States declared war on Germany, a commission created by the New Jersey State Legislature announced its opposition to military training for boys in New Jersey’s public high schools. It thus took a stand against the growing military “preparedness” movement sweeping the nation under the leadership of men such as former President Theodore Roosevelt and his friend, General Leonard Wood. Preparedness leaders advocated military training for high school boys as well as summer military camps for middle class and professional white men whose lack of physical fitness or experience of hardship Roosevelt and Wood thought undermined the virility of the nation.1 The commissioners directly engaged this debate over manhood, focusing on the relationship between age and military training. “Those who urge the military training of pupils of the high schools,” wrote the commissioners, “urge it mainly as a preparation for manhood service in time of war.” But military training of high school boys could have no beneficial effect at this stage of their lives, and furthermore, might hinder the boys’ natural development. Being yet boys, they could not use “manhood training.” “Juvenile training must, at some time, be followed by manhood training and service,” agreed the commissioners, but manhood and juvenile training could not be simultaneous nor could manhood profitably precede juvenile training.2


Juvenile Justice System Military Training Evening News White Middle Class Jersey City 
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  1. 5.
    Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (New York London: Routledge, 1989), 42.Google Scholar

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© Gerald E. Shenk 2005

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  • Gerald E. Shenk

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