December 7, 1915: School superintendent Denfeld suggests military training in schools 

On this day in Duluth in 1915, the Duluth News Tribune reported that Duluth school superintendent Robert Denfeld said he supported the idea of high school pupils training for the military. At the time, America was debating whether to join the allied war effort in Europe during what would later be called World War I, and several communities across the U.S. had already either accepted or rejected the idea preparing its young men for war. In fact, Denfeld felt that one hour of military training per week could be used to satisfy mandated “gymnasium work.” He told the newspaper, “The weak-kneed pacifists who are opposing military training in the schools forget that a man can have fighting blood in his veins and yet not be hungry for conquest. Military training of school children would instill a discipline which is necessary in business if not in war and develop strength of body and mind with patriotism at heart.” Denfeld inferred that students were otherwise wasting their time anyway: “Students easily could spend an hour each week at the new armory and execute military drills,” he said. “Most pupils have more time than they can spend to the best advantage.” He also felt that military training would elevate the students in the eyes of their teachers, as “Military training in the Duluth schools would likewise command for the teachers’ respect of the pupils. Duluth school officials are confronted with the problem of handling pupils either democratically or autocratically. The pupils must be handled all one of these two ways or not at all. There is no middle ground.” We could not locate any follow-up stories about whether the program was instated.

Robert Denfeld. (Image: Duluth Public Library)