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Georgia Adds High School Coursework in Intelligence

The first-of-its-kind curriculum will present foundational knowledge of intelligence, setting the stage for possible careers in the field.
This fall, high school students in Georgia will have the opportunity to study the intelligence field, thanks to a course added by the state’s Department of Education. Reportedly the first-of-its-kind in the nation, the class will give students a leg up in pursuing careers in intel, officials say. Credit: Shutterstock/Rawpixel

This fall, high school students in Georgia will have the opportunity to study the intelligence field, thanks to a course added by the state’s Department of Education. Reportedly the first-of-its-kind in the nation, the class will give students a leg up in pursuing careers in intel, officials say. Credit: Shutterstock/Rawpixel

Starting this fall, high school students in the state of Georgia will have the unique opportunity to take an elective course in intelligence and national security studies. The class will introduce students to the field of intelligence, the associated activities to gather intelligence, the roles of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), national security, the limits and capabilities of intelligence, careers in the field, and how intelligence plays a role in decision-making.

Justin Hill, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Georgia Department of Education, who is responsible for the content fields and academic disciplines across grades K-12, was the brainchild who led the effort to add the coursework, seeing the great potential it offers for Georgia students.

With Georgia’s Board of Education approval of the course last December, the education department will offer the class in August, Hill reported. He will begin to track the number of students enrolled in the class across the state, beginning with some school districts in the metro Atlanta area—including Forsyth and Cobb Counties' school systems.

Intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), were already conducting recruitment and offering college scholarship opportunities to high school students in Georgia and across the United States, Hill said. And with some universities beginning to present intelligence-related coursework, majors and minors, he saw a gap to fill, not only to introduce high school students to the intelligence field but also to offer them foundational intelligence knowledge, should they elect to pursue such a career.

In addition to his civilian role as associate superintendent, Hill has 22 years of experience in naval intelligence and is currently a commanding officer for an information warfare unit in the Navy Reserve. “I'm kind of in a unique role,” Hill said. “There are probably not too many people who are curriculum directors in the other 49 states that also happen to have a side job in the field of intelligence. And I knew that, especially after 9/11, a lot of universities had started to add intelligence as a minor and major within their political science departments, and I started wondering if we could do this at the high school level.”

The unprecedented opportunity to be able to take Introduction to U.S. Intelligence and National Security Studies would provide a leg up for Georgia students, offering them a clearer path to a potentially rewarding career, he added. “In our case, where we're concerned about Georgia students, we are giving Georgia's kids a competitive advantage,” Hill emphasized. “We want our kids to have a shot in some of these areas and if they wanted to go further as an undergrad, we've exposed them early on to intelligence.”

Hill’s idea for a high school class emerged after he learned two universities had added intelligence and national security studies, including a major and minor program at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina—where Jon Smith is the director of Intelligence & National Security. Smith, who served 23 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer alongside Hill, advised him to contact Edward Mienie, executive director, Strategic Studies Program & Partnership at the University of North Georgia (UNG) in Dahlonega, Georgia, since they started their intelligence and national security coursework in my “backyard.”

The vision broadened after representatives from the CIA contacted the state education’s world languages coordinator Patrick Wallace about offering internships and scholarships for Georgia high school seniors. “I was at that meeting with Wallace trying to help them determine a location, and that's when I really started putting some more thought to that,” Hill explained. “If they are actually recruiting and setting up scholarships for students, could we possibly develop a course to introduce the field itself at a very fundamental level? Because there are a lot of kids that are high school seniors and juniors who love their social studies courses, economics, world history, and U.S. history. With intelligence being such a large field now especially post 9/11, I thought why are we waiting for kids to just accidentally discover this industry?”

Hill formed an exploratory committee with Mienie and Dan Bubacz, a retired Navy captain in intelligence. After that looked promising, Hill reached out to Richard Woods, the state’s superintendent of schools; ​Caitlin Dooley, the state’s deputy superintendent of teaching and learning; and Joy Hatcher, the state’s social studies program manager, to begin drafting a class.

“We realized that if we were to develop a course, we knew that most of the teachers likely weren’t in the intel industry,” he said. “We would have to take on training and supporting some of the teachers so that they would feel comfortable. But they probably don't realize how fundamental the field of intelligence is and how much they actually already know. So, we went about developing core standards, trying to decide what was too much. We wanted to keep it general but have enough depth so that students could really explore the critical thinking aspects of the field of intelligence. To study, ‘why is this happening’ and ‘where is this happening,’ and much more than just memorizing the 17 intel agencies.”

Smith, Bubacz, Mienie, Hill, and Hatcher all provided input, as did the National Intelligence University (NIU) in Bethesda, Maryland, and Brian Holmes, NIU’s dean of the School of Science and Technology Intelligence. Holmes also lent one of NIU’s contract faculty members, LaMesha Craft of the MASY Group, to further the effort. Craft, a retired chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army was an all-source intelligence technician and a master instructor. After twenty years of active duty, she retired in 2018 from the Army Cyber Command, with several years of experience teaching intelligence, beginning when she deployed to Iraq in 2010.

“The United States Forces Iraq had a program where we were teaching Iraqi soldiers about the basics of intelligence,” Craft explained. “That was my first-time teaching intelligence. It was a matter of taking the curriculum, modifying it, and then teaching Iraqi soldiers through an interpreter. I've also taught my fellow [U.S.] warrant officers, in training or certification programs through the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, at Ft. Huachuca. I taught undergraduate students at Coastal Carolina University, where they have an undergraduate intelligence and national security studies program. I also taught service members that attended cyber courses, specifically focused on how to conduct intelligence analysis in the cyberspace domain.”

Craft helped inform the Georgia state curriculum and created reference material for teachers. The 30 pages of Teacher Notes published on the Georgia Department of Education’s website will guide teachers through the basics of intelligence as well as provide many resources, identifying museums, documents, videos and websites, she said.

“It is imperative to debunk the common perception that the intelligence field is full of individuals like the fictional characters James Bond, Jason Bourne, Lorraine Broughton and Ethan Hunt,” Craft explained in the Teacher Notes. “Intelligence is a process—the intelligence cycle—and a product.”

Teachers will walk students through an overview of the intel career field, the authorized activities of an intelligence professional, the composition of the IC, the various functions of each of the agencies, the limits and capabilities of intelligence and how it plays a role in the government’s decision-making process, Craft noted. It is designed for students to apply analytical skills and critical thinking, as well as include elements of the history of intelligence, from the pre-Revolutionary War period to the Civil War, 9/11 and present day.

“I'm identifying other places throughout Georgia's standards where they can double back or highlight the topics discussed in the intelligence class that the students would have heard somewhere else in a history class or world history class, really demonstrating how the history of intelligence began with the history of the United States,” she said.

For interested students to start preparing for the intelligence field, the class guides students on how to potentially obtain a security clearance; reviews citizenship requirements; clarifies drug use limits; and reviews personal integrity and conduct, Craft said. Getting their financial health also is important, Hill emphasized.

In addition, Craft is the course's virtual specialist, and as such, prepares once-a-month lectures for teachers, breaking down the state’s standards. She has created videos of the lectures and, in August, when the class begins, also will be supporting a live chat for teacher assistance. 

“It's been a great process for me to bring both my knowledge of intelligence and my knowledge of how to construct material so that it is easily absorbed by a variety of populations, which in this case is high school teachers and students,” she said.

And while the class was designed for upperclassman in high school, freshmen or sophomore students would not necessarily be precluded from taking it. “But we do advise that if a kid wants to do well in the class, they need to have taken their main social studies classes already, such as geography, U.S. history, world history, to see how you can pull all that together,” Hill said. “Because you know as well as I do that for intelligence you really need to draw from all of those classes and then you put it all together.”

Once word got out about the developing high school course, additional suggestions came pouring in from the intelligence community, especially from the Washington, D.C., area. “And then we had a few people that were young analysts that said, ‘You know, when I retire, I would love to teach that,’” Hill offered. The class provides an outlet for those retired from the intelligence who still want to give back to their country.

“If we're really going to approach the era of great power competition, we are in this for the long haul,” Hill noted. “And if we're really going to be in this for the long haul, we are going to have to really expose more Americans to the possibility of this field, because we are going to need more of us, not less. And a good intelligence workforce that is diverse is a workforce that represents all of America.”

For more information on Georgia's course, visit: https://www.georgiastandards.org/Georgia-Standards/Pages/Social-Studies-Introduction-to-Intelligence-and-US-Security-Studies.aspx

Disclaimer: The views expressed do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Intelligence University, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Intelligence Community or the U.S. Government.