- Help them continue and expand the intensity of their bad behavior.
- Tell them that, "What you are doing is wonderful!", and then walk away while hoping that they will fix the problem themselves.
- Keep yourself busy, ignore all that is going on, and hope that everything works our best in the end.
- Speak up. Call them on it. Challenge them to do better. Offer suggestions to bring them back on the right track?
... the Naval Academy, where I have been a professor for 23 years, has lost its way. The same is true of the other service academies. They are a net loss to the taxpayers who finance them, as well as a huge disappointment to their students, who come expecting reality to match reputation. They need to be fixed or abolished.I would argue that we should keep NAPS for what it was designed for - to help prior-Enlisted personnel with a iffy academic background get up on step and not a place to put Redshirt Freshmen - but that is about my only quibble with part of the article. On balance though - hard to argue the other side of his points, isn't it? Give it a shot if you can.
Some in the administration have justified the admissions policies on the ground that it “takes all kinds” to be officers. But that’s not really what the academies recruit. They don’t give preference to accomplished cellists or people from religious minorities or cerebral Zen types.
We’ve even given less-qualified students a backdoor into Annapolis — the Naval Academy Preparatory School, our remedial institution in Newport, R.I., for admitted students who are not prepared to enter the academy itself. And if students struggle academically when they get to the academy, our goal is to get them to graduate at whatever cost. Thus we now offer plenty of low-track and remedial courses, and students who fail can often just retake classes until they pass: we have control over their summers and their schedules, and can simply drag them through with tutoring.
I’ve taught low-track English classes; the pace is slower and the papers shorter than in my usual seminars, but the students who complete them get the same credit. When I’ve complained about this, some administrators and midshipmen have argued that academics are irrelevant to being an officer, anyway. Really? Thinking and articulating are irrelevant to being an officer?
The picture I have drawn of the academy is not what most Americans imagine when they come to a parade and see all those clean-cut young men and women standing in nice rows with their chests out (as they will at next week’s graduation ceremony). Some may argue that our abandonment of merit as a criterion for officer status is simply the direction the military overall has taken — the stress of fighting two wars has lowered the bar for enlistment, and R.O.T.C. standards have also declined. But I’d like to think we could do better.
We have two choices. One is to shut down Annapolis, West Point and the other academies, and to rely on R.O.T.C. to provide officers. Or we can embrace the level of excellence we once had and have largely abandoned. This means a single set of high standards for all students in admissions, discipline and academics. If that means downgrading our football team to Division III, so be it.
We also need a renaissance in our culture. We need to get our students on board with the program by explaining our goals and asking for feedback from cadets, graduates and the armed forces at large. Now, we’re just frustrating the students and misleading taxpayers.
Change won’t happen from within. The short-term academy administrations want to keep the hype flowing, and tend to lack the big-picture thinking necessary to seeing the institution objectively. Rather, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other civilians need to mount a full re-conception of the academies: deciding what do we do that’s wrong, what’s irrelevant and what deserves to be saved. Otherwise, my most promising students will continue to tell me, “Sir, this place shows you what not to do.”
If you don't want - that is OK. Over the weekend, Rajiv Srinivasan - a West Point grad - gave it a shot. Head on over there and give it a read, you will also find Professor Fleming's response. The blogosphere at its best.
UPDATE: Ungh. All around, a bad day for the Navy-Marine Corps team, USNA, and football. From Thomas E. Ricks,
The Marine Corps Times reports that the Marine Corps is ousting 13 new officers who were caught cheating on a land navigation test. Two of them apparently were former Naval Academy football players who lost their moral compasses. I wonder if what they saw at the Academy made them think this is OK.This is a teachable moment if we want it to be. Navy Aviation has a great tradition of openly talking about and picking apart mishaps and the different factors that contributed to them. Might be a good place to use that template.