05 January 2015

Arguments for abolishing military academies

An op-ed piece in Salon argues that West Point and other service academies "serve no one, [and] squander millions of tax dollars."
Training is something the military does—education, certainly, is not. Indeed, undergraduate education of officers has already largely been outsourced, since most new officers come from the much cheaper Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at civilian universities (at one-quarter the cost of the academies), or from the several months of Officer Training Corps (one-eighth the cost) that follows either an enlisted career, or college. By all standards, these officers are just as good as those who come from the service academies, which now produce under 20 percent of U.S. officers...

Having their children admitted is a government-sponsored guarantee of a golden ticket to life: college at taxpayer expense with no student debts, the highest salary of any set of graduates, and guaranteed employment and (no-Obamacare-necessary) health benefits for at least five years, frequently well beyond. And no, most people in the military aren’t remotely likely to be shot at...

So it’s not coincidence that service academy officers have a negative reputation in the military as smug ring-knockers. They didn’t have to work their way through college..  And they’re hardly, on average, the “best and the brightest.” In fact more than a quarter of the class has SAT scores below 600, and our average is lower than the nearby state school University of Maryland. Twenty percent of our class comes through a taxpayer-supported remedial 13th grade (another almost $50,000 per student for taxpayers). They fill our remedial courses (I am teaching some of these this semester, as a full professor)—a second try at getting them up to college level...  when I was on the admissions board for a year a decade ago we considered nothing close to the 20,000 applicants they claim. It was actually fewer than 5,000 candidates for 1,800 admits...

“Leaders to serve the Nation,” say the flags on posts at Annapolis. Nobody defines what a leader is, or asks whether somebody like a Silicon Valley innovator might not be serving her nation as much as, if not more than, a desk jockey officer in a fruitless military endeavor in Iraq. Or a first-grade teacher. Or a doctor, or a violinist, or a scientist: we graduate almost none of these. Leaders? Really? Officers, sure, because we have the congressional power to make our graduates officers. That’s a bit circular...

Still, it’s all paid for by somebody else and the head office assures your parents you’re doing fine. People fawn over you in your spiffy uniform in airports, and thank you “for your service.” Liberals are scared to object for fear of seeming anti-military. And you’re the Ken dolls of the conservatives.

Nice work if you, or your kids, can get it.
More at the link.  The author of the piece, Bruce Fleming, has been a professor in the English Department of the U.S. Naval Academy since 1987


  1. Bruce Fleming has a history of clashing with his employers... not saying he's right or wrong, but it's worth considering his POV as we read this.


  2. Well, a lot of our presidents came from the service academies. Jimmy Carter for example has a degree in nuclear engineering from the USNA. My uncle graduated from the USNA and went on to big things as an executive in the the 1950-1970's corporate America.


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