Who needs service academies?

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Air Force Academy

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Naval Academy professor of English Bruce Fleming suggests we get rid of the service academies.

Fleming, author of 2010's Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide, presents a rational argument for why the academies are no longer needed and undermine the very values they're trying to instill. For example, he suggests that academics are paramount; yet, the academies admit a significant number of cadets who don't make the grade on college entrance exams and require a year of remedial work.

At the Air Force Academy and Naval Academy, these teens usually have athletic abilities — most notably in the game of football — and essentially bump other more academically qualified candidates for the precious few slots.

One of the things with which Fleming takes issue is the honor system and leadership, a topic we recently visited in "Cracks in the Code," April 11, 2012, about the Air Force Academy.

From Fleming's column:

We also claim that students are "held to a higher moral standard," which suggests zero or low tolerance of wrongdoing. But the current emphasis on reducing attrition means that, as many midshipmen have told me, students get one "freebie," such as a DUI. Held to a higher moral standard? The students know that's a joke.

What else justifies our existence? Our most consistent justification is that we teach "leadership." We even make students take classes in the subject. Midshipmen roll their eyes. Leadership can't be taught, it can only be modeled.

For those with an intense interest in the topic, there are dozens of comments on the Chronicle's story, some from academy grads.

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