A U.S. Air Force Academy research analyst with history as a gay conversion therapist has integrated the child-discipline advice of Dr. James Dobson into a military training manual. And after about 20 years, that manual continues to be distributed as an official Air Force document.
"Applying the Academy Training Philosophy," by Mike Rosebush, has been available for use in various iterations across the Air Force since at least 1994. Today, it's been turned into the Holm Center Training Manual, a working document of the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development. The Holm Center, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, trains about 80 percent of all new Air Force officers and Phil Berube, deputy director of public affairs for the 42nd Air Base Wing, says the manual goes to all Air Force ROTC cadets and Air Force Officer Training School trainees.
Which means that in Chapter 1, those men and women get to read about "CTO Peach," "CTO Justice" and "Cadet Daring," military characters inserted into a scenario taken directly from Dobson's 1970 book, Dare to Discipline. Dobson himself is identified as an "internationally known psychologist," but not as a Christian leader. And the book is identified as an "international best-seller," but not as a child-rearing book advocating corporal punishment — or, as writer Thomas de Zengotita has called it, "an ur-document" of American fundamentalism.
In late November, it emerged that Rosebush, who as recently as 2009 was self-publishing books on gay conversion therapy, has been working at the Air Force Academy since that same year — first in its "plans and programs directorate," and since 2011 in its Center for Character and Leadership Development ("Strange bedfellows," News, Nov. 20).
Superintendent Michelle Johnson promised to investigate the hiring process that brought Rosebush on. She also defended what she knew of his employment, explaining that he evaluates an academy course but "does not personally coach cadets."
Before Rosebush started this analytical work, though — and even before his 10 years working at Focus on the Family — he worked as an academy psychology professor in the 1980s. That's when he produced "Applying the Academy Training Philosophy."
By then, Dobson had already founded Focus on the Family, his rise fueled by the success of Dare to Discipline, which was released in 1970 and would go on to sell 2 million copies. Dare argued that bad parenting caused a moral collapse in the '50s and '60s, and that corporal punishment would make children good citizens and good Christians.
"It is not necessary to beat the child into submission," Dobson wrote. "A little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely."
Dare was also a deeply political work that praised J. Edgar Hoover's grim assessment of America's left, argued for banning groups like Students for a Democratic Society, and said that universities should dismiss faculty members who encourage "revolution."
In Rosebush's 400-plus-word paraphrase, as it appears in the current version (and older versions) of the manual, Dobson seems to offer an anecdote on military leadership, contrasting the weak-willed CTO Peach with the authoritarian CTO Justice in their dealings with Cadets Butch and Daring.
Butch challenges Peach with a "small act of defiance," but Peach "pretends not to notice." Soon, the cadets "openly reveal their hatred and contempt for [Peach]," and his command authority melts down. In contrast, when Daring challenges CTO Justice, the latter "responds with ... pre-warned consequences," which wins him respect.
Rosebush doesn't mention that Dobson's original metaphor discussed a schoolyard situation — a "Miss Peach" and a "Mrs. Justice" being challenged by "little Butch," who "is anxious to make a name for himself as a brave toughie." Nor does he note that Dare to Discipline is actually about children.
Instead, he writes that Dobson intended to contrast "how two people can achieve different results when they set out to establish a positive atmosphere." Oddly, he adds, "Dr. Dobson's international best-seller was not written only for cadets. His message is clear. All Supervisors must establish the correct atmosphere ... with the subordinate."
'In the DNA'
The academy published a version of Rosebush's piece as a "leadership development manual" in 1992, according to online records of the OCLC library cooperative. But academy spokesman Brus Vidal was not aware of "Applying the Academy Training Philosophy" being used now on campus, and did not respond to further requests for comment as of press time. Nor did Vidal respond to requests for comment on Rosebush quoting Dobson in his work.
One person who did have something to say was Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who has long argued that the academy and Focus on the Family have too cozy a relationship. He called for Rosebush's firing in November.
Of Rosebush quoting Dare, Weinstein says, "It's not surprising. James Dobson is inextricably intertwined in the DNA of the Air Force Academy."
Adds Katie Miller, with OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network: "In the Air Force, personal development is rightfully a topic of discussion, but it's important not to make personal development synonymous with practicing religion.
"If you're joining the military, you're not joining a church group."