From across the nation, 18-year-olds come to the U.S. Air Force Academy to become leaders of character. Many are nominated by members of Congress. Some are chosen because they’re also good at sports. But all take an honor oath to not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate anyone among them who does.
Of course, living under an honor code doesn’t mean living by one.
Some cadets get caught when they run afoul. Their violations may even wind up in the news, since we can’t resist rubbernecking at a fall from grace — especially when tax dollars are involved.
But what about the rest?
One research project built around surveying a half-century’s worth of AFA graduates shows that two-thirds of respondents from the Classes of 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 admit to having violated the academy’s honor code. Toleration of others who violate the code registers as equally high.
Another reason for concern comes via an exam administered by the academy itself. The “Defining Issues Test,” meant to gauge cadets’ moral reasoning abilities, has found that 1 in 10 seniors, after four years spent in training at the academy, have remained stuck at the bottom level of moral development: acting out of self-interest. Not to worry, academy officials say. They’re on top of it.
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