If It Is Happening at West Point

Then VMI is not far behind. It’s never far behind the latest educational fad.

From these articles, it looks like America’s military service academies are toast. It may take 30 years or more to flush the trash from the leadership pipeline. I now have very serious doubts about America’s ability to prosecute even minor military operations.

First, Ken Masugi, Ph.D., a former professor at the USAF Academy describes his experience in light of the “Red Cadet” scandal.

Countering both formal and informal pressure from society at large, the service academies take great pains to produce men (and now women) with the character required to be officers. These institutions are vocational schools (until recently, they were engineering schools), but the vocation they train students to fulfill is not one meant merely to fulfill those students in their personal calling, it is a vocation that demands service to the nation. That requires qualities ignored, defined differently, or even defined contrarily by civilian institutions.

I once caught a cadet in a flagrant plagiarism case, and it took some effort to see it to its successful end. What horrified me most about her attitude was her insistence she had confessed her plagiarism in a footnote and because if she were truthful in the commission of her crime she could not be charged with an honor code violation. (The footnote she claimed was in the paper did not exist, which compounds the violation of honor, but the idea that she thought it should exonerate her was astonishing to me.) Other professors had bad experiences with the same student, while others supported her. Once justice had been served, a preposterous cover story spread among the cadets, one repeated to me by a cadet who had not known I played a role in her dismissal.

Thus, due to privacy requirements, her misconduct could not be used as an example to instruct her former peers. Would it not be better for such a person to be offered a modest dis-honorarium to leave the academy, once she confessed her crime?  Instead, it became easier for me and others just to give suspected plagiarizers poor grades and maybe send their non-commissioned supervisors a harsh note. In other words, the corruption of the honor code long predated the recent Red Cadet controversy.

This is followed by former West Point professor and retired LTC, Robert M. Heffington:

First and foremost, standards at West Point are nonexistent. They exist on paper, but nowhere else. The senior administration at West Point inexplicably refuses to enforce West Point’s publicly touted high standards on cadets, and, having picked up on this, cadets refuse to enforce standards on each other. The Superintendent refuses to enforce admissions standards or the cadet Honor Code, the Dean refuses to enforce academic standards, and the Commandant refuses to enforce standards of conduct and discipline. The end result is a sort of malaise that pervades the entire institution. Nothing matters anymore. Cadets know this, and it has given rise to a level of cadet arrogance and entitlement the likes of which West Point has never seen in its history.

I recommend reading both articles, and then contrast that with this gem about mathematics being too Caucasian. As the villain’s complaints make abundantly clear, claims of racism are just a shakedown for the Benjamins. But there is a ready constituency at VMI for this crap.

So, how is VMI’s health on the Honor Code? I recall an active duty instructor during my cadetship that complained about women at his academy being exempted from the Honor Code, as Heffington and Masugi also note by multiple uses of the pronoun “her.” As has been noted on the pages of OPFOR, VMI’s Honor Code has been alleged to be purchased. So what is it’s health?

And that of academics? And athletics? Well, maybe not athletics, I noticed we won’t be going to the Rose Bowl this season, or even the Toilet Bowl – it does have a threshold for consideration. And the Corps?

And the Corps?

[Updated to add one word, subtract  one repeated quote, and multiply the readability through a division of boneheaded errors]

About DaveO

Retired soldier, micro-farmer, raconteur and pet owner from the great state of Oklahoma. Wandered in as a frequent commenter and have been enjoying blogging ever since.
This entry was posted in Air Force, Army, Insurgency & Counterinsurgency, Leadership, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to If It Is Happening at West Point

  1. burkemblog says:

    I almost hate to weigh in on this, but I had several inquiries from some of my brother rats about the service academies, I think because I taught at West Point for 8 years–83-86, 95-2000. Here is the long reply I have sent them:
    As other commenters on this Herrington letter have pointed out, the author tars with a broad brush. I left in 2000–I have no idea what happened after I left, but I think USMA has suffered from some of the same things that the Army has at large–acceptance of visible tattoos, taking in recruits with minor drug use or criminal records–fewer admin discharges because the force had to be maintained at a certain strength.

    We sometimes forget applications to the service academies dropped 40% during the Korean War, and thus the classes that graduated from, say, 1952 to 1956 or so were drawn from much smaller applicant pools. Not saying they were not good men, it’s just that there were similar concerns about indiscipline in the 1950s as this letter contends are common now.

    VMI, of course, was undergoing a similar experience when MG Milton was superintendent in the same 1950s years–Milton was a GE executive who’d not had a career in the service before being appointed supe.

    Still, some of the things reported were evident in small ways when I was there–for one example: I recommended separating a cadet for academic reasons one semester, and the board reviewing such cases (called the Class Committee) took the cadet’s tactical officer’s evaluation over mine. He was a captain with no combat experience, and I was an LTC with a Bronze Star from the Gulf War who’d led 200+ logistics folks in that conflict. The board believed the captain. Turns out the captain was right–the cadet turned around and did fine. Other cases I had, I advocated for my cadets, and was usually proved right.

    Finally, the picture portrayed is a disturbing one, and it is likely true in part, though perhaps not as bleak as he reports. Time will tell.

    When I was there, 1995-2000, it was pretty clear that athletes had a bit more slack cut than other cadets, but it never rose to the kinds of indiscipline levels herrington mentions. In addition, we had some honor scandals–one occurred in the company for which I led the “Values Education Team”–it had to do with copying answers to “problem sets”–ungraded math homework. the problem was the pedagogy that incorporated it, not the honor system, really. Also, while I was there, the then-Superintendent (LTG Dan Christman, an engineer), decided that some cadets did not warrant explusion but rather service as an enlisted soldier for some honor offenses. This was both good and bad, as most such reforms are, because of the various ways in which it was applied. The most distbring thing, in my time there, was the idea that plagiarism–copying and pasting from sources–was rtreated by the cadet honor code as “improper citation,” and was not punished as a honor violation.The cadets on the honor committee simply refused.

    For a couple years, I was the USMA subject matter expert on plagiarism, advising the commandant and his staff on what was and was not considered plagiarism. This led to a number of overturned honor cases as well as an attemt to deal with it as a regulations violation–it really should have been dealt with in the classroom–where it should have been tuahgt better and then punished, if required, by course failure, not an honor issue. Now that I teach in a very diffeetn environment, I see more than ever the need for education in it, and its proper treatment as a developmental issue, especially for freshmen. Seniors, not so much.

    Anyway, I am long gone from Hudson High, and grateful to be so. It is an odd academic environment since its primary purpose is creating 900-1000 2LTs–the education is secondary to the output. So some of Herrington’s concerns might well stem from that reality. If ROTC produced more officers, things might be different–the pressure to overlook behavior problems that would lead to non-commissioning and thus reduce output would lessen. In that light, I often think the real difference betwwen VMI and USMA is that VMI is a college first, with an overloaid military system that is adjunctive to the education. West Point is almost the mirro opposite.I think a long time ago, well before my first tour there in the 1980s, it was a college that produced Army officers. But perhaps that has always been part of the myth.

    Like

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