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Service Academies? ATTN: Nords
Old 10-20-2012, 09:17 AM   #1
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Service Academies? ATTN: Nords

An article by a Naval Academy English professor questioning whether or not Service Academies are still needed:
The Few, the Proud, the Infantilized - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

This guy has been making the rounds lately including an interview on NPR.

I was a career Navy guy but I went through OCS. If I had known right out of high school that I would stay in for a career I think I would have preferred an NROTC scholarship at a civilian college to USNA. Of course, that's an opinion made with a lot of hindsight.
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Old 10-20-2012, 11:13 AM   #2
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Friar -

In case you did not know, Bruce Fleming loves to lob the literary equivalent of Molotov Cocktails.

I had him as a prof back in 1990 as a Plebe for English. He's an interesting man who fashions himself as an iconoclast. He had us read stuff about failed attempts to colonialize Africa ("Things Fall Apart") and the guilt of Vietnam Veterans ("In Country"). He's always throwing stones at the Superintendent's office whenever he can- if one of his articles gets picked up by a newspaper, I think it counts for his requirement of being 'published' periodically.

Bruce's last magazine bomb was about a year ago- The accusation that the service academies are cheating when they call themselves hyper-selective. He is partially right with this accusation- I know this because I am a Blue-and-Gold (Admissions Counselor) Officer to USNA.

A few years ago, USNA effectively 'doubled' its applications when it began sharing leads with student applicants in the Navy ROTC database. A bit cheesy, but it in no way was as disingenuous as Prof Fleming's article made it out to be.

...so take Bruce's writings with a 40-lb bag of Home Depot water softener salt.
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Old 10-20-2012, 02:11 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ejw93 View Post
Friar -

In case you did not know, Bruce Fleming loves to lob the literary equivalent of Molotov Cocktails.

I had him as a prof back in 1990 as a Plebe for English. He's an interesting man who fashions himself as an iconoclast. He had us read stuff about failed attempts to colonialize Africa ("Things Fall Apart") and the guilt of Vietnam Veterans ("In Country"). He's always throwing stones at the Superintendent's office whenever he can- if one of his articles gets picked up by a newspaper, I think it counts for his requirement of being 'published' periodically.

Bruce's last magazine bomb was about a year ago- The accusation that the service academies are cheating when they call themselves hyper-selective. He is partially right with this accusation- I know this because I am a Blue-and-Gold (Admissions Counselor) Officer to USNA.

A few years ago, USNA effectively 'doubled' its applications when it began sharing leads with student applicants in the Navy ROTC database. A bit cheesy, but it in no way was as disingenuous as Prof Fleming's article made it out to be.

...so take Bruce's writings with a 40-lb bag of Home Depot water softener salt.
I figured he is probably a burr under the saddle of the USNA administration. I wonder what keeps a person like that at a unique institution like Annapolis all these years. Of course, if he were teaching and Yale or Harvard he'd likely be finding things wrong with them too.
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Old 10-21-2012, 01:31 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by friar1610 View Post
I figured he is probably a burr under the saddle of the USNA administration. I wonder what keeps a person like that at a unique institution like Annapolis all these years. Of course, if he were teaching and Yale or Harvard he'd likely be finding things wrong with them too.
I don't know what keeps Fleming gadfly going. Despite his tenure, he hasn't had a raise since he first started criticizing in public.

He makes a good whistleblower, but USNA has learned to let him rant & rave instead of trying to stuff him back in his box. For example he'll keep them honest on the applications issue, but it won't really change the admissions process.

One of our good friends was a senior academy officer on the Admissions Committee with Fleming. He apparently does not work well with others. She was ready to throttle him.

You'll notice that his article is based on the feedback from midshipmen, and not even from the feedback of his own graduated students who might possibly be able to support his views. Nobody on USNA staff (like junior lieutenants or senior enlisted leaders) appears to have been asked for their opinions, either. This is like asking prison convicts how they feel the penitentiary ought to be run. The idea is to put midshipmen in a pressure cooker and tighten down the screws. Judging from their complaints, they seem to be learning to appreciate what it's like to deal with adversity. Hopefully they remember it when they're out in the fleet leading a few dozen sailors.

Fleming feels that the service academies should only admit the candidates who manage to score very highly on standardized aptitude exams. In other words, he doesn't want any dumb or illiterate students in his classes, especially not the ones who can throw touchdown passes. He also seems to equate brilliance with leadership, which anyone with a little experience under "brilliant leaders" can quickly refute. Rickover might agree with Fleming's attitude, but I can think of a few dozen other outstanding Navy & Marine Corps leaders of the past century who might differ with the academic perspective.

I'm going to give credit to another USNA graduate (and retired Marine married to a senior Navy officer) for summarizing my attitude about Fleming:
Quote:
I always have the same feelings when I read him: first 'hope' that someone recognizes the faults and problems of the USNA system; second 'incredulity' when he goes off-piste about something, exaggerates problems, and/or comes up with ludicrous 'solutions'; third 'shame' for actually reading the article to the end in the hope that productive recommendations will come out of it.
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