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Thread: Shut Down West Point and the War Colleges

  1. #21
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Not what Wilf or I said

    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Another thread of we don't need no stinking education and anybody with a PhD can't be an effective officer...
    He said the PhD -- not education per se -- was not needed to be an effective Officer. That sort passes the "Well, yes" test.

    I essentially said that it took an exceptionally good and militarily dedicated officer to use his Phd to be a better Officer rather than spending more time and effort on his PhD field or interest than his military requirements. That,too should pass the "Well, yes" test -- latest learning experience and all that...

    Since I've seen a dozen or so examples in the field, I'm quite comfortable with that statement, I can even name them, the times and locations -- but not on an open forum.
    Next will be "all civilians are lazy drunk SOB's" followed by the spoiled brats of the apocalypse.
    I thought the former was a given. I'm a civilian and I resemble that remark...

    It's up to you, Educator, to keep those SBOTA under control.
    Was Ricks right for all the wrong reasons?
    Not IMO. He had a point; the academies are expensive and are not the only way -- possibly not even the best way -- to do the job. But he knows they aren't going away for all the reasons stated above so he just got some of bias out in ink and his War College crack was totally wrong -- plus, as I said, he also knows Petreaus' PhD is only one of many in the Armed forces and that virtually all Officers, MAJ/LtCdr and above, have advanced degrees. Poor propaganda piece on his part. He's usually a little more subtle than that...

  2. #22
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Another thread of we don't need no stinking education and anybody with a PhD can't be an effective officer. Next will be "all civilians are lazy drunk SOB's" followed by the spoiled brats of the apocalypse.

    Was Ricks right for all the wrong reasons?
    ...and Ken got there before me, so I will merely add, that I think there is a place for some officers to have PhDs. In fact most of my friends of Lt Colonel, Colonel and above, do, or are working on them!

    Having said that, most of the complete garbage military thought has recently produced came from PhD equipped officers.

    I think Officer education is absolutely vital, but a PhD is not synonymous, or in any way relevant to the operational skill and practice we need.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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  3. #23
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Perhaps not exactly germane to Ricks' point, but I wonder whether any research has been done on retention rates at USMA since the decision was made to increase the numbers of civilian members on the faculty.

    When I taught at USMA in the mid-late 1980s, the faculty had a very small number of visiting civilian professors; a few, more permanent, civilian faculty members wewre in such fields as foreign languages and phys. ed.; the majority of the faculty was serving officers in the grade of O-3/O-4, most with command time or Bn/Bde primary staff experience. The faculty turned over almost completely every 3 years.
    David Petraeus and Marty Dempsey were on the faculty at the time as were Dan Bolger (CG 1CD)., Mike Scaparroti (CG, 82d) and Bob Williams(Commandant, USAWC); Generals Chiarelli (VCSA) and Ward (AFRICOM) had just left; at least 8 of the current Army LTG's were there during the same time frame as faculty members, btw. (I'm sure some other current Army GO doers and shakers were there at the time: forgive me if I missed them.)

    I understand in more recent years the teaching faculty has become about 1/3civilian (still temporary, 3-year turnover I believe).

    It would be interesting to see whether these two two sets of data points (increasing civilan faculty, decreasing post-graduate retention) correlate.
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  4. #24
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    We've seen all this before. Close the service academies...blah...blah...blah... Except back then it was because they were "threats to the Republic," not because they were supposedly second-rate schools.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  5. #25
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default In Re: WM

    WM,

    I taught in Sosh 96-98, I think our dept was pretty close to 1/3 2/3 ratio, so I can provide a data point wrt whether I think it made a difference...

    - The civilians in our department were absolutely dedicated to the mission, might even say they often seemed as much or more committed to ensuring they properly prepared our young charges...

    - Much like embedded reporters, if some latent bias or emotional junk existed prior to accepting a position in the dept, they were quickly flipped into "true believers"...

    - If a study were performed and the percentage of 1 and outs went up following the transition to more civilian instructors, I'd like to see how all the other factors were controlled, very skeptical that bring more civilians into the faculty was somehow to blame for a decision made 5 years later...

    - Don't get me wrong, sometimes our civilian faculty made me nuts, in dept sessions they'd challenge some of our assumptions that we held dearly to our hearts, but never did I note a single civilian in anyway undermine the mission of the department or institution...

    Now I think I have an appreciation for where you are coming from and only throw out the hypothetical for grist, but I want to make sure those who are not familiar with the institution don't jump to conclusions...

    As a side note... during my tenure in Sosh we had John Nagl, Mark Tien, Chris Gibson and Mike Meese... by the way, all with PHd's being put to great use...

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  6. #26
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Having said that, most of the complete garbage military thought has recently produced came from PhD equipped officers.

    I think Officer education is absolutely vital, but a PhD is not synonymous, or in any way relevant to the operational skill and practice we need.
    And how can we be sure that those same individuals wouldn't have produced garbage without the PhD? Sorry, but I don't necessarily see a connection. PhDs often allow idiots to hide their stupid ideas behind bigger words, but that's it. There was also a time when the higher service education programs were maligned as being form-fitting trade schools with no real-world application.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  7. #27
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    And how can we be sure that those same individuals wouldn't have produced garbage without the PhD? Sorry, but I don't necessarily see a connection. PhDs often allow idiots to hide their stupid ideas behind bigger words, but that's it.
    I concur. T'was to that, which I was alluding. No more. Most of the thinkers I respect are former military officers and PhDs.

    Now if we want to discuss stupid ideas hidden behind big words, then pull up a chair... I'd love to point some fingers..!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  8. #28
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Talking If I could do better.... I would

    Found this in response to another Rick's piece on line about a growing trend amongst "elites" going into military service...

    Reconciling this article with the Washington Post piece
    by Welcome Wagon on Sun, 04/19/2009 - 10:38pm
    Mr. Ricks,
    First, I will preface this with the fact that I am a junior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, ranked the 6th best college in the USA and the number one public university, ahead of Yale and Columbia, as well as the top liberal arts school in the country, ahead of well...everyone else. Not bad for a "community college".
    In this post you comment that students of prestigious universities are joining the military because they feel unchallenged by the years they spent at their Ivy League school.
    "There is too much drinking and dope-smoking and too little sense of commitment to anything larger than one's own ambitions and appetites. Ultimately, they tell me, they didn't feel challenged to be more than themselves, intellectually or morally."
    Yet your piece in the Washington Post about closing the Service Academies says: "Why not send young people to more rigorous institutions on full scholarships?". If the supposed rigourous institutions are not fulfilling our student's sense of accomplishment, where are the schools that you want to send me and my fellow cadets to? I can say with experience that cadets at the service academies recieve intense academic, physical, military, and leadership education. In the course of a week, one of our freshman can be expected to attend calculus classes, do a project for their American Government class, engage in training on tactically clearing a room, be graded in a two round boxing bout, play in a intramural football game, attend classes on ethics..the list goes on. Graduates of USMA as well as other academies are committed to at least 5 years of service to the country. 70% of each USMA class must branch combat arms, meaning that they will most likely deploy to a combat zone in the first year following graduation. Rules and regs limit the drinking and prohibit the dope smoking, and provide us with a sense of commitment that transcends education, to our country, our values, and each other. If service academies can provide our young men and women with purpose and direction, then why close them

    On a side note: your attempt to use General Petraeus as a example for the superiority of civilian schools is laughable. A) Gen Petraeus went to a small community college called West Point for his undergrad education. B) We are purely an undergrad institution. C) This means all of our grads would need to get their PhDs elsewhere.


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  9. #29
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default Adding to Hacksaw's post

    "... but too often they're getting community-college educations." A number of engineers who've worked for me and with me were service academy grads, Army, Navy and Air Force. Their performance, both as engineers and leaders, was comparable to grads of Cal Tech or Virginia Tech. (Those that weren't stood out as exceptions.)

    I'd also like to know just what "assumptions" and "biases" Mr. Ricks would like to see "challenged," and exactly what useful outcome he would like from interacting with "interact with diplomats and executives."

    Finally, having spent the bulk of my adult life working with PhDs, I learned a long time ago that many are educated well above their ability. It's the person who makes a difference, not the credential.
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    Default *braces for incomming*

    An idea I’ve always thought would be interesting would be to combine USMA, CGSC (old term, I know - ILE, SAMS, et al), and The War College into one physical campus. Then as a part of being MEL qualified, they would be required to instruct or lecture at USMA.

    The idea being that after an Officer’s MOS specific education is completed (BOLC, OBC, CCC), they would be responsible for not only learning, but instructing as well. I’m not saying replace civilians or the FA for West Point, but rather agument with experienced, career Officers who have dedicated their lives to the profession. These schools already have coursework that requires academic scholarship, why not make it applied?

    I think it would help Cadets by exposing them to a wider variety of role models with successful careers that span the Army. This might help retention if we give them some alternative career paths aside from Macarthur and Eisenhower. More seriously, it would give a direct connection between the most senior leaders about to go become Battalion and Brigade Commanders with the newest generation of Soldiers. Now that’s some powerful training.

    It would also benefit the Seniors by pushing them out of the comfort zone and having to defend many of their sacred cows (much like the original article pushes for). I can’t think of a better audience to challenge than the future LTs who will have to execute policy at the tip of the spear.

    Just my pie in the sky thought for when I get to be grand poobah.

  11. #31
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I concur. T'was to that, which I was alluding. No more. Most of the thinkers I respect are former military officers and PhDs.

    Now if we want to discuss stupid ideas hidden behind big words, then pull up a chair... I'd love to point some fingers..!
    Hey hey hey.... Put that finger away...
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  12. #32
    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default Curious

    "$300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student..." and Ivy League schools.

    What is the cost of an Ivy League education today? And how many of the schools have ROTC programs?
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    I think the current system is working ok, like most things in the US military. They work ok, not awful, not great.

    The three headed system of producing officers allows for greater breadth. I did not want to be in the Army at age 18, but by the time I was 21, it seemed like a fine career and so I joined ROTC and went through the two year program.

    I have no comment on the War College argument as I haven't (and most likely won't) been through the program.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

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  14. #34
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    Finally, having spent the bulk of my adult life working with PhDs, I learned a long time ago that many are educated well above their ability. It's the person who makes a difference, not the credential.
    Could not have said it better myself. As I have mentioned before I grew up with the space program and as such most people don't realize what a shortage of or total lack of competent Engineers there was. The Guvmint yes the Guvmint fixed it!! by starting Engineering schools inside Defense/Aerospace factories and paid them to learn by doing plus theory after hours or by correspondence courses, this bled over and formed the basis of many of the college Engineering schools in Florida. There is a lesson to be learned here As in maybe Ricks should join the Army and go through Army Journalism AIT and.... git him sum reel schoolin

  15. #35
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I would *really* enjoy that...

    "As in maybe Ricks should join the Army and go through Army Journalism AIT and.... git him sum reel schoolin "
    'Course, I'd probably enjoy him at Infantry OSUT even more...

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    Default America needs the service academies

    if for nothing else, to provide college athletics not affiliated with the NFL/NBA farm systems!

  17. #37
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Ahhh, but...

    They'd surely like to be included in the farm system... probably don't need to open that can of worms agin'
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  18. #38
    Registered User RYNO's Avatar
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    Default Phd Civilian Instructors at West Point

    I have an interesting perspective to share:

    My senior year at USMA, during one of my core courses, "History of the Military Art," I had Phd-equipped civilian instructors for both semesters. I was initially disappointed--as a cadet, I was looking forward to a commissioned officer, hopefully with wartime experience, to be my instructor for at least one of those semesters. Both instructors have some notoriety as good writers at present.

    The first semester, the instructor never left a seated position behind his desk in 40 lessons. He spoke in a monotone voice, and lectured each day for 50 minutes straight. It was an opportunity for me to get an extra hour of rack after the morning strength and conditioning practice in the morning and wrestling practice in the afternoon. My disappointment continued.

    The second semester, the instructor's first impression didn't help. He looked like the antithesis of a military man. His teaching style, however, was fantastic. Kept the audience engaged. Spoke with passion. Extremely well-read. Always prepared. Facilitated discussion and student learning. Understood that he had a responsibility to help us prepare for eventually leading men in combat. It was my favorite class of 4 years and I considered him the best instructor I had while at the Academy, regardless of status. He was one of my early role models of "teacher, coach, and mentor." Whatever you think of him or his views now, he was an incredible teacher.

    As I teach 2LTs and Captains now in Armor BOLC III and MCCC, I know his example made me a better teacher, coach, and mentor.

    The moral of the story: No matter the institution or the population, in any large group of people, you're gonna get some good ones and some bad ones. Wanna produce a better student? Then the quality of instruction is very much dependent on the quality of the instructor.

    The first guy will remain nameless. The second guy was Fred Kagan.

    Had West Point not existed, I would be an overweight, homeless, alcoholic Italian right now. (USMA has postponed my dream for 15 years, and I still have 9 more to go!! So far away!!)
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  19. #39
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RYNO View Post
    Had West Point not existed, I would be an overweight, homeless, alcoholic Italian right now. (USMA has postponed my dream for 15 years, and I still have 9 more to go!! So far away!!)
    I know Ryno. He has a nice house....

    Example is better than precept.

  20. #40
    Council Member Blackjack's Avatar
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    I know this thread has been up awhile, but I have been a bit busy lately and it is an important topic to me. Please accept my apology for such a late post.

    According to Mr. Ricks the cost per student to the taxpayer is $300,000 as opposed to $130,000 for an ROTC graduate. I wonder if he actually looked into how those figures were calculated, or how the money was spent? I am curious about his statistical sources and collection methods. How much of the budget for West Point was instructional, and how much was administrative, how much was spent on the student? Too many unanswered question here in regards to sources and statistics.

    In an rebuttal criticizing Mr. Ricks' arguments for closing the service academies, three West Point graduates who are now Congressmen claimed the cost per graduate was $200,000. If the $200,000 per graduate number is correct than it closes the cost gap between ROTC and USMA graduates significantly. Even a person with a grasp of basic math can see the difference between $170,000 and $70,000.

    Mr. Ricks goes on to claim that some commanders prefer ROTC graduates to West point graduates. Using these commanders alleged preferences, he tries to make the case that ROTC students are better educated and less cynical. Mr. Ricks should remember that the word some is not indicative of a majority if he desires to make a case against West Point, or the other service academies. Anyone could easily say that if some commanders prefer ROTC graduates over service academy graduates than the majority of commanders prefer service academy graduates, or OCS graduates over ROTC graduates. Has he factored in the commanders who could care less about the comissioning source of their officers, but asses them based on the merit of their martial works?

    Mr. Ricks manages to insult not only the service academies, but the community college system that many civillians and soldiers rely on for their first years of higher education. Mr. Ricks states rather boldly that,“They [West Point Graduates] remind me of the best of the Ivy League, but too often they're getting community-college educations.” This argument is little more than Mr. Ricks displaying his adherence to the credentialism and academic elitism that has infected America. His point seems to be nothing more than the academic environment and the degree obtained from university X is superior to the same degree from university Y, or community college Z.

    Academically speaking no university is truly superior to another. It is simply a matter of people thinking, or being told one university, or form of higher education is superior to another. While community colleges may only offer an associates degree, the class loads and standards are often the same for that level of education.

    In all fairness to Mr. Ricks I have run into the same brand of credentialism and academic snobbery from a fair share of both French and US military officers, senior NCOs as well in recent years. The behavior is abhorrable to say the least and has been warned about by both military and civillian leaders as far back as Cyrus the Great.

    As Mr. Ricks' bemoans the lack of professors with doctorate level degrees credentialism strikes again. Isn't it reasonable to conclude that if a professor has graduated from a 4 year institution covering the subject matter that he or she should be able to teach that subject matter? I think it is quite reasonable, particularly if said profesor goes on to earn a masters degree. To say otherwise implies that the professor did not truly learn the subject matter as an undergraduate student and all the vellum hanging upon his wall is worthless.


    Is anyone else seeing a reoccurring theme in his article? Credentialism, elitism, academic snobbery, and narrow minded views from a journalist who makes a feeble attempt at sensational journalism, and fails.

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