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Old 10-08-2010   #1
Yukon 5_08
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Default ILE-CC Curriculum

Just wondering if any other recent ILE-CC graduates or current students would agree with me that there is an over-emphasis on written communication ability within the current ILE curriculum? Maybe it goes back to my "learning style", but personally I would rather spend more time in the classroom interacting with my peers, conducting practical exercises (Regional Strategic Concept, etc.), than leave at noon and spend the rest of the afternoon reading and writing essays. I propose that the Army requires a master's degree as a condition of promotion to LTC, in addition to ILE, as a way to reduce mundane writing assignments during ILE in favor of more peer interaction and practical exercise in the classroom. Any master's degree worthy of the paper the diploma is printed on will require more than its fair share of effective written communication evaluation. Time spent at ILE should capitalize on the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from peer and instructor experience, not serve as an undergraduate English Composition refresher course. Make me study, make me participate, but please stop making me write for the sake of time consumption!
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Old 10-08-2010   #2
M.L.
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Default Maybe, but...

I think the problem may be that the many of the students that come to ILE do not, in fact, have the basic writing skills required to convey an idea in a clear, concise way.

I'm not sure if this is an issue with who we are commissioning, but I certainly do believe that our PowerPoint culture isn't helping. I'd venture a guess that most if not all ILE students can put together a PPT briefing with numerous "bullets" (i.e. incomplete sentences).
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Old 10-08-2010   #3
82redleg
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Are you at Leavenworth? If so, the AOC does just what you are asking for.

Personally, I think that our writing skills, as an Army, suck, and we need to be doing more to improve them, not less.
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Old 10-08-2010   #4
Tom Odom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 82redleg View Post
Are you at Leavenworth? If so, the AOC does just what you are asking for.

Personally, I think that our writing skills, as an Army, suck, and we need to be doing more to improve them, not less.
Concur. After my own service and 10 years of mentoring writing at JRTC, I see the effects of PPT and even CPOF as crippling when it comes to effective comms. A word bullet is an incomplete thought, one which allows everyone to finish it according to his own interpretation. A PPT storyboard without a tight written summation is the picture equivalent of a word bullet. A picture may be worth a 1000 words; the problem is that all viewers see different pictures in their own 1000 words. That works wonderfully for art, not so wonderfully for military art.

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Last edited by Tom Odom; 10-08-2010 at 03:08 PM.
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Old 10-08-2010   #5
699guy
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Default Remember the scale...

Yukon 5,
Remember that ILE is preparing you for future service as a FG officer. Company Commanders and PLs have the ability to communicate face to face, or verbally with those they lead. BN 3s or XOs do not have nearly the same ability. Use the time you are given at ILE to become better at written communication...will you ever have to duplicate the H100 essay later in your service?...perhaps not. But the time spent thinking about how to structure your argument, and then clearly constructing it will serve you well the second half of your service.
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Old 10-08-2010   #6
Purple
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Wink Seriously?

To: ML - what are you citing as proof of poor writing skills?
To: 82redleg - re: "what you are asking for." Who is "you?" Also, lets limit this to empirical data re: the poor writing skills. Lets not work on speculation.
To: Tom - Concur. Not sure why we are addressing ppt as yukon didn't refer to ppt.
To: 669guy - Are you referring to the Belize Army? ILE "preparing" a FG officer? Seriously? How much time in grade does the average ILE student have as a FG? Let me know what you find out and we'll talk. Honestly I believe that most of us have post high school education that involved a fair amount of communicating.

Rather than attacking yukon...lets get into dialog. I can speculate that I would be embarrased to show some of the curriculum to a European officer. I believe (implies opinion) that we should focus more on forum/dialog and study of how policy and actions of other nations affects and impacts us.

Have a great day!

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Old 10-08-2010   #7
Tom Odom
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Default Seriously

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To: Tom - Concur. Not sure why we are addressing ppt as yukon didn't refer to ppt.
i addressed PPT as too many see writing bullets as writing. Seriously I have had Soldiers (NCO and Officer) tell me that PPT was their chosen medium. Others have pushed similar themes. One directed that we write only in bullets, stating that they were the same as a checklist. In a way he was correct; a bullet is like a checklist in that the reader has to either hear something to expand on it in a briefing, know something about it already so that the bullet merely jogs his memory, or (too often) create his own meaning.

Tom
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Old 10-08-2010   #8
M.L.
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Default Proof?

Purple-

I'm not citing anything, and I don't have to. I was offering my opinion.

If you will re-read my post, you will see the words "I think", "I'm not sure", and "I'd venture a guess", all of which imply opinion.

I guess I can cite myself....?

"I think many ILE students can't write worth a damn when they arrive at ILE." 1

1 L., M. "Maybe, but...", Post on SWJ Discussion Board Oct 8, 2010.

(See below for cheesy quote)
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Old 10-08-2010   #9
82redleg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple View Post
To: 82redleg - re: "what you are asking for." Who is "you?" Also, lets limit this to empirical data re: the poor writing skills. Lets not work on speculation.
By "you", I was referring to Yukon, specifically his desire to "...personally I would rather spend more time in the classroom interacting with my peers, conducting practical exercises (Regional Strategic Concept, etc.)..."

Provide all the empirical data you want- I posted my opinion, in response to another's opinion. Ignore it, or heed it, or I don't care.
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Old 10-08-2010   #10
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Purple,
I think it's important to note that this discussion seems to be focused more on people's "opinions" rather than on factual data. The OP him/herself stated an opinion. Thus, opinions in response to the OP's opinion are completely expected and not to be squashed (if you want a healthy dialogue).

In my opinion, the ability to write well becomes more important as one moves up the ranks. As a Major, Yukon will be required to write differently and to a different target audience than what he/she did at the company level.

This ability to write will become even more critical as Yukon becomes a LTC or even Col (and beyond).

Yukon may already be an outstanding writer, in which case the ILE curriculum may seem irrelevant or worthless to him/her. This then becomes a matter of perspective. Other students may not be as fortunate. They may benefit more from the writing program than Yukon does.

If this is the case (and I suspect it may be), then Yukon should ask the faculty what he/she can do to help the others in his/her small group.

My opinion....
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Old 10-09-2010   #11
Van
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M.L. View Post
"I think many ILE students can't write worth a damn when they arrive at ILE."
First hand experience indicates this is an accurate assessment.

Last edited by Van; 10-09-2010 at 08:35 AM. Reason: Didn't like my phrasing.
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Old 10-09-2010   #12
Van
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Let me restate this;

MANY ILE students are arriving unable to write to a standard I would submit before congress as an example of a properly trained and educated field grade officer. To be fair, I also believe the Army is currently suffering from an excess of PhDs who expect field grade officers to write like doctoral candidates, which is an irrational expectation of warfighters.

The goal, in my opinion, is to strike a balance of comptence in writing, and education in operational topics. The most rational thing for the Army and the field grades involved would be to have them execute an in class writing assessment, and reward high performers with a pass from further writing classes. Noone is punished or penalized, but people who meet or exceed the standard are rewared for their performance.

The volume of writing is kind of like this. If a student writes well, they aren't a challenge and aren't much of a burden. If the student needs more chances to improve, the writing assignments provide the student with more opportunities to improve.

This was difficult to write in a calm and professional fashion as I believe that writing is a critical communications tool that is being neglected for reasons of military expediency. This is always a bad rational for neglecting foundations.

Last edited by Van; 10-09-2010 at 08:49 AM. Reason: Went overboard... again.
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Old 10-09-2010   #13
Yukon 5_08
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Default Thanks for your responses

To all, I thank you for the healthy debate, dialogue and opinions offered in response to the question I posed in my original post.

To clarify my position, I am a current student of ILE-CC at Ft Belvoir, VA, Staff Group 30-A. In keeping with the CAC Command Policy #19-08, section 5c. (attribution), users may view my updated "about me" section of my profile, as desired.

Blackhorse, agree with your assessment of the importance of writing skills. I am too modest to classify myself as an outstanding writer, but I can say that I am very comfortable with my written communications skills. My grades in this course to date would suggest that I am not in the "needs improvement" crowd. With that said, I would be more than happy to assist a fellow student in need of writing assistance. The current structure of the course just doesn't allow for that to happen. I, as with all of my classmates, am obliged to rush out of the classroom and get through a myriad of readings, followed by several writing assignments. It's every man/woman for him or herself.

Van, your recommendation most closely mirrors the discussion of a possible solution I had with a very dear friend and colleague. If it were somehow possible to separate strong writers from not so strong writers at the beginning of the course, the staff could focus efforts on those needing most improvement. This would even allow for more peer interaction in the form of classmate assistance referenced above. The same friend forced me to rethink my original proposal of graduate degree required for promotion to LTC due to the alleged proliferation of "diploma mill" master's degrees out there. I still subscribe to the idea though; students would still be required to write, or be forced to make an unethical decision to plagiarize and risk the consequence of being caught. I have faith in my fellow field grade officers who would be pursuing that course of action as required career progression.

One last thought. This whole idea stems from my frustration at the lack of emphasis on peer to peer classroom interaction, which in my opinion is the result of an over emphasis on written communication evaluation. I am in a staff group with a handful of strategic intel officers, a lawyer, a CA guy, a comms dude, an Arab speaking FAO, a Catholic priest, a couple of IO bubbas, an acquisition corps man and an ORSA man. As an Infantry guy, I could gain a little insight from these folks, and could maybe offer up a little something from my perspective to them. Not saying we don't get a little time for that, just saying I think we could use more.

I'm out. I've met my blog requirement for this course (good requirement in my opinion). Time to tackle the C400 OP Torch Exam, and its five written requirements. Just what the doctor ordered for a Saturday afternoon of a long holiday weekend. Sure beats something like a team building event with classmates who aren't travelling...but who has time for that? (insert wink and smile) To all who've heard my cries, and offered your insights, again I thank you.
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Old 10-09-2010   #14
Van
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Full disclosure: I instruct TASS ILE (the Reserves' "night school" program) here in Hawai'i, and an ROTC instructor as a contractor at University of Hawai'i (the ROTC is a short term contract, I'm back-filling a deployed reservist).

Re:
Quote:
graduate degree required for promotion to LTC
I would argue that the degree should not be a requirement for promotion, but should be a minor discriminator. That is, an evaluation criteria rather than a screening criteria. It is an opportunity for people who want to go past the tactical/low operational level to 'self-select'. 1- Require or coerce everyone to go after grad school and you devalue the relevance of it. 2- It would be another instance of the Army shoving its duty off on the individual soldier (the Army has a moral, if not legal obligation to train and educate its members). 3- It places a disproportionate value on academic achievement over military achievement.

But most important; it sends a clear message that an officer is actively seeking higher rank and responsibility. Force everyone to do it and this signal is lost in the noise.

As part of the transition from company grade to field grade, officers need refresher (if not remedial) training in the mechanics of writing and education in the content of writing. Senior officers who can't move past their days as a platoon leader are a menace to soldiers, and it seems to me that the ILE/CGSC writing requirements are a necessary part of that transition.
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Old 10-10-2010   #15
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I agree with Yukon. There is too much writing in the curriculum of ILE. My grades and this post reflect that I could use a refresher course on writing. The last time I wrote a paper is in 1997. I believe that writing four papers and having essay exams does not improve my writing skills. I am just trying to make ends meet by read all of the assigned readings and do my research for the required papers and exams. I believe to improve my skills, as a writer focus on the papers and adjust the written exams to a different type of exam.
It is more important to me to learn from my peers. Just like Yukon states “Time spent at ILE should capitalize on the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from peer and instructor experience.”

v/r
D. Scooler
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Old 10-11-2010   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yukon 5_08 View Post
Just wondering if any other recent ILE-CC graduates or current students would agree with me that there is an over-emphasis on written communication ability within the current ILE curriculum? Maybe it goes back to my "learning style", but personally I would rather spend more time in the classroom interacting with my peers, conducting practical exercises (Regional Strategic Concept, etc.), than leave at noon and spend the rest of the afternoon reading and writing essays. I propose that the Army requires a master's degree as a condition of promotion to LTC, in addition to ILE, as a way to reduce mundane writing assignments during ILE in favor of more peer interaction and practical exercise in the classroom. Any master's degree worthy of the paper the diploma is printed on will require more than its fair share of effective written communication evaluation. Time spent at ILE should capitalize on the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from peer and instructor experience, not serve as an undergraduate English Composition refresher course. Make me study, make me participate, but please stop making me write for the sake of time consumption!
Vote Disagree. One of the most disturbing lessons from my ILE (last year) was the atrocious writing abilities of my peers. I will caveat I was in the resident course which has a much different flavor.

It's not like they make you write more than a five page paper at any point in your curriccula. The only trouble was that all the essays come due in mid-late october, so if you haven't planned ahead it's well ... like mid-terms in college.

Also, not all master's programs are created equal, and promotion to LTC no longer requires a master's.

I don't see how the essays pulled away from my peer learning.
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Old 10-12-2010   #17
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Being a SG30A FBVA ILE alumnus, I'll offer my two cents.

1. My experience from a year ago was that there was plenty of peer learning in SG30A, with the vast majority of the faculty on 30A doing an excellent job in facilitating discussion and interaction between the students. While I know that the strategy professor just departed and left big shoes to fill, unless Dr. Coss and Mr. Carnes left, I don't see how this dynamic would have changed.

2. As field grade officers, the primary means by which we will communicate with others will be the written word. Even if one is a good writer, he/she will benefit by more practice.

3. In order to evaluate one's understanding of the course material, the most effective way to do so is to "test" this through a writing requirement that requires more than just a recitation of facts, but the development of a thesis and appropriate use of evidence. I thought the vast majority of the writing assignments were on target.
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Old 04-12-2012   #18
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As an update to this thread, I am currently finishing up ILE at Fort Belvior and all classes in the curriculum still require a written assignment, generally between three and five pages. I found the writing assignments difficult and occasionally tedious, but I am glad they were assigned. They were a valuable refresher for writing and imposed intellectual rigor to the course.

Craig Rohrbough
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Old 04-13-2012   #19
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From a junior officer's perspective, I lost much respect for senior officers who displayed an inability to effectively communicate in written English (or to use the simple features of a computer or the internet) -- especially when I or my section received taskings via written orders (read: powerpoint) or e-mail. It wasa even more incredibly annoying when getting awards and evaluations reviewed by multiple senior officers and NCOs with increasingly worse understandings of the mechanics of the English language. If we expect leaders to be responsible for everything that is done or not done, this should at least include basic writing skills.
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Old 04-13-2012   #20
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From a junior officer's perspective, I lost much respect for senior officers who displayed an inability to effectively communicate in written English (or to use the simple features of a computer or the internet) -- especially when I or my section received taskings via written orders (read: powerpoint) or e-mail. It wasa even more incredibly annoying when getting awards and evaluations reviewed by multiple senior officers and NCOs with increasingly worse understandings of the mechanics of the English language. If we expect leaders to be responsible for everything that is done or not done, this should at least include basic writing skills.
Well said - and at the field grade level, written communication ability is a CLEAR discriminator of talent and affects both selection and promotion.
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