The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Military academy attracts new 'greatest generation'

Interesting article that mentions Columbia and PrezBo's tacit rejection of ROTC:

Military academy attracts new 'greatest generation'

By Thomas Bray
Detroit News

Military recruiting may be having its difficulties because of Iraq, but from where Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr., the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, sits, things have seldom looked better.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Lennox told me recently following a West Point alumni meeting the night before in Birmingham, "we were taking just about everybody who met the qualifications." After Sept. 11, applications soared to about 13,000 for the 1,200 available spots in the freshman class. That number has settled back to around 10,000, but it's still a remarkable testament to the desire of today's youth to serve their country.

Lennox, who graduated from West Point in 1971, says in the old days parents leaned on their kids to go a military academy. Now the kids are surprising their Vietnam-era parents by desiring to join the military. And they exhibit the sort of values that TV newsman Tom Brokaw talked about in his wildly popular book about the World War II generation.

"I saw Tom Brokaw not long ago," Lennox says, "and I told him he ought to think about a book titled 'The New Greatest Generation.'"

One of Lennox's few disappointments has been a decline in black enrollment to around 5 percent from 8 percent, well below the target of making the officer corps look like the enlisted ranks. But he suspects there is a silver lining: The decline may reflect the Supreme Court's 2004 decision upholding the limited use of affirmative action for diversity at the University of Michigan.

"Minority kids have so many options now," he says. "We have to compete with the Ivies."

It may also reflect another fact: Even though U-M lawyers cited the use of affirmative action at the military academies to justify their own use of such policies, there are some differences in how they are applied.

A "significant number" of minority applicants to West Point, for example, first attend a "prep" academy at Ft. Monmouth, N.J., where about 220 students of all races are administered a heavy dose of remedial academic work that they must successfully master. Most have also demonstrated strong leadership skills -- 60 percent were team captains in high school, for example.

West Point supplies about 18 percent of the Army's officers. About 62 percent of the rest come from ROTC programs, which have been making something of a comeback on college campuses. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, formerly president of U-M, joined his faculty and administrators in voting against the return of ROTC there -- despite a student poll in 2003 showing that a majority wanted the option.

Vietnam-era academics are still suspicious of what they see as a "warrior culture," and they object to the military's don't-ask, don't-tell policy on gays. But the liberal editor of the New Republic magazine recently took Bollinger and Columbia to task: "[W]hen you treat [the military] like a pariah -- while still insisting that it protect you -- you have broken the contract that binds a democratic military and a democratic people."

Besides, just who is it that's out of touch with the American mainstream -- our civilian campuses or the military? "Our students take an oath to defend the Constitution," notes Lennox, who will be retiring soon. "Exactly how is that out of touch with American values?"

Thomas Bray is a News columnist. Reach him at (313) 222-2544 and tbray@detnews.com.
Link

3 Comments:

  • At 12:41 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    I am a bit disappointed by the pedestrian nature of this column. A) it brings up the over-used and under-whelming "Greatest Generation" theme, degrading by attempting to apply it to yet another generation.
    B) The affirmative action theory it posits, from a numbers standpoint, isn't stated clearly enough to justify the conclusion it reaches. Lennox says "Minority kids have so many options now," he says. "We have to compete with the Ivies." Is this anything new from 5 years ago? As far as I can ascertain the UM ruling didn't affect very many programs that really cared about maintaining minority enrolment. The only place you see substantial drops in enrolment due to changes in policy are at places like UTexas where aff action was nearly abolished.
    C) It misrepresents the Columbia ROTC survey just as much as the opponents of ROTC do. If I remember the wording correctly, the poll asked if people were opposed to the option, not if they had any strong feelings for it. Not caring and caring strongly are too vastly different creatures to confuse.
    D) The final paragraph is a cheap shot that ends the piece on a sophomoric "us v. them" note.

    Come on Bray. You can do better.

     
  • At 12:42 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    I am a bit disappointed by the pedestrian nature of this column. A) it brings up the over-used and under-whelming "Greatest Generation" theme, degrading by attempting to apply it to yet another generation.
    B) The affirmative action theory it posits, from a numbers standpoint, isn't stated clearly enough to justify the conclusion it reaches. Lennox says "Minority kids have so many options now," he says. "We have to compete with the Ivies." Is this anything new from 5 years ago? As far as I can ascertain the UM ruling didn't affect very many programs that really cared about maintaining minority enrolment. The only place you see substantial drops in enrolment due to changes in policy are at places like UTexas where aff action was nearly abolished.
    C) It misrepresents the Columbia ROTC survey just as much as the opponents of ROTC do. If I remember the wording correctly, the poll asked if people were opposed to the option, not if they had any strong feelings for it. Not caring and caring strongly are too vastly different creatures to confuse.
    D) The final paragraph is a cheap shot that ends the piece on a sophomoric "us v. them" note.

    Come on Bray. You can do better.

     
  • At 11:06 AM, Blogger Sean said…

    I agree with you to a large degree.
    The "greatest generation" is certainly overused and underwhelming. The affirmative action theory is also kind of shaky, although I think the most important point it makes is that the Military Academy's affirmative action program is a PROACTIVE one unlike most: It sends AA students who are not academically up to par to a "prebaccalaureate" program in order to bring them up to speed. Far more effective than simply letting underqualified students in and letting many of them flounder for a few years before they drop out. Which happens a lot.
    You are right about (C). But the misrepresentation of the ROTC survey doesn't concern me. There is a great deal of support for ROTC on this campus among the student body.
    The final paragraph may seem to be a cheap shot to you...but it isn't to most. I think that is the most important point that he makes. The function of West Point is inherently in service of the nation and as it is under teh direct purview of Congress (and therefore the American people) it is far more in touch with American mainstream than the ivory tower is.

     

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