The US Air Force Academy: Elite Undergraduate College?

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by appointee_classof2020, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. appointee_classof2020

    appointee_classof2020 New Member

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    Hi everyone. I recently came across this article while researching USAFA (I'm an appointee trying to decide whether or not to attend). In the article, former USAFA and USNA instructor Jeff Dyche claims that the quality of education and instructors at USAFA is severely lacking in many ways. I was wondering if anyone could verify the information given in the article - are his claims relevant? Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.

    http://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/files/JAF/2012 JAF/Dyche.pdf
     

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  2. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    Every ship has barnacles. USNA has Bruce Fleming. Neither will affect your academic success or the depth of your education as that is due to your work not the whining of professors who want tenure. Mr. Dyche was wise to quit as in spite of being in the Navy as an officer too, he just never "got" what the Academies are about.
     
  3. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Let's put it this way, getting A's in my Masters program is significantly easier than at USAFA. One recent study indicated that colleges now give A's 48% of the time. During certain semesters, the only cadets in my class that got 4.0s were on exchange programs at other schools.
     
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  4. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    I worked my butt off at USNA and usually ranged from a 2.6-3.2. My Masters was so much easier and I graduated with honors while working full time. Remember a SA education is so much more than just grades and a diploma. It's about making a well rounded officer ready to lead.
     
  5. SkiesToConquer18

    SkiesToConquer18 Member

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    Dyche brought up a good point about the Academy's propensity to hire graduates in DF and PP. Also, he has a convincing argument about the instructors being "undereducated". I have had a couple instructors who clearly did not know how to teach well, and I could notice some of my classmates struggle with this. In my opinion, the academics do not seem to be that of an elite school; what makes the school aspect hard is all the other stress and activities.
     
  6. AJC

    AJC Member

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    He clearly took the wrong job. Which is odd since he knew full well what the conditions were when he transitioned to a civilian instructor.
     
  7. time2

    time2 Member

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    Every college has good/bad aspects. I certainly wouldn't put much stock into what some disgruntled individual has to say especially those who just want to make a name for themselves in the media with negative articles. Their true motivation is probably about personal notoriety rather than actually improving that institution.
     
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  8. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I think this is repeated across each service academy, and isn't unique to AFA.
     
  9. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I would throw in another aspect if why the BS flag should be thrown up. In the college professor world there is a key statement...Publish or Perish. The Profs are not really there for them, it is the TA. Colleges now tend to have adjuncts, not tenured profs (cost saving method). The tenured profs are publishing so they won't perish. Academic teaching is no longer their goal.

    I would also say that let's think about this logically...do you want a prof that has no real life experience in the field and only academia, or the one that has managed both, and now can see how theory and reality blur the lines? Fine for a class like Math where 2+2 =4, but typically elite colleges are LAC. A govt. and Poli Sci prof., that has never worked a day in the govt, just a prof has no real world experience. It is pure theory to them.

    The AF is unique in the fact that 80-85% officers are stem majors. That Math/Physics prof may not have received their grad from Cal Tech, but as a pilot/nav has lived for years in the real world understanding how when a missile is being shot at you in an F16 knowing Math and Physics (torque) will matter.

    I also take grievance with a comment in the article.
    Since when was John F. Kennedy School of Govt., Harvard University not a high enough standard in the obligatory academic degrees? Gen. Mike Gould SUpe 2009.
    Or how about Lt.Gen. Michelle Johnson...1981 Distinguished graduate, Bachelor of Science degree in operations research, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.
    1983 Rhodes Scholar, Master of Arts degree in politics and economics, Brasenose College, Oxford University, England
    1987 Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
    1991 Air Command and Staff College, by correspondence
    1996 Air War College, by correspondence
    1999 Master of Science degree in national security strategy, National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
    2002 National Security Management Fellow, Syracuse University, N.Y.
    2005 Senior Executive Fellows Program, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
    2007 Fellow, Seminar XXI - Foreign Politics, International Relations and the National Interest, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.
    2011 Joint Flag Officer Warfighting Course, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
    2013 The Harvard Seminar for New Presidents,Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Mass.

    HMMM....Oxford, Harvard (2x) and MIT, but according to the author of the article neither of these 2 do not have the academic gravitasse. I would like to see if he was a Rhodes Scholar and went off to UPT where Math and Science plays a part of reality, in the manner of life and death. when you are flying.

    The author is impo the problem of collegiate academia and society. He supports the "special snowflake" idea.
     
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  10. OREWI

    OREWI New Member

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    I think it is always good to read material that is "negatively" perceived by some readers. It can help you to make your decision about which University or SA or Prep school you choose to attend, as they all differ in their mission and culture. He wrote about his experience and what he valued, so you need to decide if what he valued is what you value. I think the best educated officers are the ones that learn to admit what they don't know and are receptive to opposing views so they can respond to the ever changing world and be a sound decision maker and leader. The AFA can help you achieve that, but so can ROTC or any other institution (and joining after you obtain a degree).
     
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  11. rkv

    rkv Member

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    Apologies if this is a dumb question but what do DF and PP mean? Yes, I've checked the Acronym list.
     
  12. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    The thing about colleges is; it DEPENDS on what it is you are trying to get an education in, and what your goals are. Example: If you wanted to be a veterinarian, it might sound prestigious to have a degree from Harvard, (Don't know if harvard has a path to being a veterinarian), but in the veterinarian world, a degree from Colorado State University is 10X better. If you want to be a geologist or certain type of biologist, the most prestigious schools that will help you with your career, begin with the name: "University of ......". NOT with names like Cornell, Yale, Purdue, etc.

    Another thing that college bound students forget; "Mainly because their parents are giving them advice, and their parents haven't kept up with the times"; in your parents day, a high school diploma was the minimum, and a college degree (Undergraduate) was IMPRESSIVE. Today; the college degree (Undergraduate) is almost the minimum, with graduate school being what's impressive. And because of this, this is where I get so frustrated with so many college kids who talk about being in debt with student loans and such. Except for a very few occupational endeavors, WHERE you get your undergraduate degree doesn't really matter. Especially if you are planning on getting a graduate degree. If you become a lawyer, doctor, or some other occupation where an advanced degree is required, do you think the job you're applying to really cares where you got your "Bachelor's Degree". They don't. They want to know where you went to law school, medical school, where you got your master's or PhD. So why in the hell would you go into debt getting your bachelor's degree when you know you'll need a master's or higher anyway. Go to the Universityofwhereverthehell and save a lot of money.

    But I digress. In the real world, there are a number of "Elite" schools. The main reason they are "Elite", (In the eyes of potential employers), is because of how difficult it is to get into them, their reputation, their selectivity, and their alumni. The military academies fall into this academy. Along with the Ivy's, west coast Ivy's (USC, Stanford, UCLA, Pepperdine), and others. But again, it depends on what it is you want to do with that education. And considering, that there's a good chance that while you're in the military serving, you'll probably go forward and get a graduate degree, the actual "Academy Degree" will be even less. People/employers only care about your highest achievement.

    As for the article saying that the educational level at the air force academy is lacking...... well, all I can say to that individual is....... "Just say NO to drugs". Honestly, I believe the educational level of ALL universities, as well as high schools has gone down some. But that's another topic. Every year at the air force academy, approximately 100 academy graduates go on directly to Grad School. They receive scholarships/fellowships to Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, RAND, and many other "Prestigious" grad schools. And these individuals do quite well receiving master's and doctorate degrees immediately out of the academy. Many of the other academy graduates get their advanced degrees while serving their country, taking night classes and/or online degree programs. And they are doing quite well. If the air force academy's education was "SEVERELY LACKING", I doubt the graduates would be prepared and doing so well in grad school.

    An individual who was an instructor at the air force academy and thinks they therefor are in a position to be able to compare the academy to other universities, is kidding themself. (Yes, I read the article). One of his major criticism's is that military instructors are officers and NOT "Real Professors" and are "Under=educated". Well, he obviously doesn't understand that this IS THE MILITARY. The civilian schools he compares, doesn't run, exercise, physical conditioning, military studies, etc. all day either. Remember...... "Those who CAN...... DO!!!!! ****** Those who CAN'T....... TEACH". I have nothing against teachers/professors. I've taught a college course or two in my life. But the writer is totally dismissing the REAL education that the military teaching staff brings to the academies. I'd much rather have that, than to have an ALL Civilian PhD faculty teaching our cadets. Personally, this is one of the main differences between the academy and ROTC. I'm not dissing ROTC, don't pop a cork. (I'm not going to argue that). Simply saying, that the academy is more of a "Military Environment". Education is a lot deeper than what's in a book.

    Anyway; I was not really impressed with the article, or the individual's position and opinion. It was very short sited. He obviously believes in the "Academia" world. Where everything fits nicely on paper, in a matrix, and can be explained logically. Even his criticism that the academies had "Cadets" not "Students" and that they were military first and students second, showed he doesn't understand. Education is great, but it's not all about books and established faculty and facilities. Some of the MOST EDUCATED people I know, only have a high school diploma. Some of the STUPIDEST people I know, have doctorate and master's degrees.

    The air force academy, as well as the other academies ARE ELITE schools. Mainly, because it DOES operate outside of just the academia world. It isn't just about books, academics, research, etc. It's about real life. It's about making individuals into leaders. It's about understanding and living with TRUE DIVERSITY. Not the crap that is being forced on people in the politically correct world. It's about being the type of individual who works toward a goal that is bigger than themselves. It's about being selfless, not selfish. Everything about the civilian education system, is about the "Individual". The air force academy, and other academies, is about serving others, teamwork, etc.

    And this is why employers and the general public consider the academies, as well as the military in general, as being elite. Because the individual didn't just learn a bunch of "Book Learning". They learned discipline, true multi-tasking, prioritization, teamwork, accomplishing goals, not quitting, etc. Make your opinions and decisions about the air force academy and the other5 academies based on FACTS. Not on the opines of individuals who obviously can't look outside of the box.
     
  13. USAFA83GradWife

    USAFA83GradWife Member

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    From my experience, this can be said about all universities. I can tell you I had some horrible Engineering profs and some I could barely understand. It's not exclusive to SAs.
     
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  14. USAFA83GradWife

    USAFA83GradWife Member

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    DF - Department of Faculty
    PP - Permanent Party (Officers, NCOs, etc.)
     
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  15. USAFA83GradWife

    USAFA83GradWife Member

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    I think there's one thing that everyone is missing about this article -- its an opinion piece.

    This is one man's opinion. And quite frankly, there are so many publications with official sounding names that allow anyone to publish. There's no verification of the information, no follow up, nothing. The sole purpose is to make money.

    So take this article with a grain of salt & do your own research.
     
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  16. murfthesurf

    murfthesurf DS - USNA 2020

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  17. AJC

    AJC Member

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    +1 Murf
    Way to bring this thread back to the real original question.
     
  18. 808DAD

    808DAD Member

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    As I read this article and reflect on the experiences my DS has had in the past 2 year I call [EDITED]. He assumes that academia is more important then real world experience when teaching. A likely thing to say from a person that can not do so he teaches. He complains about how education takes a backseat. This I can assure you is totally false. Then he bashes the superintendent at the time because he did not have a doctorate. Well mister professor I guess it shows paper doesn't prove you can do a job. This guy is what is wrong with America and it took a unknown magazine to publish his story.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2016
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  19. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    This is argument by anecdote in its purest form. The poster's point and the former USAFA Guy's criticisms have merit. The Supe isn't an instructor. Neither is the Comm or the Dean. What matters is the curriculum and the teachers administering it. To that end, they generally lack the credentials of their civilian counterparts at elite national universities. The Academy is about more than academics, but from a pure curriculum standpoint they are not the equal America's best academic institutions. This is borne out by numerous metrics.

    The idea that an instructor has a more meaningful academic background because he/she knows what it's like "when a missile is being shot at you" is a tad absurd. Not only is that not an informative circumstance on mathematical processes (or torque), but I'd bet a dollar you'd have a hell of a time finding more than one USAFA instructor who's been engaged by a missile.

    Fortunately the academies produce excellent leaders, but by and large the lack of graduate level research and high faculty turnover hinders the academic process.
     
  20. Blueblood1

    Blueblood1 Member

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    Intersting article.

    I don't think anyone, including Professor Dyche, can say USAFA and the other SAs are not "elite" institutions. Bottom line, the average stats for appointees rivals or exceeds the most selective schools in the country. The advanced degrees held by the faculty are not necessarily a measure of an elite institution. The absolute worst teacher I ever had possessed two PhDs, and a JD - I could not sit through a single lecture.

    One of the best teachers I ever had -- a retired MC and NSW instructor. No degree at all, but taught me more about public speaking and effective communication in six weeks than I learned in several semesters of speaking/communications/oral argument and debate classes in a top 10 Ivy graduate environment.

    Beyond that, Professor Dyche seems to have a logical flaw in his position. Despite his service, which is respected, the vast majority of his service and civilian career has been as an academician, in institutions that he claims do not accommodate academicians. His disconnect seems to be not clearly understanding the mission or ethos of SAs. SAs are not for every student, nor are they for every instructor. A good officer is an instructor, trainer, mentor, leader. Is the teaching style different at USAFA than say, Swarthmore -- yes, and thank God. My read is that Mr. Dyche simply had the wrong employer and he is better off in a non-SA environment.

    Look at the characteristics of incoming cadets; look at the accomplishments of cadets after graduation. I think you will find them every bit as impressive as any other academic institution out there. As for style and overall objective, there are considerable differences and that is the real question for you. Unlike what Mr. Dyche suggests, SAs are not like your average college, and you want to make sure this is an environment in which you will thrive.

    Your appointment itself is testimony that you should be able to succeed in an SA environment, or in a SA. In either environment, you will have instructors with whom you bond and from whom you learn a great deal. In either environment, you will likely find a couple that do not have the same impact. Your attitude and effort will be the prime determinant of your success in either environment.

    On a side note - and this is not due to a military bias, but from experience -- as an employer of many in several companies, military experience goes to the top of the pile of resumes; SA graduates, to the top of that pile.
     

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