USNA's Fleming in NY Times OpEd

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by 777flier, May 21, 2010.

  1. 777flier

    777flier Member

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  2. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    People (USNA D1 football die-hards and sycophants, usually) are quick to dismiss anything Professor Fleming writes that is critical of the Naval Academy.

    However, most of the disagreement and dismissals of Fleming and his conclusions are not that Fleming is lying. They just don't want to hear the truth about what he is stating.

    I agree with his position toward D1 recruited athletes for the military academies - a change to D3 would end the treadmill of "athlete favoritism" over officer candidate.

    Other than money and arrogance, there is no reason for any of the military academies to play football (the big moneymaker) at the D1 level.
     
  3. js3486

    js3486 Parent

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    You just want to be able to compete for the commanders cup... LOL
     
  4. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    ^^^
    Are you suggesting that the Coast Guard has difficulty competing for the Commanders Cup because they recruit the best overall candidates and not just the best football players?
     
  5. MakeItHappen

    MakeItHappen Member

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    His truth, your truth, my truth, whose truth?

    My concern after reading some of Fleming's writings, is that he makes contradictory statements to establish his position that service academies (particularly USNA) are mediocre. In addition, much of his argument is anecdotal, and can easily be rebutted by others' experiences.

    I also find it disgraceful that he engages in character assassination of the many prep school students and cadets/midshipman that do not meet his conclusion that they are qualified to be at an academy.

    Every decent university has their version of a Fleming.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
  6. MakeItHappen

    MakeItHappen Member

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    Don't kid yourself, "athlete favoritism" is alive and well in D3.:smile:
     
  7. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    "Sycophants" are the only ones who dismiss Fleming? Hmmm- could be- although conversely it could be that those who agree with him primarily have an axe to grind themselves on subjects like Athletics.

    If USNA has lost its way (which I don't believe) - then I believe it started when they (USNA) went to a predominantly civilian faculty rather than a faculty composed mostly of serving military officers (like USMA which places great value on the daily exposure and mentoring of Cadets by military leaders as part of their development). It has since compounded that by an over emphasis on academics as the principal criteria for admissions - (all you have to do is look at this forum and see all those comparisons to the Ivy League admissions stats rather than a primary emphasis on the whole man concept with leadership ability and desire for service as the primary criteria within an acceptable academic range- (ie.. potential as a career military officer rather than as a potential rhodes scholar) (As an aside -note that The Ivy League plays D1 FCS football so competition at a higher level of NCAA sports isn't as incompatible with a high quality academic university as some would like you to believe. ))

    Big problem with Fleming's argument is his basic premise - that the Service Academies should admit primarily on "merit" - which he pretty much defines as Strictly academic performance. I believe that's False and he has neither the data nor the background to argue this. Is extraordinary academic prowess as a teenager a valid predictor of success as a leader? Many of the great leaders of the past would not have been admitted to USNA if the Fleming criteria was in place. Does anyone believe that Bull Halsey or Slew McCain were poets or philosophers in their spare time not to mention stellar students at 18? Certainly none would have gotten >2100 on their SATs if they were applying today. In fact - exactly how much experience does Dr Fleming have in Military leadership positions to even evaluate what criteria makes a successful future military leader? (if you care to look it up - the answer is zero).
    Fleming doesn't like the Prep School either - nor should he from his perspective as it clearly has no place in an academic meritocracy. Apparently good leaders in the enlisted force should stay that way as they surely are not "worthy" since they didn't receive the stellar marks in HS that according to Dr Fleming are the real predictor of success as a future military leader. (Oh- maybe he or his accolytes are talking about just Athletes who shouldn't be in the prep school but would be ok with beefing up the academic preparedness of prior service members? But if it's ok with one population why wouldn't it be ok with another? )

    Fleming is an English professor and is neither a leader nor historian and he is one with a prejudice towards an easily divined point of view -that academics are the sole and most important facet of preparing a future professional officer. Too bad he can not substantiate nor demonstrate the validity of that historically.
    As far as D1 Athletes at the Academies that some on this thread like to bash so routinely - the vast majority of them are just as clearly motivated to be successful in a military career as those who who are not on a corps squad- and they put way more than their time and effort in juggling normal cadet life with the demands of D1 athletics - just like the D3 athletes do at schools that don't spend the money necessary to compete at that level (and which don't then also get the visibility and publicity associated with D1 programs.) Are Athletes any more likely to "5&Dive" than non athletes? Not shown by any data that I have seen or Fleming has shown. Perhaps though Gen Odierno shouldn't be in his position today- after all he doesn't meet the Fleming seal of approval. Gen Marshall's (VMI 1901) statement is much overused ("Give me a West Point Football player") - but that doesn't mean that the sentiment behind it is not true- it was and is true that the qualities needed to succeed as an athlete (loyalty, dedication, hard work, ability to overcome physical and mental adversity, rapid decision making) are key components of success as a military leader- far more than the qualities needed to be a scholar of Chaucer.

    USNA may have lost it's way in some regards as far as their treatment of the honor system and it 's not just Curry- they have condoned a systematic dismantling of the honor system that is shameful in my opinion but it appears that they are also now trying to rectify that with their most recent corrections to the system. (But honor is not what Fleming is after- Curry is a useful current affairs stick to whack USNA with -but he has been attacking the school ever since USNA made a point of announcing its diversity goals). Dr Fleming's approach which IMO is an academic one is utterly without validity. Finally- on top of all that- he tars all of the Service Academies while citing his experience at USNA , with no examples of issues at the other academies (could it be he knows nothing of them??) with his claims that they are failing in their mission. Perhaps he should get himself a job teaching the great books at St John's where undoubtedly they appreciate his focus on pure academic merit somewhat more and where his expertise apparently lies- compared to USNA and more importantly Military officer development and leadership where his expertise clearly does not.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  8. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I'm going to speak sacrilege here...

    After 27 years as an AF officer and a lot of years working with USAFA...a great deal of what Fleming wrote...

    I see at USAFA.

    And while I don't agree with all his conclusions, I do with many.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  9. MakeItHappen

    MakeItHappen Member

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    From Fleming:

    “Not so for an applicant who self-identifies as one of the minorities who are our ‘number one priority.’ For them, another set of rules apply. Their cases are briefed separately to the board, and SAT scores to the mid-500s with quite a few Cs in classes (and no visible athletics or leadership) typically produce a vote of “qualified” for them, with direct admission to Annapolis. They’re in, and are given a pro forma nomination to make it legit.”

    I call BS. I know a couple of young men that fit this description without the Cs, and with athletics . They Did not get into the service academies they desired or offered prep. They're in the Corp. at Texas A&M.

    Fleming paints with too broad a brush, and his reasons are hard to decipher.


    And this from Fleming:
    “It’s a two-track system: whites have to excel to get in, non-whites don’t have to. They just have to be non-white.

    Assuming his statement, every single non-white that has "stellar" academic accomplishments just got thrown under the bus. That's not leadership from this faculty member.:thumbdown:
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2010
  10. parentalunit2

    parentalunit2 Parent

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    Looks like our ol’ buddy Bruce is at it again. Like a toddler who behaves badly just to get attention, he has gotten our attention once again, and here we sit discussing his writings, which is exactly what he wants.

    Luigi, I tend to agree with you - Fleming is not lying. At times perhaps stretching, but not lying. Though much of what he wants and suggests will never happen.

    Once a football program reaches D1, which is based on the number of tickets a program can consistently sell, you almost never see a drop down the ladder in status. The visibility that football brings to the academies is undeniable. The administrations know this and use this to their advantage. The television contracts that the academies hold are worth much more than simply the dollar pay-out to their respective athletic departments. They are recruiting gold, and not just for getting athletes into the officer pipeline either. As much as anyone wishes for athletics to be de-emphasized or scaled back at the academies, this will never happen.

    Fleming also points out that the academies are antiquated. Well, to a certain degree, he’s right. Some have been arguing for the demolition of the academies and training of officers solely through ROTC for years now. As I don’t want to see any of those beautiful, historic buildings actually demolished, I do tend to agree with those who say the academies could become a one-year finishing school of sorts for those who have completed ROTC. As a taxpayer, this dollar savings appeals to me. But I’d have to be a completely delusional taxpayer to think that this would ever happen. Not only do the academies remain, but Congress appropriates ever more money for their development. Have you seen the beautiful new gym and library at West Point? (You should…… you paid for them!)

    Fleming is just raging against the machine, as he always will. I love the suggestion that he teach at St. John’s. His view of athletics could be placed in the proper perspective as well by becoming their croquet coach. Mint julep anyone?
     
  11. Maximus

    Maximus Member

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    I'm confused, you disagree and then agree but, call him an attention wh***?:confused:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 22, 2010
  12. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    I don't have a view of USNA, but his comments are...interesting.

    Some of the problems he cites are present at USAFA. There is a cultural gap between many ICs and non-ICs. I do believe that some off the recruited athletes are lesser candidates, from a military perspective. (That is not to say they don't become great leaders, because I have seen many that ARE great leaders.) I have not seen the type of issue USNA faced with Curry (administratively favoring ICs or not), but I have noticed several teams' cultures tend to dismiss the rules the rest of us are expected to live by (most noticeably uniform standards, room standards, etc).

    His bit about dismantling the academies is off the mark. I've talked to ROTC grads who teach here, and they feel that USAFA is a very neccessary institution. It is about bringing balance to the force. Each commissioning source brings certain strengths to the service. We had this discussion when Thomas Ricks published his article last year...

    I also agree with some posters that an academic focus is not everything. Yes, we certainly need smart officers who can communicate, but that is not all. Fitness, endurance (mental and physical), character, and leadership experience/knowledge are all things that academics can only marginally influence.
     
  13. baxted

    baxted Member

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    Can you hear the ax grinding?

    Having taught many years at a private 4 year D3 engineering institution, I have heard Professor Fleming's comments from like minded faculty. In general, they were the same folks who complained about computers in the classroom, cell phones and flush toilets (okay, the last one isn't quite true). I can't get as riled up about it as I used to.

    Retention is more important in higher education than in the past; and not just for athletes. Many services once "home grown" by the students, like study groups and tutors are now organized and paid for by the schools. The old system of weeding out a large portion of the freshman class is falling out of favor. While the old system ensured a very strong class after the 3rd semester, it did smack of babies and bathwater. That is, we gave up on students that could have succeeded with a little more TLC. Society and economics has a large role to play in this switch.

    Personally, my largest concern is that you now have a wider grade distribution in the higher classes. Under the old system, you only had A and B students so your class grade curve was a thin right skewed distribution centered somewhere in the mid to high 80's. Now the class distributions tend to look like double humped camels, you have that same hump in the mid 80's and a 2nd hump down in the mid to high 60's. Thus, you have students who constantly struggle all 4 years. I'm not sure how much they get out of it but I don't have any data on how these folks do out of school. All my data on how they do in the field is anecdotal so I won't waste your time with it.

    My advice to all the incoming students; you will still have the opportunity to receive an outstanding education. Strive for it and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it; we finally have some for you!
     
  14. DMeix

    DMeix Retired Staff Member

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    After experiencing first-hand what Fleming is talking about, I'd agree with his assessment, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a Mid who isn't upset about the changing standards.

    The best example I can think of is Plebe Summer. During the first brief to detailers, the staff specifically said that "we should not stress them out" but that the summer is meant to be just an introduction to the Academy. Candidates come in expecting to be stressed out and overwhelmed by the demands, but quickly realize the extreme limitations the cadre are put under (btw, apparently 'cadre' is too intimidating of a word for the current generation of HS graduates, so we have 'detailers'). The worst my classmates and I can do is make them do a rack race, then yell at them when they don't meet the time. This is yet another one of those "training devices" that has absolutely no value. The result is exactly as Fleming stated: disillusioned students who are frustrated at the difference between reality and reputation. Personally, I found Plebe Summer to be more annoying than stressful or difficult, but I wanted it to be something I could look back on a be proud of completing. With the Academy's focus of "graduation everyone whatever the cost," I don't think I can. Instead, it's just become another check in the box. USNA being awarded the MUC for 2012 having the lowest attrition rate ever over PS is rock-hard evidence of USNA's "whatever the cost" attitude.

    The standards are probably changing the most in the Hall concerning plebes, and the result is a loss of significance of even the most sacred of traditions this place has. People on the board are upset about Fowler wanting to stop the Herndon climb. Yes, I would be extremely upset if that happened, but this past week I have to question the significance of the event. After Sea Trials, the Dant granted carry-on to the 4/C for the remainder of the year. The plebes are acting like the year is over and they're 3/C. This is normally only earned after Herndon, but since 2013 can slime around the p-way now and do as they please, how much are they really going to value the experience of climbing the monument and ending "plebe year?" At this point, getting rid of Herndon would change very little around here.
     
  15. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    If you believe that an Ivy League school will admit a blue-chip potential star football player with 440/460 SAT (which USNA does, routinely, according to Professor Fleming) you might be interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge. The only reason such a person would be admitted to the USNA is football (or another D1 revenue-generating sport). Don't kid yourself. No "un-recruited" applicant/candidate is getting in with those scores.

    :beer1:
     
  16. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

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    USNA's Fleming

    I agree with Bruno, I am so thankful there are youngmen and women who made a choice to attend SA's, ROTC and OCS. Those who work each and everyday to keep us free from harms way. While no place is perfect. These youngmen and women and are best and brightest in our FREE country. No normal college or university educates or prepares students these like these military programs do. The young people are true leaders. I thank God for him and sleep better at night, knowing there are people in this country who are will to do what they do. Thank you to all of you who wear or have worn the uniform of are great country. I love you all.

    RGK
     
  17. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    Pick one:

    1. SATs have absolutely no bearing on one’s ability to succeed in college.

    2. All the profs are on the ‘take’ and routinely pass those who enter with 440/460 SATs.

    3. Academics at USNA are totally unchallenging and those with 440/460 SATs have no trouble passing.

    4. SATs are a reliable indicator of college success. The profs are doing their jobs. USNA is academically challenging. Those with 440/460 SATs routinely flunk out after their first or second semester. However, admissions fails to realize this and continues to admit them.

    5. Fleming doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    6. Everything I read is correct. My understanding is that bridges are a good investment. I am looking for one in Brooklyn. Does anyone have any leads?

    I cannot think of any other plausible scenarios.
     
  18. mom3boys

    mom3boys Parent

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    I am surprised one is allowed to slam one's employer in a national paper and still have a job...I think I want to work there, too! :biggrin:
     
  19. Chockstock

    Chockstock "Forever One Team"

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    Maybe all the SAs should change the commitment to 10 years active and 6 in the reserves and require all cadets to branch Infantry...would help ensure that only people with the right mind-set to apply :)
     
  20. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    I believe it's called "tenure".
     

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