Results For Alumni
Please Login to see 12 Best Practices Results
- Year in Review - Col Ray Rottman, USAF, Ret. (AMCSUS)
- Crisis 101: Hope is not a Strategy - Jim Hulbert, J.D.
- Internet Threat - BG Don Broome, USA, Ret. (Hargrave)
- Enrollment Reports and Annual Plan - J Michael Turnbull (Culver)
- Content Marketing - Andrew Erickson
- Re-Recruitment Plan - Alison Lescarbeau (Farragut)
- Design for Enrollment - Kate Persons
- Year in Review - Col Ray Rottman, USAF, Ret. (AMCSUS)
- Sizing up the Competition - Dave Taibl
- Turnarounds and Chaos - Col Jim Benson, USMC, Ret. (Riverside)
- JED Campus - Dr. Nance Roy
- NROTC Update - Captain Donald Nisbett
- Year in Review - Col Ray Rottman, USAF, Ret. (AMCSUS)
- Funding Streams - Major General Mack Hobgood, USAF, Ret.
- Instilling Honor - Captain Mark Black, USN, Ret. (FMS)
- Learning Landscape - Brigadier General Doug Murray, USAF, Ret. (NMMI)
Do Not Lose Your Head: The Importance of Healthy Governance in Military Schools - Jack H. Albert, Jr. D.Min.
St John's Northwesten Military Academy
Leading a school is much like learning to dance. Learning to dance without instructions or a teacher would be limiting, because there is no opportunity to practice the role without professional feedback. When one learns to dance, there is typically an instructor, together with practice and rehearsals. In a school community, however, the leader, or head in this case, often finds himself smack in the middle of a crowded dance floor. On the floor, there are students with needs and demands. Nearby there might be parents seeking answers and offering particularly helpful and timely suggestions. Of course, there will always be faculty and alumni. Each group arrives on the floor with its own special needs and desires. As if the floor were not crowded enough, the Board of Trustees and friends of the school show up for good measure.
Yes, the dance floor of a school head can become very crowded; jam-packed to the extent of adding confusion to an already difficult task. This is when a school head would do well to step back and reflect on what is happening to him, or her. It is here that the head might discuss with the Board an opportunity for a sabbatical, or possibly a period of respite at retreat with other heads. It might be as simple as taking time with a coach or mentor to reflect on best ways to deal with school situations. Providing time off the dance floor is also one of the responsibilities of the Board's Executive or Governance Committee and should be part of the discussion in the annual review of the head by one or both of them.
And this is what Heifetz and Linsky refer to as taking a balcony perspective, suggesting that one come off the dance floor and "go to the balcony . . ."
It is from the balcony perspective that I have reflected on what can happen to good leaders who assume the mantle of head of school. From this level I have learned to better appreciate and understand the role of head of school and the demands of service that are placed on leaders. These observations 'from the balcony' have confirmed my conviction that those called to the vocation of head of school are a unique priestly lot.
For years men and women have held leadership positions in independent schools. These ministers of trust have faithfully practiced their craft of developing the skills of boys and girls, thus giving testimony to Erasmus's notion that "the best hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth."
Given the complexities of our time and the nuances of our school cultures, holding true to the testimony of Erasmus's thought is not always easy; more often, it is fraught with stress and disappointment.
This nuance is nowhere better explained than in Leonard Baird's classic work The Elite Schools: A Profile of Prestigious Independent Schools, in which he wrote, "the administrator of an independent school whether in the role of the headmaster or teacher-administrator is in a difficult and complex task. An administrator particularly must satisfy many groups." In his equally significant work, American Non Public Schools: Patterns of Diversity, Otto F. Kraushaar amplifies this thought when he quotes educator and philosopher Robert Hutchins: "he [the headmaster] deals with at least six constituencies: the faculty, the trustees, students, parents, alumni, and the public, each of whom could claim much of his time. And there is the hazard... that he will spend enough time with each of the six to irritate the other five." In other words, headship is not for the faint of heart.
The seed of this article germinates from the stresses and disappointments of independent military school leaders and their relationships with others to include the board chair and members of the board. Governance is thus a serious matter in all our schools. Ineffective governance can often cause a school to literally lose its head.
Heads of independent military schools leave or consider leaving for many reasons. One primary cause is failed or failing relationships between them and their board members or the chairperson of the board. These relationship failures not only fuel the turnover of heads in these schools, but also foster an ethos of dissonant leadership in these schools. This dissonance places school leaders out of sync with members of their staff and faculty, as well as with students and other school families. Further, such dissonance creates disharmony and dysfunction in schools, often breeding distrust between leaders and resulting in the failure of the efforts made for our children.
The behavior known as dissonance can be prevented. It is known that coherent, healthy schools abound when school leaders take a mature and wise approach to the learning found in leadership concepts, such as those in the rubric of emotional intelligence and its competencies. These practiced competencies test and encourage the intentional-change efforts of leaders who hold firm to the belief that leadership is a learned capability. The practice of this learned capability hones the skill-improvement that is critical in the development of resonant leadership.
Most leaders in independent military schools are certainly responding to a call on their lives. They attend to the need(s) of others yet are often not attended to; maybe for years. Such a disconnect emboldens one to suggest that people in this barren place need a set of skills to ply their trade in a more effective and intelligent way. Consequently, this might be called simply leadership learning as a means of addressing some of the more important issues that are fermenting in the cauldron of school governance relationships. Healing these relationships is mission critical for the success and health of a school. Such healing can be accomplished by a wise person (a skilled consultant; a causal agent) who intervenes with a set of skills or competencies employing, for example the concept of emotional intelligence.
This model to heal suffering and dissonance succeeds in large measure by having an established process and procedure enhanced by an appraisal that seeks to refine each level of improvement worked on. Again, the practice of this work is underpinned by the attributes of emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman and its skill competencies, enhanced by a person's intent to change behaviors.
As stated earlier, this process is best executed by one who wisely guides those leaders intent on change through a series of practical experiences which will be fashioned by their own learning styles and beliefs. The leaders should be encouraged to persevere in these experiences, with broad latitude allowed for failing and succeeding alike. This testing in the safe presence of the wise counselor is recommended in order to nurture growth and resonance.
This model informs a process. The process is a journey. It is not a formula or a technique, or another how-to book or seminar (even though the journey may begin as the result of a meeting or seminar, or as the result of reading a book). The wise person leading this effort must be a practitioner of the process in order to best assist those in need. There are many ways in which this process can be delivered to schools and their leaders.
First, school leaders can set up a visit from or to a successful military school leader or other military school or its board to facilitate a discussion on the relationship between members of boards and heads. A series of case studies could be used as a starting point from which to explore mutually beneficial solutions to a school issue or issues under discussion.
A second approach addresses every school's concern with budgets and the costs of professional development. Because recourse to consultants is often an expensive undertaking, a not-for-profit consulting consortium could be offered as one cost-efficient alternative. One way may be to seek reduced service rates from existing consultants or university professors who will often provide work gratis.
One very practical way to introduce this work is for the head of school to create the process as a means of professional development for the faculty and staff of his or her school. After seeking the board's endorsement, the school could make this endeavor a three-year strategic effort with significant work but little expense. This way there would be reporting exposure to the board of trustees, and meaningful work would be provided by the professional staff of the school. Everyone has the potential to benefit. Again, however, this places the person delivering these efforts in a vulnerable position, because we all know creative ideas are usually open to criticism and rejection. This is simply a risk one must take in the arena of leadership.
Finally, this effort is not the only way to insure resonant leadership in our schools, but it is a way, it works, and it is needed.
Learning and Leadership - Brig Gen Doug Murray
New Mexico Military Institute
Section 1 Overview
Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one
not only power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.
In a very significant way, these words by Martin Luther King resonate with the role of academics at a military school. However, this chapter is not simply about academics. Its focus is broader; it is about learning of which academics is a part for inherent in that concept can be found the underlying reason if not foundation for the military school. This chapter therefore is written to be a bellwether in comprehending why we must have military schools and learning must be a part. Learning, after all, has the power to "transform today's promising ideas into tomorrow's powerful outcomes." It does so because it entails knowledge through education of the mind, skills through training of the body, and experience with which to exercise both upon which character and leadership emerge. As such learning is the lynchpin of the essential and fundamental systems upon which every school and learning enterprise is founded and functions. Those systems derive their purpose and direction from the institutions' vision and mission development through a strategic planning organization and process and identified in its Strategic Plan. The systems include:
1) The Learning System that encompasses what is to be learned and the associated pedagogy - in brief the curriculum.
2) The Support System which entails all the structures, organizations, resources and processes to enable the learning to take place. Admissions, food services and facilities are a few examples.
3) The Accountability System centered on the school's vision and mission which includes the organization and process for assessing the level of student learning in terms of learning outcomes and those for evaluating the support programs in terms of goals and objectives centered within the Strategic Plan.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide insights into the learning system and how it is central to answering "the why" of a military school. It is to pose some key questions and suggest the answers. The components of the two other systems are treated elsewhere in this work.
Question 1: What is the relationship of Learning to the Military School? The Essential Elements
In writing about why military schools are critical in the formation of character and leadership, Dr. Kelly C. Jordan quotes Colonel Robert S. Goss, Superintendent of the New Mexico Military School. He quotes:
"Let it be clearly understood that if this is not a military school it is nothing. By this is meant not only the outward forms and visible signs of military government - the drills and parade - its tinsel and glare, but what is of more importance, the indoor government - the inner, private life, manners and habits of the cadet, the close, constant, kindly supervision over the cadet in every respect - checking him here, urging him there - in the privacy of his room , at his meals, in recitation or at drill - on duty - off duty - at work or play - is the spirit and purpose of [a] military school."
Jordan continues by pointing out "this quotation...captures beautifully the subtle, timeless, potent and effective process of formation and development that occurs within military schools... the combination of military structure and educational focus."
President John Kennedy put it this way, "Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other."
As one begins their tenure at a military school, the central and enduring question that they must always ask: Is leadership and learning central to the mission of this school that I now head? If it is, they must know that success is only possible if these two concepts, are effectively and productively related. To relate that to what Colonel Goss said, I would put it this way:
"If we do not inspire in the cadet a passion to lead and learn by inquiring, discovering, and understanding the world within us and around us, we do nothing and our academy, it is nothing."
That is the central challenge to the new President, Chief Academic Officer, Commandant, Headmaster or Principal. Answering the challenge is where they must start.
Question 2: How Do We Get Started?
The military school is first and foremost a learning enterprise dedicated to preparing the graduates for success at the next step of their development. It must provide a solid foundation in learning upon which to design a career, not just to make a living, but more importantly a life. Because the demographics of our student bodies are diverse in age, background, preparation, interest and commitment, it is not about defining for them a specific future, but it is about discerning for them the pathway to that future.
The critical task for the leader for this to occur requires the designing, development and implementation of the curriculum, the mortar that holds every academic institution together. It entails both content and methodology. The origins and sustainability of the curriculum are found within the school's mission statement which for the military school is leadership. It is that emphasis on leadership that distinguishes the military school from the many other educational institutions at all levels in the United States. That curriculum must be built on two foundational and enduring principles of learning. 1) a liberal education, and 2) through the development of the whole person - mind, body, and soul/character.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) defines Liberal Education as "an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. This approach emphasizes broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture and society) as well as in depth achievement in a specific field of interest." The Association points out "reflecting the traditions of American higher education since the founding, the term 'liberal education' headlines the kinds of learning needed for a free society and for the full development of human talent, liberal education has always been this nation's signature educational tradition...(building) on its core values: expanding horizons, building understanding of the wider world, honing analytical and communication skills and fostering responsibilities beyond self."
While the focus of these statements deals with colleges and universities, the guidelines and promise of a liberal education that integrates liberal arts (music, language, psychology, the arts, etc.) with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are applicable to primary, secondary and post-secondary levels of learning.
Recognizing the centrality of leadership, the second organizing principle that encompasses the curriculum content of a military school is rooted in the "whole person" concept - development of the mind, body, and soul or character. The tenets of such curriculum are not new; in fact, they date back to the ancient Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta. To develop the "whole person," the military learning model integrates two worlds which many think of as the antithesis of one another - the military and the intellectual or academic. John Lovell explores these two worlds and their relationship in his book, Neither Athens Nor Sparta?. The city-state of Athens valued learning, education, inquiry, the development of the mind, the arts; its citizens were to be learned. Athenian democracy required it. The city-state of Sparta, on the other hand, valued the martial arts, discipline, courage, character, honor, the development of the body; its citizens were to be warriors. The learning model of a military school integrates the values of Athens and Sparta into a single curriculum translated into a hierarchy of learning outcomes. The learning outcomes link those aspects of the curriculum that are the responsibility of the Dean (mind), the Athletic Director (body), and the Commandant (leadership/character).
Question 3: How can You Sustain the Effort? Benchmarking Attributes
There are certain attributes, I would say benchmarks that must be constantly assessed and evaluated if success is to be sustained. When these are not met, the entire institution will suffer. These include:
A curriculum that is relevant real world oriented focusing on the fundamentals and one that advances learning in core disciplines in the liberal arts and STEM inculcated with a value system upon which character and leadership can be founded.
A pedagogy that recognizes that all students do not learn the same subjects, the same way in the same time frame and effectively blends personal one on one contact between the teacher and the student with state of the art educational technology
A highly qualified faculty that can address the needs of all students regardless of achievement level or socioeconomic position
A learning environment that is safe, secure, healthy and drug free
Necessary resources and facilities sufficiently maintained and upgraded
Partnerships with all sectors of the community and the school's parents, alumni and other shareholders
Continuous review of the interface and integration of the learning, support and accountability systems - their organizations and processes
An established cooperative, coordinated, consensus oriented, and mission driven decision environment especially between the Dean and the Commandant
In the benchmarking of these attributes, the leader must be attentive to the shortcomings present in much of America's education today. These include: lack of creativity, innovations, self-discipline, and organization; in ability to work as a team; shortfalls in communication competencies, analytical reasoning, the soft skills, and the importance of civic service; and above all the lack of emphasis on integrity and values. It is these shortcomings that must not exist at a military school, and the academic leadership must be responsible to guarantee that.
Question 4: What is the Future:
I always liked Yogi Berra's answer to this question when he opined the future ain't what it used to be. These words offer us a caution. Education in America for the past twenty years has been undergoing a significant and long lasting transformation. It is nothing less than the development of a new paradigm of learning that impacts every aspect of a school's organizations and processes. It has been precipitated by what some have termed the crisis in education and resulted in the development of a series of alternatives to how our youth are educated. The growth and diversity of charter schools, expansion of home schooling, and online schools are a few examples. It is not within the scope of this chapter to discuss these. However, it is important that the new academic leader understand the parameters of this new paradigm for the tenets may challenge some of the major structured aspects of the military school.
I like to think of this transformation in learning occurring in two phases. A "First Phase" to design a new paradigm for learning is not new. It actually dates to before the beginning of this century with an emphasis on the learner rather than the instructor and on learning assessment through the development and identification of learning outcomes. Some would argue this transformation began with a small Catholic nursing school in Milwaukee. Realizing it was no longer meeting the needs of the medical institutions in Milwaukee, and facing declining enrollment, Alverno College took a drastic step by developing an approach to learning focused on an ability-based curriculum and what it termed an "assessment-as-learning approach to education". The centerpiece of the approach requires students to master eight core abilities that include communication analysis, problem-solving, valuing in decision-making, social interaction, developing a global perspective, effective citizenship, and aesthetic engagement.
Nationally, the major catalyst of this first phase was the Association of American Colleges and Universities, AACU, which in 2005 launched a decade-long initiative titled, "Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP)". In 2007 the publication, College Learning for the New Global Century (LEAP) appeared. The publication sets down the essential learning outcomes and guiding principles for America to compete globally. According to the AACU "The essential learning outcomes provide a new framework to guide students' cumulative progress from school through college". In 2008, they became formalized in the publication by the AACU of the Strategic Plan 2008-2012. The five goals that underlie all aspects of the effort include:
A guiding vision for liberal education that rejects a view that liberal education is more than students in the arts and science disciplines and that it is non-vocational
Intentional and integrative learning
Civic diversity and global engagement
Authentic evidence through advance assessment practices
The resulting essential learning outcomes to be realized by the application of knowledge, skills and responsibilities included:
Knowledge of human culture and the physical and natural world
Intellectual and practical skills
Personal and social responsibility
However, it is what I categorize as the "Second Phase" of the effort to transform learning that is new and that offers the greatest challenge in the years ahead to a military school. In part, this phase is a result of technology, which in a number of ways makes it possible. However, it is more than hardware, software, and the latest fad in educational technology. It is an overall and comprehensive approach, perspective, framework or paradigm of learning that challenges the way earlier generations learned. The new paradigm replaces the traditional pedagogy with concepts like "classroom without walls", "project-based learning", and "learning anytime, anyplace, 24/7". It argues that the school as it has been known will no longer be the "self-contained center of learning". Sir Ken Robinson, author and educator wrote,
"The current systems of education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution, and it shows itself in two ways. One is in the organizational culture of education, which for the most part is very regimented. It's organized a bit like an assembly line. Children are divided into age groups, for example, as if the most important thing they have in common is their date of manufacture. Why? We don't do that in families or in the general community. It's done in schools for reasons of organizational efficiency, not for effective education. We divide each day up into 40-minute periods, for the same reason. And then the day is divided in to separate subjects. We have standardized testing at the end of it. It's very much like an industrial process, and it's not an accident, because our systems of mass education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the new industrial economies and they were designed for efficiency, like other systems of mass production."
A recent analysis in The Economist summarized this new future "Now at least a resolution is underway. At its heart is the idea of moving from a 'one-size-fits-all' education to a more personalized approach with technology allowing each child to be taught at a different speed, in some cases by adoptive computer programs, in others by 'superstar' lecturers of one sort or another, while the job of classroom teachers moves form orator to coach..."
The challenge this approach poses to military schools across this nation is better understood by listing a series of contrasts between the old paradigm and the new.
Each of the new paradigm traits may challenge the traditional structure of a military school with its learning environment bounded by a highly regulated top-down, directed and mandated plan of the day. But, it would be incorrect to conclude that the two forms of learning are mutually exclusive or that the new paradigm should be completely rejected.
Rather, the vision, initiative, ingenuity and commitment of this generation of military school leaders will ultimately determine how the two paradigms can be effectively integrated into the military school curriculum (content and methodology). In accomplishing that not so easy task, they might well provide the model for all of education and learning. What a future that might be!
Question5: What Are Some Best Practices?
Having briefly looked at the future, we now return to the present to identify ten best practices among the many that, if implemented, might help us realize that future.
Insure the leadership uses contextual intelligence obtained by numerous interfaces with all constituents, parents, alumni, and local community.
Develop linkages with academic institutions and associations both nationally and internationally. This would include public and private schools at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels and organizations such as AMCSUS and AACU.
Faculty should engage with the accrediting organizations, and the President/Superintendent and senior leadership must become familiar with the accreditation process.
Define roles for faculty and staff in shared governance.
Promote practices, committees, projects that force the interaction of the Commandant and Dean and their staffs focusing on the institutional learning outcomes and mission.
The Senior leadership, not just the Chief Academic Officer or Dean should attend academic conferences.
Support faculty professional development initiatives.
Promote new pedagogies especially all aspects of education technology.
Keep current with critical educational issues at the local, state, and national levels and how they impact your school.
Understand the academic learning factors that impact access, persistence and completion.
Conclusion - Leadership and Learning
This chapter asked five fundamental questions whose answers identified the essential elements of academics at a military school. However, in the overview, it was pointed out that the focus of the chapter was more comprehensive and inclusive than just looking at academics. The subject of the inquiry and the results encapsulating all five questions and thus the essential elements can be characterized this way.
The role of the military school is to meet the learning needs of our cadets with an exceptional learning model founded on the tenets of a liberal education that helps shape the whole person, ensuring that each graduate is prepared to succeed at their next level of learning and inevitably become a leader serving others in whatever sector of society they enter. Our role, then, is one of example, yet also it is to reach out and share that others might adopt best practices from what we do. In that effort, our graduates are often our best ambassadors. Contextual intelligence alerts us that this role is more important than ever in light of the challenges this nation and our graduates will face in the near and long term in a global society and economy. This role is our heritage! It must be our destiny!
Marketing - Brig Gen David Wesley
The best schools, military or otherwise, effectively market their unique characteristics in a clear and concise way that enables prospective students and their families to rapidly assess and react to those characteristics, so that they can visit the campus or ask for further information, if the school is a good fit for that individual student.
Is your marketing plan effective?
There are many ways to assess your marketing plan and, as we'll see later in this chapter, an outside perspective can be helpful in making that assessment. Internal methods include qualitative and quantitative comparisons of the current student body with: 1) historical norms for the school, 2) Board-stated goals for enrollment, and 3) physical plant/staffing limitations. It does little good to pursue an enrollment level your campus and staff cannot adequately educate and care for. What will you do if the students actually show up? What if the now larger student body is made up of students who are a poor fit for your mission?
Resolve in the first instance to obtain genuine agreement between the Board and the head of school on the appropriate goal for your marketing efforts and then move out to define that plan in terms all can understand and execute.
What makes a strong marketing plan?
A strong plan is a comprehensive set of techniques designed to use available channels (Internet (including, but not limited to: social media outlets, blogs, and other venues that specifically appeal to today's student audience), print media, word of mouth, radio, television, and other outlets) to make the public aware of what your school offers. The most effective plans develop detailed intelligence about the locations where prospective families might be found and what the demographics of those families are. This enables targeted advertising of the school's characteristics to those who, based on a number of demographic facts, are likely to be favorably disposed to utilize that information to learn more the school and, ultimately, to enroll students there.
Like so many other areas of military school administration, marketing should be the primary responsibility of a single senior staff member with the authority to plan and execute and effective marketing campaign that is consistent with the school's mission and its heritage. Reporting directly to the head of the school, this senior staff member must be resourced with sufficient staff and budget to reach, influence, process, and admit the right number and quality of students. Determining this level of staffing and funding is not an easy task and industry standards are of little help, given the myriad circumstances that combine to make each school unique.
When funds are available, the head of school should hire an outside consultant to evaluate the marketing effort and provide fact-based recommendations on the staffing and budgetary requirements to attain the school's stated enrollment goals. There are a host of firms and more than a few individuals who offer this service and their prices can vary widely, as can the ways in which they conduct their data gathering and analysis.
Who are we?
Central to this marketing effort must be a dedicated effort to clearly state the school's identity. Yes, you're a military school...but why? Yes, you're a college prep school...so what? These things are givens on some level, but what do they say about your institution and what it will deliver to families about to part with hard-earned dollars in an effort to prepare their children for a bright future?
Devote a block of time to an internal staff discussion to refine who you are as an educational institution and why you provide a unique value to your students. This isn't a "pie in the sky" aspirational discussion - who you are determines, for good or ill, what benefits you can reasonably expect to provide to your students. Those benefits are what parents truly seek when they opt to pay for a private school education.
Compare your internally-perceived image with your public documents (your Bylaws, your Strategic Plan, those glossy magazines mailed out to alumni/ae, your local town's impression of the school, and more). When you are confident you have the genuine character and values of your school in mind, discuss these things with your Board to ensure they see things in the same way and normalize any disconnects. With these things in hand, you can begin to craft (or re-craft) marketing efforts that let the public know, "If THIS is what you're looking for, WE are your school!"
Accrediting bodies, consultants, fellow heads of schools, and others can help you think through next steps as you align your now-current vision of the school with the vehicles you've established to convey that image to those who might soon select you to educate their children.
Where are the other resources?
Beyond the excellent background and research AMCSUS provides, you can glean a remarkable amount of marketing intel and guidance from the National Association of Independent School's (NAIS) online databases and the materials provided by The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS). Of particular utility are the demographics you can obtain through the use of the NAIS database found at http://dasl.nais.org/.
Membership (and access to these materials) is not inexpensive, but provides a wealth of insight into all aspects of administering and marketing an effective private school, as well as superb treatment of important topics like governance, safety, discipline, health guidelines, employment law, management of physical assets, among others.
A Brief History of the Military School in America - Kelly C. Jordan and John A. Coulter
Military schools have a long and successful history in America, viewed by many as a particularly effective educational approach. Since 1802, almost 850 different military schools have operated in the United States, far more than anywhere else in the world. These schools have educated male and female students from the elementary through the collegiate level, receiving funding from both public and private sources.
The marriage of military structure with education began in Europe in the 18th century, when military schools were established to provide technical training and instruction. Proving themselves to be not only essential but popular, these schools quickly gained a reputation for providing students with both effective education and the means to advance their social status. After experiencing their heyday in the 19th century, military schools experienced a steady decline until they virtually disappeared from Europe by the end of the 20th century.
The American military school shared little with the European military school in terms of purpose, developing for very different reasons. American military schools reflected the countryâ€™s belief in the power of education to better oneâ€™s self by deliberate efforts to form the intellect and develop the character in disciplined and academically rigorous environments. Rather than increasing oneâ€™s social status, the goal of an American military education is to produce informed individuals capable of being transformed into effective citizens of a democratic republic.
Military schools began appearing in America after the Revolutionary War, initially to help produce "proper military officers" of honor, ability, and intellect for the nation. This purpose highlights both the social and educational advantages associated with the early American concept of military education. The country's first military school was established in 1802 as a result of the determined efforts of many of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York was not only the nationâ€™s first military school, but it was also the nationâ€™s only engineering school until 1821, and it became the model for military school education in the United States. During its first one hundred years of its existence, West Point sought to discover the optimal balance of providing a comprehensive and sound technical education, along with relevant military training and effective character development.
Army officer Sylvanus Thayer was a distinguished scholar and soldier who, as the â€œFather of West Point,â€ succeeded in blending a demanding academic environment with disciplined military training and appropriate moral development into what became a distinctive American military educational model. Thayer believed in placing the responsibility for learning on the cadets themselves by requiring them to study the assigned material prior to attending class and then reinforcing the learning in class through a combination of group learning activities and active learning exercises under the watchful eyes of their professors. Compared to the rote memorization methods common to most other educational institutions, Thayerâ€™s approach represented perhaps the most innovative method of instruction in the country. Thayer also used daily grades to hold cadets accountable for their academic performance and a system of merits and demerits to hold them accountable for their conduct. Placed under such intense scrutiny while also receiving consistent and detailed feedback proved to be a quite effective educational approach. In the process, Thayer defined the model for American military education that is still valid and cherished by the nation today.
As the nation began to grow, so did its number of military schools. Between 1819 and 1866 the number of military schools in the United States increased to over 170 schools. Only two â€“ West Point and the Naval Academy â€“ were focused on producing active military officers.
The founding of the Virginia Military Institute in 1839 introduced an educational philosophy that shifted the collegiate military schoolâ€™s emphasis away from a narrow focus on training military officers for service and expanded the scope of the military school education beyond a technical and engineering orientation to include the liberal arts. At about the same time, the Kentucky Military Institute expanded the concept to secondary education, demonstrating its viability for preparatory schools. Like its VMI counterpart, KMIâ€™s curriculum focused on the natural sciences and incorporated the liberal arts into the eraâ€™s standard high school curriculum, combining the best of the West Point model with other educational innovations to produce a system for pre-collegiate schools that was influential, effective, and enduring. The success of these early military schools paved the way for the dramatic expansion of American military schools in the 19th century.
While serving as a brutal test of the effectiveness of the American military education model, the Civil War also checked the expansion of military schools in America. Military schools provided almost 20,000 alumni in the conflict (more than 13,700 for the South and around 4,800 for the North), including well over 400 general officers, along with thousands more at the levels from colonel down to sergeant. These contributions on the battlefield by military-school trained leaders came at a high cost to the institutions that produced them. The establishment of new schools ceased during the war, and military schools across the country closed as faculty members and cadets flocked to the colors of their respective nations. Cadets at the surviving schools served as drill masters, and several Southern military college cadet corps fought in combat.
After the Civil War, approximately one hundred military schools re-opened, bringing the total number to around 150 of mostly secondary education institutions. Enjoying renewed popularity, military schools reached their peak of 280 active schools during the post-Civil War period. The positive contribution to the Civil War of many military school cadets and graduates, the overall favorable view of the military within the country, and the adoption of the military school format by various Christian denominations and maritime organizations combined to help bring about this growth.
Viewed during this period as bastions of â€œgreat moral agency for goodâ€ that produce "better sons, better neighbors, [and] better citizens," military schools expanded their curricula further to include technical training in business. Incorporating many of the Progressive Eraâ€™s most alluring features, leaders of schools associated with the newly formed Association of Military Colleges and Schools in the United States (AMCSUS, founded in 1914) became very influential and respected educators in the early 20th century.
The decline of military schools began during the Great Depression. In response, military schools began reforming themselves, focusing more on college preparation at the expense of military training but bringing about an improvement in the courses and teaching. Though military schools were fewer in number, overall cadet enrollment peaked just prior to WW II as a result of these reforms.
The armed forces of the United States in World War II benefited greatly from the military school alumni, who were themselves much better educated and trained as a result of the depression-era changes. Just under 100,000 former military school cadets and midshipmen served, with the majority as officers. The strong emphasis on character development, most visible in the adoption of formal Honor Codes during the interwar period, proved to be of particular value as military school trained officers faced the varied and uncertain challenges of leading Americaâ€™s largest military in its most encompassing conflict against intractable foes determined to supplant Americaâ€™s way of life with their own ideologically motivated alternatives.
The ensuing post-war America was another flourishing period for military schools, lasting until the political unrest of the late-1960s and the coming of the Vietnam War. Between 1966 and 1978, over 70 military schools closed or transitioned from the military format. A small portion of military schools responded to this challenge by becoming reform schools for wayward boys. This short-term trend was particularly devastating to military schools in the long-term, tarnishing all and destroying public confidence in the military educational model. As a result of this decline and changing demographics, over 200 American military schools closed, bringing the total number of military schools in the country to an all-time low of 75 by the end of the 20th century.
Reaching its lowest point, several events occurred that helped revive the military education model in the 21st century. A new generation of parents began to question seriously the efficacy of public education. By 2004, an overwhelming majority of teachers and parents felt strongly that discipline was a key ingredient of success missing from public school classrooms. With parents and teachers seeking to restore more structure in the classroom, administrators turned to the military education model as a possible solution and found success. Public military schools using the military education model are an important part of the current growth of military schools in the country. The overall effect of this resurgence has been both positive and nation-wide in scope. As of 2016, there are around 100 military schools operating in the country, located in 27 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico.
Experiencing both the heights of popularity and respect, and the depths of discredit and distrust, the American military school continues to evolve and thrive in its quest to remain a relevant and viable choice within the cornucopia of American educational offerings. Characterized by alternating periods of stable continuity and dramatic change, this successful American educational format enjoys an increasing level of support and remains an effective educational approach for the 21st century and beyond.