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Curricula Rivalries By: Michael Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 06, 2006

One of the most egregious manifestations of academic arrogance has been the effort to ban the military from campus – specifically military recruiters and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

So many colleges and universities participated in this action that, in 1994, a law was finally passed by the Congress mandating that if a university wants to continue to receive federal funds then they have to permit the military to recruit. This law was challenged in court by several law schools.

The "Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR)," a group of law schools and professors, sued the Secretary of Defense to invalidate the law that requires schools receiving federal funding to give access to military recruiters. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against FAIR, stating the military has every right to be on campus.

Arthur T. Coumbe and Lee S. Harford of the Office of the Command Historian, U.S. Army Cadet Command, said George Clinton proposed that military training be incorporated into the curriculum of American civilian colleges in 1783. However, his proposal was not enacted. The University of Georgia created such a military training program in 1807, although completing the course did not lead to a commission. In 1819, Norwich University in Vermont was the first civilian institution to create a commissioning program and is the father of ROTC programs.

The purpose of Norwich’s program, founded by former West Point Superintendent Alden Partridge, was to provide that "‘(military officers) would be identified in views, in feelings, and in interest, with the great body of the  community,' and a college that would reconcile the efficiency and discipline demanded by a regular Army with the republican values and popular sentiments inherent in the militia system.”[1]

Government sponsorship of military training at civilian colleges began with the Morrill Act of 1862. This required that colleges offer military science as part of the curriculum.

Later, just prior to World War I, the Army established summer programs to furnish military training to high school and college students. The students paid their own way. These summer programs served as the model for the present ROTC summer training.

The National Defense Act of 1916 included the establishment of a Reserve Officer Training Corps. During this period, many eastern colleges were concerned that the western and southern land grant universities would monopolize the system so they actively sought ROTC programs. How times have changed.

During the past one hundred years, institutions of higher learning changed from places where patriotism and military service were promoted as honorable obligations to places where military recruitment and ROTC programs are banned. This disdain towards the military by the academy can trace its origins not to the Vietnam War era as conventional wisdom claims, but rather to the ‘Red Decade” of the 1930’s.

One of the best examples of this is the City College of New York (CCNY). CCNY was a university with a large communist contingent among the students and faculty. During the 1930’s communists like to portray themselves as advocating peace and social justice. They staged antiwar rallies and took the “Oxford Pledge,” an oath refusing to participate in foreign wars, and they staged student strikes against war. This antimilitary era was depicted in the 1973 movie ‘The Way They Were.” The campus activist, played by Barbra Streisand, urged the students to recite the Oxford Pledge during a Student Strike.

The antimilitary/ROTC campaign was in third gear at CCNY. By 1931 a campus newsletter published an article questioning the legitimacy of the ROTC. Some students who considered themselves “enlightened” staged a  “Jingo Day” march on Memorial Day 1933 to protest the ROTC on campus. Unlike many of the students and faculty of CCNY, the college’s president, Frederick Robinson, favored ROTC and patriotism. However, by 1938, Robinson resigned from CCNY after being persecuted by students and faculty.

The motivations for this resentment are many, although they are usually cloaked in pacifism or social justice. But perhaps it's really a matter of the "elite" not liking those who are more culturally or emotionally suited to military life. Just as many academics resent football players, they hate military people as well. Some of it is jealousy. Some of it is intellectual snobbery. Some of it is insecurity, for these military graduates are not simply one-dimensional scholars.

After all, unlike their Humanities counterparts, graduates of military institutions and programs are trained not only in the scholarly fields of art, philosophy, logic, sociology, history and literature; they are educated in the practical arts as well, such as science and engineering. Military graduates also have a considerable dose of physical training – and of course military training.

For some intelligentsia, however, their resentment of the military may be an expression of the hatred of the established government that they feel they should control. Because the military is one of the most visible of government institutions, it is resented by those who want political power. This is very similar to the resentment against police. The military – like the police – are the most prominent manifestation of our government and therefore our society, so it makes sense they would dislike the military and not want its influence on campus. Whatever the motivation, liberal academics want to purge the college campus of military influence and will use any excuse to do so.

The American public must remember that the ROTC has produced some of the finest officers in the military. One, General Russell Honore, recently gained notoriety for his command of Task Force Katrina – and demonstrated that he was one of the few people who was able to effectively conduct relief operations of those affected by Hurricane Katrina. He graduated from Southern University’s ROTC program. Assisting the flood victims of Hurricane Katrina was something a lot of people with degrees in the Humanities and Social Sciences were unable to do.


[1] Ret fm w/s http://academic.udayton.edu/rotc/hist-rotc.htm 3-31-06.

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Michael P. Tremoglie is the author of the new novel A Sense of Duty, and an ex-Philadelphia cop. E-mail him at elfegobaca@comcast.net.

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