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RIP, Major Dick Winters

Farewell to an American hero:

Dick Winters, the former World War II commander whose war story was told in the book and miniseries “Band of Brothers,” has died.

Dick Winters led a quiet life on his Fredericksburg farm and in his Hershey home until the book and miniseries “Band of Brothers” threw him into the international spotlight.

Since then, the former World War II commander of Easy Company had received hundreds of requests for interviews and appearances all over the world.


Winters was always gracious about his new-found celebrity, but never really comfortable with it. He never claimed to be a hero and said that he had nothing to do with the national effort to get him the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.

When people asked him if he was a hero, he liked to answer the way his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney, did.

“No,” Ranney said. “But I served in a company of heroes.”

Image from the U.S. Army.


Do ask, do tell

It’s disappointing that Princeton University remains unwilling to consider ROTC courses for academic credit, particularly after student calls for the university to reevaluate its relationship to ROTC pending the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Of course, Princeton’s faculty has its reasons for wanting to avoid a debate on the merits of ROTC courses. For starters, even university professors must recognize they will look more than a bit foolish while explaining how exactly such subjects as the oeuvre of The Boss (see SOC 205: Sociology From E Street: Bruce Springsteen’s America) are more academically rigorous and deserving of study than military history and ethics.

Second, such a debate would expose certain inconsistencies of policy. As I and my co-author Gary Schmitt noted in a recent editorial for The Weekly Standard, university faculty cannot object to ROTC as mere vocational training while providing credit for such pre-professional and vocational courses as teacher training. If learning how to manage a classroom is intellectually challenging enough to be worthy of credit at Princeton, why isn’t learning to manage a platoon?

Princeton deserves praise for allowing ROTC on campus while other elite schools barred the program. However, its admirable support for ROTC in the past does not mean that advocates should not press for more.

More importantly, more is at stake in the current debate than the accreditation of a few advanced-level ROTC courses at Princeton. The need to “protect” academic standards has emerged as the latest excuse for those who want to continue to ban or marginalize ROTC programs, but they are savvy enough to recognize that the strident anti-Americanism of ROTC opponents like Colman McCarthy, theTaliban’s not-so-secret admirer, hurts their cause.

As schools like Columbia, Stanford, and Yale open debate on renewing their ROTC programs, advocates should be prepared to defend the place of ROTC at the university. Moreover, they should demand that opponents who contest ROTC on academic grounds spell out their objections and either dispel (or confirm) the suspicion that what they really mean when they claim ROTC “violates” academic standards is that (in McCarthy’s words) ROTC “taint[s] the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace”—they just don’t want to have to come out and say it.

Image by Quantockgoblin.

Cross-posted at the Weekly Standard.


Around the web (catching up edition)


ROTC round-up

Photo by Eastern Washington University.


DADT repeal’s implications for ROTC

With this weekend’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” elite colleges now have a chance to make good on their promises and bring ROTC back to campus. Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust has already made a strong statement in support of ROTC’s return, while both Columbia and Stanford have formed task forces to review their policies. Likewise, student representatives at Yale plan to meet next year with administrators to discuss an on-campus ROTC program. No word yet from Brown, Tufts, or the University of Chicago.

These are good first steps, but advocates for ROTC should not fool themselves into believing the fight is over. Instead, they should prepare for the numerous administrative and academic challenges to reintroducing a robust and successful ROTC program on campus. Fortunately, Michael Segal at Secure Nation has some great suggestions as to how universities and the military can work together to enhance the ROTC curriculum, providing high-quality courses worthy of academic credit. Advocates should also work for closer ties at  those universities that currently host ROTC units, but hold them at arm’s length: Princeton, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania. Much more can (and should) be done to integrate ROTC into mainstream campus life than merely hosting a program.

Finally, even with the return of ROTC to elite schools, there remains the larger issue of the geographic dispersion of ROTC units. The revival of Columbia’s Naval ROTC program would be a huge boon for students in New York City, the majority of which are prohibited from participating in the city’s only NROTC program. But what of the students in New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island who also lack the opportunity to participate in NROTC? The return of ROTC to top-tier schools will help to redress the current geographic and social imbalance, but it alone cannot solve the growing civil-military divide.

Image by CS Muncy.


Around the web


Creating military-friendly schools

Are commercial colleges taking advantage of veterans? The New York Times has a hard-hitting story today about the surge of military students at profit-making colleges:

Now, a year after payouts on the so-called Post-9/11 G.I. Bill started, the huge program has turned into a bonanza of another kind for the many commercial colleges in the United States that have seen their military revenues surge.

More than 36 percent of the tuition payments made in the first year of the program — a total of $640 million in tuition and fees — went to for-profit colleges, like the University of Phoenix, according to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, even though these colleges serve only about 9 percent of the overall population at higher education institutions nationwide.

As the money flows to the for-profit university industry, questions are being raised in Congress and elsewhere about their recruitment practices, and whether they really deliver on their education promises. Some members say they want to place tighter limits on how much these colleges can collect in military benefits, a move certain federal officials say they would welcome.

The government should certainly create safeguards to protect veterans from being cheated, such as requiring schools to maintain certain graduation rates to be eligible for funds. However, there’s also a huge opportunity for non-profit colleges to make their campuses more military-friendly. As the Times notes, many service members choose for-profit colleges because they offer greater flexibility (a must for today’s frequent deployments), an emphasis on adult learners, and myriad incentives, including admission fee waivers and tuition discounts.

Non-profit schools are catching up, and some are even leading the pack. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot for schools to do to enable veterans to get the best education possible. Fortunately, programs like the American Council on Education and Students Veterans of America have lots of great ideas for how schools can improve.


Senator Jon Kyl on our teacher survey

Senator Jon Kyl discusses our teacher survey in his recent column on the importance of civic education:

[C]ivics education is an essential ingredient for liberty and good citizenship and that knowledge of our country must be renewed each generation.

But for years, studies have shown that we aren’t engaged in that renewal. Comedian Jay Leno famously tapped the rich vein of civics ignorance in his candid man-on-the-street interview routines, “Jay-walking.” Time and again, he found that while many people have trouble identifying a picture of George Washington or describing the meaning of Independence Day, for example, everyone is familiar with Joe Camel or Mr. Peanut.

A new survey of social studies teachers, conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, backs up that anecdotal evidence with hard data.

Read the whole thing.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Raising the flag on ROTC at Columbia

The Columbia Spectator has devoted a full spread to the issue of ROTC on campus. The pieces are all terrific, particularly this spirited essay from Barnard’s first ROTC cadet:

At my class graduation (I walked this past spring), Meryl Streep spoke about the public’s appreciation for today’s aggressive female leaders. Barnard College is an educational institution that prides itself on developing female leaders. As the first student cadet from Barnard to complete the Army ROTC program, I will soon be the first officer of the U.S. Army from Barnard College. Americans recognize the importance of military service to protect the freedom of our country. The value of ROTC leadership training is resulting in unprecedented increases in program participation all across the country. I’m proud to have taken the first step at Barnard and believe others will surely follow.

But what particularly caught my eye was this news article about the myriad difficulties cadets have participating in ROTC–such as getting into dorms early for their orientation or receiving Physical Education credit. Columbia administrators say they’re willing to make these accommodations for ROTC students.

As Michael Segal notes in the comments, there’s a straightforward solution here: Columbia might appoint a coordinator to help ROTC cadets navigate all the bureaucracy. Yale, for example, employs an adviser for ROTC cadets, Jerry Hill, who helps organize events, publicize scholarship opportunities, and helps students with logistics such as transportation to their training sites.

P.S. The Harvard Crimson editorializes in favor of ROTC.

Image from Army Cadet Command.


Around the web


Around the web, ROTC edition


At Sea–NROTC in the Northeast

An interesting item for today’s POLITICO Morning Defense:

SHIP JOINS FLEET, FUTURE CAPTAIN DRINKS A JUICE BOX – Roughead will be on hand in Wilmington, N.C., Saturday for the commissioning of the destroyer USS Gravely, which he cited in an appearance this week as a great value for taxpayers. The ship will be around so long, Roughead said, that its final commanding officer is now seven years old. The ship is named for Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr., who was the Navy’s first black NROTC officer. His window, Alma, is the sponsor. [Emphasis mine.]

I note this because Vice Adm. Gravely did his naval training at the University of California in Los Angeles, Pre-Midshipman School in New Jersey, and Midshipmen School at Columbia University. In fact, he was the first African-American to graduate from Columbia’s midshipman’s school (which was formally established as an NROTC unit in 1946).

Today, the only school listed above at which you can do Navy training is UCLA. At Columbia, NROTC was terminated in 1969, and enrollment in the nearest NROTC program is strictly limited to students attending SUNY-Maritime Academy, Fordham University, or Molloy College. Students from Columbia, NYU, or the diverse CUNY system need not apply. New Jersey (along with Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire) does not have a single NROTC program.

Image from the U.S. Navy.


A (long) response to Thomas Sander on our teacher survey

Thomas Sander at the Social Capital Blog has an interesting take on our recent survey, High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship. I don’t want to speak for our researchers at the FDR Group or the other contributors to the report, but I would like to make a few comments in response.

First, he writes that:

The researchers at the conservative American Enterprise Institute don’t even ask the high school social studies teachers surveyed how important it is to impart civic skills (organizing others, running a meeting, petitioning others, civic research, presenting evidence persuasively, etc.), even though virtually all scholars agree that civic skills, civic knowledge and an activist civic disposition are the three critical legs to raising more active citizens. Way too many civics courses focus on a mindless memorization of political knowledge (how a bill becomes law, how many Senators there are, etc.) which while important, are far less effective unless these courses also impart civic skills and a sense of efficacy (that students can make a difference).

Perhaps, I’m misunderstanding “civic skills” in this context, but I do think we cover this with the survey. As we write in the report, social studies teachers have a “full plate” when it comes to teaching citizenship in part because of the multifaceted character of citizenship itself. Good (or active) citizenship involves values, behaviors/actions, and knowledge. What we were wanted to find out is how teachers balanced these “important, contending goals”—particularly given the limited time most schools today have for social studies.

Thus, in question 17 (p. 13), we ask teachers to rank five priorities schools might have around citizenship. Among the five priorities we offered is “Promoting civic behaviors such as voting and community service—because citizens must take active responsibility for their community and nation.” This was one of the most popular choices: 49% of public school teachers ranked this priority as number 1 or 2, tied only with “Internalizing core values like tolerance and equality.”

On the list of 12 items (p. 44), we include “To develop habits of community service such as volunteering and raising money for causes” and “To embrace the responsibilities of citizenship such as voting and jury duty.” We also asked teachers how important it was for students to keep up with the news (p. 14).

In any case, I definitely agree teaching civic skills is an important part of civic education. I also agree that focusing on “mindless memorization of political knowledge” is unlikely to engage students, which probably explains teachers’ resistance to teaching “facts” in our survey (pp. 17-18). Still, call us old-fashioned, but we do worry about the low priority the surveyed teachers seem to place on content knowledge, particularly given the poor results from NAEP and the appalling examples of public ignorance we see in the news nearly every day.

Second, Sander notes that:

37% of the public teachers surveyed said their high school had a community-service requirement for graduation versus 82% of the private schools (which were a mix of Catholic parochial schools and secular schools).  If these numbers are true, they show these rates almost quadrupling for public schools from 2002 and doubling among private schools….My guess is that at least some of this apparently significant rise is a consequence of the low response rate on the survey and that AEI heard from the most civicly-minded teachers from the most civicly-minded schools. [Emphasis mine.]

This is a great point, and his guess is likely correct. We should have highlighted this more in the survey. We asked a battery of questions about teachers’ civic engagement and that of their schools (pp. 47-48). The responses suggest the surveyed teachers (and their schools) are pretty civic-minded (which is likely part of the reason they responded to our survey, in the first place!).

Lastly, Sander discusses the differences between Republican and Democratic teachers, which are definitely intriguing (pp. 31-32). In part, they’re intriguing because the teachers don’t really differ that much when it comes to their attitudes about the U.S. or their teaching priorities. As we note, the differences are typically of degree, not kind.

Sander does question our word choice for item 8 (part of the battery of 12 items on pp. 43-44): “Teaching students to be activists who challenge the status quo of our political system and seek to remedy injustices.” He writes:

That last item seems worded in a way designed to divide teachers along partisan lines.  The researchers behind the study could equally well have worded this “teach students to actively get involved and take a stand on political or community issues with which they disagree with how things are being handled” and my guess is that there would have been far less of a Republican/Democratic split and that all teachers would have agreed that being an active citizen is important, even if Republicans are turned off by the buzzwords of “activism” and “remedy injustices”.

I agree that we would have seen less of a divide if we had worded the question as he suggests. I would also expect that the overwhelming majority of teachers would agree students should be active citizens. We even have some evidence of this, in that the surveyed teachers consistently ranked inculcating civic behaviors (such as voting, community service, and raising money for causes) among their top priorities.

That said, we were curious about the oft-made accusation that teachers (particularly public school teachers) are outside of the mainstream or somehow hostile to America. On that score, as Peter Levine notes, our report “rebuts the kind of sharp conservative critique represented by Chester Finn and colleagues in a 2003 Thomas B. Fordham Institute report entitled Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?.”

Of course, we do share concerns with Finn (who was on our advisory board; for a full listing, see p. 3), particularly in the area of content knowledge. If anything, the survey suggests (to me, at least) that teachers need more support and guidance when it comes to civic education. But the survey is only a starting point for our work, and we’re very appreciative of everyone who has commented on the study thus far.


Good news on ROTC

Two great news items on ROTC. First, Harvard University president Drew G. Faust announced yesterday that the university will “fully and formally” recognize ROTC upon the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

As Michael Segal notes at Advocates for ROTC, this is the first time Faust has explicitly said that her administration would welcome ROTC’s return to campus. Other university presidents, such as Columbia’s Lee Bollinger, have been vaguer on the question of what DADT’s repeal would mean for on-campus ROTC. (This leaves open the possibility that faculty opposition could still torpedo ROTC’s return–perhaps by arguing that ROTC does not meet the university’s academic standards. Faust’s statements would seem to box in Harvard’s ROTC opponents in that regard.) We can hope that Harvard’s leadership on this front will encourage others to make similar statements of support for ROTC.

Second, St. John’s University is expanding its Army ROTC program to its Staten Island campus. As Army Captain Sean Wilkes (a 2006 Columbia graduate of Fordham ROTC) notes, New York City is currently underserved by ROTC, and cadets face long commutes for training at outer borough campuses. Starting in Spring 2011, things should be somewhat easier for Staten Island students looking to serve their country.

Image from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


The Newest Medal of Honor

In today’s Wall Street Journal, William McGurn celebrates Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War:

At one o’clock today in the East Room of the White House, an Iowa-born soldier will receive the nation’s highest decoration for valor in combat. In our nine-year war in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is only the eighth Medal of Honor. Even more rare, the man who has earned it is the first from this war to live to see the president place it around his neck.

The soldier is Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. On Oct. 25, 2007, then-Specialist Giunta and his team were on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan’s violent Korengal Valley when they were ambushed by the Taliban. He took a bullet stopped by a protective vest as he helped pull one soldier to safety.

Then he went forward to help the sergeant, Joshua Brennan, who had been walking point. Two Taliban were carrying Sgt. Brennan away. Spec. Giunta shot the Taliban and brought Sgt. Brennan back.

[…] Not that he’s ready to be called a hero. “I’m not at peace with that at all,” he said on “60 Minutes” Sunday night. “And coming and talking about it and people wanting to shake my hand because of it, it hurts me because it’s not what I want. And to be with so many people doing so much stuff and then to be singled out . . .”

Sgt. Giunta’s words, of course, remind us that he does not need this ceremony. The ceremony is for the rest of us. It reminds us of the sacrifices made so we can sleep easy at night—and of the kind of fighting man our society has produced.

What kind of man is that? When we think of military heroism, we may think of Rambos decorated for great damage inflicted on the enemy. In fact, the opposite is true. Every Medal of Honor from these wars has been for an effort to save life. Even more telling, each specifically recognizes bravery that cannot be commanded.

Read the whole thing here. The Army’s official account is here.

Image from the U.S. Army.


Diamonds aren’t this girl’s best friend: What Princeton’s president gets wrong

Wick Sloane, a columnist for Inside Higher Education, has a provocative proposal for some of America’s most selective schools: “That Harvard, Yale and Princeton and Williams College (No. 1 liberal arts college in U.S. News) commit to enrolling by next fall as many undergraduate veterans as varsity football players.”

Sloane’s proposal stems from his second annual survey of undergraduate veteran enrollment at elite schools. The numbers are, as he says, “disgraceful.” Princeton and Williams had no veterans among their undergraduates; Yale and Harvard, only two. Dartmouth and Stanford led the pack among the elites, with 12 and 21 veteran undergrads, respectively.

Asked to comment, the universities largely ignored or dismissed Sloane’s proposal. Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman actually sent the following email in response: “You may know that the thesis of your e-mail seems based on somewhat flawed reasoning (I don’t have a diamond, so therefore I don’t like diamonds).”

I’d be curious how Tilghman would regard such reasoning from a president of, say, a Fortune 500 company with no female board members or a university sciences department with no female faculty? Given that she has made advancing women’s leadership a major initiative of her presidency–appointing women to key positions and even creatingcommittee to address the “disparity between men and women in top student leadership positions at the University”–I gather she would be unimpressed. As she told the Daily Princetonian, “I can’t imagine anything more important than using our resources at Princeton to train a broad array of students to be leaders in society.”

So why not use some of those considerable resources to help the men and women who have served our country in a time of war? For starters, Princeton’s undergraduate program doesn’t even participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps veterans afford tuition at private universities. And those colleges that do could be a lot less stingy. Harvard University pledged a mere $3,000 for 50 undergraduates. In contrast, my alma mater, the University of Dallas, a tiny liberal arts college in Irving, Texas, pledged twice as much as Harvard: $6,000 for 100 undergrads. The University of Dallas has a $48.7 million endowment; Harvard boasts an endowment of $27.4 billion.

But let’s give credit where credit is due–although, in this case, the credit largely belongs to two remarkable Columbia students: ROTC leaders and veterans Jose Robledo and John McClelland. This Veterans’ Day, six members of Army ROTC held the first military flag ceremony at Columbia in over 40 years. The Columbia Spectator has the story, and you can watch the video here.

Cross-posted at the Enterprise Blog.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Columbia ROTC raises the flag

Watch Columbia’s first military flag ceremony in over 40 years. The Columbia Spectator has the story.

Congratulations to Staff Sergeant and University Senator Jose Robledo, John McClelland, and all Manhattan’s ROTC cadets. (You can read more about John, an Iraq and Afghanistan vet, here and Jose here.)

Image from Wikimedia.


Veterans Day Round-Up

By Alec Weltzien

We’ve kept tabs on the most interesting stories, projects and events around this Veterans Day. Our highlights from Veterans Day 2010:

  • Find out what subjects George Armstrong Custer was good at. For the first time, over 115,000 historical U.S. Military Academy applications are being posted online by Ancestry.com. Free access continues until Sunday, November 14, 2010.
  • Connect Veterans by Young Professionals in Foreign Policy assists veterans transitioning into the civilian sector with advice on the job search, resume and cover letter writing, and more. Read about their new initiative, Operation CV, volunteer, or get help at their website.
  • Why celebrate young war veterans? Reihan Salam at National Review Online answers.
  • Watch a video at Reason.com about Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, which provides WWII veterans and terminally ill patients from other conflicts with free flights to Washington, D.C. to visit the national memorials.
  • Experience video interviews, photos, memoirs, and more at the Veterans History Project by the Library of Congress. Know someone who served? Interview them and add to America’s veteran legacy.
  • See the faces of tomorrow’s veterans in Afghanistan and read their dispatches at the New York Times.
  • And come back for more links about veterans at the Military Service page of our website!

Image by U.S. Army.


A Day for the Brave

By Alec Weltzien

“This nation will remain the land of the free,” wrote journalist Elmer Davis, “only so long as it is the home of the brave.”  On November 11th, we honor our veterans.  We’d like you to get involved in the commemorations of Veterans Day, so we’ve put together some ways to pay tribute to their service.

  • Display the flag. Unsure how to fold it? USflag.org explains.
  • Join national, state or local ceremonies. The National Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begins at 11 AM. Find more information about ceremonies across the country at the Department of Veteran Affairs website.
  • Read about the bios of American military heroes here.
  • Donate at home and abroad. Spirit of America helps the U.S. military help locals in areas where they are serving. The Mission Continues enables disabled or wounded veterans to serve again by becoming leaders in their communities.
  • Connect with local veteran groups.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars website can help you find your local post.
  • Volunteer. Visit a veterans’ hospital or help maintain a military cemetery. The Department of Veteran Affairs has opportunities.
  • Visit a military cemetery.  You don’t have to travel to Arlington National Cemetery; the Department of Veteran Affairs keeps a list of National Cemeteries in each state.
  • Tell a veteran thank you. It’s a simple, personal way to honor someone who served for you.

Image from the U.S. Army.