In the fall of 2017, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Heffington, U.S. Army (Retired), wrote a scathing indictment of his alma mater, West Point. In his open letter, Heffington identified non-existent academic standards and rampant honor violations, as well as the inability for faculty to act accordingly to separate or reprimand cadets. This open letter sparked a response by West Point Superintendent Lieutenant General Robert Caslen Jr., who defended his academy’s policies and curriculum almost to a fault. This very public debate put the significance and purpose of service academies into the spotlight.
As an English professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, I asked my midshipmen to write about the Academy’s viability in light of questions examining the worth of service academies, because student voices are seldom, if ever, heard in these ongoing debates. Their brutal honesty bounces off the pages of their essays.
“I have been lied to. The service academies do not possess a magical leadership formula.”