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Straighten West Point out or create a competing college that does it better

Posted by John T. Reed on

West Point has long had a Board of Visitors. It is a group of non-West Pointers designed to offset the quite rightly identified inbred nature of the place. But they must be a Board of Lap Dogs. In all my 53 years as a West Pointer, I have never heard a peep out of them. They have an annual meeting where they rubber stamp the current supe. 

West Point needs another board of grads who know the place and how it is supposed to work and who will raise hell about West Point losing its way.

Curent issues:

• football record and standards for admitting players
• Heffington letter
• failing to win our wars—“You had it right, Doug, there is no substitute for victory”
• pandering to high school kids and cadets to please U.S. News & World Report
• focusing on all sorts of civilian college PR crap during summer training
• exalting political correctness and diversity over the principles in the Honor Code, the Corps, and the Alma Mater

AOG do it? Give me a break

Should this be done under the auspices of the AOG. For Christ’s sake, no! That’s another collection of rubber stamp lap dogs. We need an alternative AOG, located on civilian real estate in the DC area (which probably has the most WP grads in residence).

Principles not PR

The AOG and Board of Visitors and most grads seem to see themselves as WP-can-do-no-wrong PR arms of the place. We need an organization that is dedicated to the principles West Point was supposed to be about.

Inbred, yeah, but that is not the problem at West Point at present. We grads, inbred though we may be, can see through the mystique of the place to what actually goes on there, or should. People like the Board of Visitors can’t do that.


A group of outsiders WHO ARE NOT APPOINTED BY INSIDERS would also be good. Thomas E. Ricks is one. He is a non-grad military author who says he can’t see any incremental better performance from academy grads compared to ROTC and OCS.

I am not suggesting any official sanction by the government or West Point from the new Unofficial AOG or the new Unofficial Board of Visitors. Far from it. That is the problem. Official = lap dogs.

Loyal opposition

I am talking about a loyal opposition, a coalition of the willing to criticize and call a spade a spade when it comes to the Long Gray Line and the place that regenerates its members.

Can a group of outsiders change the place? Not if they do nothing but complain to each other about how “the Corps has.”

My career is changing things. I got a new regulation enacted when I was a cadet. Not earth-shaking, but a change. I also may have caused the corps squad guys to march in a parade every Monday.

I changed the way football is played clock management wise with my book Football Clock Management. I probably helped increase the number of 1031 exchanges in real estate. 

So, yeah. These unofficial groups or even individuals acting on their own CAN bring about change. It is hard. And you rarely bring about radical changes. But it can be done and it is worth doing. It helps to have the facts and logic on your side.

Start a new merit-based college

Here’s another idea. I think America can use a West Point—in the sense of high standards and high principles. There is no reason for it to be military. It could be like IIT in India. Or the boarding schools where kids go to become pro athletes. Or like Hillsdale College which accepts no federal money and therefore no federal strings. Like Cooper Union and West Point where the students are all on scholarship.

No political correctness. No safe zones. No trigger warnings. No race or sexual orientation preferences—or discrimination against them. Merit in admissions and graduation. Fitness standards to stay. No tenure. In a right-to-work state. Real practitioners not ivory tower academics. No research, just teaching. Longitudinal tracking of results achieved by the grads. Constant change to improve the results achieved by the grads. Entreprenurial not bureaucrat orientation.

‘Too many’ Asians

The school would probably have “too many” Asians and Whites and “too few” “disadvantaged minorities.” The admission standards would be a reverse engineering of the kind of successful 50-year-olds and older men and women in America in the hope of attracting and educating the future counterparts of them. The standards would not be only academic like at IIT. They would be whatever is most likely to get the future best grads. Whatever high school characteristics are precursors of peak adult years success.

Harvard and West Point have made themselves easy targets for disruptive competitors

Such a college, if successful, would supplant places like Harvard today and the service academies of the ’60s, as the premier college on earth. Harvard and the academies of today have gone so far off the track that it would be easy to top them. Imagine Harvard without political correctness and tenured professors—just the best high school prospects in America going through a program that truly adds as much value as possible rather than the sort of academia on steroids theme parks that the Ivies and Stanford have become and the diversity theme parks that the academies have become.

Intercollegiate athletics? Sure. Division III high academic like NESCAC if they could be competitive without lowering standards.

ROTC? Hell, no! If a grad of this college wanted to be an officer, he would go to OCS—and kick butt.

Summer? One month off, two months in the college program like WP in the 1960s.

Focused rigorous, meet the standards or no admissions and no graduation

Four years of a full-time, rigorous, merit-only academic and physical training as we were supposed to be getting at West Point—only with a focus, not the jack of all subjects we had—would truly add value that would make the grads great contributors to America and much sought after.

Sylvanus Thayer is called the Father of West Point. He has the most prominent statue and the old grads walk over there at reunions to pay homage. Although I wonder if any of his innovations still exist.

Here is my contribution to be the father of the new merit based college. The standards would be unchanging. The student body size would change from day to day according to how many students who met the standards applied and came and how many continued to meet the standards while they were there. Indeed it would be a point of pride that we used temporary trailers for housing and did not mind the size of the school and its graduating class going up and down according to how many met the standards and wanted to be there each year. Bar exams are kind of like that. So are the Olympic teams of each country.

This is in contrast to what West Point did in 1972. At the height of the anti-military Vietnam era, not enough people applied to West Point to fill the barracks. West Point reacted as if the size of the incoming class and the graduating class were sacrosanct, but that the standards were as elastic as they need to be to fill both quotas. I wrote in my “Should you go to West Point” article that the West Point Class of 1976—those who entered in 1972—was arguably West Point’s worst ever. They should have temporarily closed a few barracks instead.

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