Colleges-Military and Civilian
To the Editor of the CRIMSON:
I read with much interest the editorial on West Point in the CRIMSON of this date, particularly the last paragraph of that article on the matter of exchange professors between West Point and other acadomic institutions.
To bear out my statement of special interest I should like to quote verbatim excerpts from a personal letter sent by me to the Commandant of Cadests, U. S. Military Academy under date of October 27. 1921.
"I feel as you do about getting people acquainted with West Point and learning just exactly what it is. In this connection a matter comes up to which I have given a great deal of thought since I have been at Harvard, and one in which I am greatly interested. No one could help being after spending two years or more on a college detail, and this is the question of exchange prefessors between West Point and other colleges.
It is hardly possible that the idea is a new one,- there is nothing profound about It, nevertheless it has not been tried and I would like to see it put to a test.
In the two years that I have been here at Harvard I have occasionally become involved in discussions about the comparative educational values of West Point and Harvard, particularly concerning their comparative academic worths, and in these discussions I have heard many good things for West Point, often excellent things, and then again I have heard some not the most favorable."
In these discussions the point of the matter always came down to a comparison of the instruction offered at each of the institutions, and the same comparison of the methods and requirements of the student in order to facilitate his learning. Each institution, undoubtedly, having its advantages, Harvard or such an institution, offering a more expent instruction while the military academy undoubtedly requires more self instruction or learning on the part of the cadet.
"I was thinking of starting some offical communication suggesting that some arrangement be worked out, or I might work one out and submit it, by which professors from outside college would be offered the opportunity of being detailed to West Point to give courses there for a year or two years at a time, and likewise professors from West Point going in exchange to college outside of West point I think such an arrangement would prove a very great mutual advantage in many ways.
I feel about the military academy, as things stand now, that nobody outside of West point really knows West Point-except probably from newspaper propaganda. They don't know the best things about the academy and never can. They can learn some of them though by getting under the roof of it. I feel that if professors under this contemplated plan go to West Point to instruct cadets they would find an entirely different atmosphere undoubtedly from what they are usually accustomed to and would come away saying wonderful things of West Point, speaking highly of some of its methods and no doubt loving it much as we who have gone through it.
I see one arrangement by which the plan might be effected and that is that many professors who have had service in the war hold Reserve Corps commissions, and it is perfectly safe to assume that there are many among them who would welcome the opportunity to be ordered to active duty under existing regulations, by the President, to report to the Military Academy for the particular duty of giving the courses."
Too often, outside of West Point, the idea grows that the young man who goes to west Point does not get the proper kind of academic instruction. I suppose this idea is based mainly upon the fact that he is going to a military institution to be taught to be a military man, but if we analyze the qualifications of a milltary man I fall to know of any of which an academic training is not the foremost, though no college has carried out is fullest mission if it has neglected the mental, moral, or physical education of its students. Unfortunately, he goes only for four years and is expected at the end of that time to know his profession. With most other professions a student spends the same four years as an undergraduate, and three or four more in a professional school. This does not mean, however, that a cadet at West Point divides the four years between undergraduate and graduate work. It means more nearly that he gets little or no graduate work, and begins only after receiving his commission, through his own ambition or the guidance of older officers and officers schools to gain a professional knowledge of his art. A West Point graduate now reports immediately after graduation to a basic school for officers for one year, and then at intervals in his career there are prescribed for him three more years of graduate work.
It must be said that a cadet at West Point has little of what is known in the average college as his "own time", It being used to put the student through his practical work; he gains much of his military education from the spirit of the institution, the atmosphere in which he lives for four years, and the trend of the instruction which is largely toward preparing him to gain a professional knowledge in later years.
I am afraid I have written more than I intended but you are free to use it as you wish. ROBERT C. F. GOETS, Major, F. A.
December 15, 1921.