Amid the shufflings and reshufflings that have marked the search for an efficient officer procurement plan, the ROTC system stands essentially unchanged. This anachronism persists because no logical change short of total suspension is possible. Designed to maintain a reservoir of officers for our peace-time army, and to furnish a nucleus for rapid expansion in case of war, the ROTC today contradicts its own existence.
To be sure, many changes of detail and emphasis have taken place. The course bears small resemblance to its leisurely counterpart of as little as three years ago. The Harvard unit has been among the leaders in conversion to a war-time pace. But all the grimness of purpose and streamlining of subject matter must necessarily be built upon a basic contradiction, and are therefore invalid as a final plan. The man who once left Harvard with a degree in his pocket and gold bars on his shoulders was by training three-quarters a college graduate and one-quarter a trained officer. With the course telescoped into three years as it is at present, the division is still a fifty-fifty proposition at best. Granted that a matured college gradute is better officer material than a man who is shuttled directly into specialized instruction, the fact remains that of necessity the former system is rapidly becoming obsolete. The inevitable trend points toward the training of as many officers as possible as soon as possible. The Enlisted Reserves System has emphatically changed its emphasis from a deferment plan for allowing potential officers to complete their college training, to a means of keeping constantly on tap and ready for immediate call a backlog of officer candidates. Vague as it is at present, there can be little doubt as to the eventual shape of the ERC and other reserve set-ups.
And still the ROTC system continues, intensifies, and plans for the indefinite future. The total effect is one of confusion to the individual and an overall diffusion of energy. There is a fundamental friction between the military habit of mind, and the approach to thought and action which a liberal college education aims to develop. The one is obedience and a stifling of the individual for practical expedience; the other is experiment, trial and error growth, necessarily inefficient in the short run. The student who tries to combine the two in an ever more divergent path finds himself in a continual quandary. On the other hand, for the student who abandons all thought of an adequate liberal education and concentrates his efforts on his officer's training, three years of ROTC work are an unnecessary dilution of energy. It would be much more sensbile in both cases to direct the total efforts now into the paths they are eventually to follow anyway, into officer's training of either a specialized or a general sort.