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Having had the opportunity to see West Point from "the inside" my impressions are offered as graphically as possible-the more so by reason of the direct contrast with Harvard. Where this university is noted for its middle western intellectualism and all-round liberalism and even a fair amount of social consciousness, West Point represents the opposite in its democracy where money, name, or position mean literally nothing.
The cadet when he enters stands alone unaided by anything but his own courage and character. That may seem dramatized but the situation is unique and results in the graduation of officers who possess a moral code and a fiber hardened by the granite existence of cadet life. It is only the strong who survive.
It is possible therefore to generalize about West Point. For instance good health, high mental capacity and moral endurance are universal among the cadets. The general air of enthusiasm so noticeable at games is really Western in attitude-they are religiously keen about the corps and all its activities. Similarly the joy afforded by a soda or a movie seems naive to us but such judgement is done on a purely comparative basis.
The innumerable formations, assignments lead to a type of thinking which may be called "one track" but which results in incomparable efficiency of performance. Every minute of every hour is accounted for regimentation is complete. It is remarkable that this system should lead to such vitality of existence that each cadet displays.
The tradition of West Point is the governing factor which gives the cadets that vitality and dignity combined which is certainly not a heritage of all American youth. In a sense they lose their perspective in this life-a fact which they will readily admit, but which seems inevitable under these circumstances.
Their appearance of uniformity is heightened by clean-shaven faces and weekly hair-cuts-the apparent plurality of blondes is only a result of this. Actually they represent a cross-section of our country religiously (one-fourth are Catholic), racially and financially. The total disregard that the cadets show for any such differences is an indication of their attitude.
Problems of discipline are enforced by strict punishment aided paradoxically by the honor system. The problems of drinking and gambling are virtually non-existent, smoking is permitted in barracks and weekly "hops" provide for other needs, but punishment is sternly administered for such offenses as "making public display of affection with young lady at skating rink about 5:10 o'clock thereby causing unfavorable comment from visitors." However the purpose of West Point is to develop, not to destroy initiative, and that it is successful the capability of our regular army officers bears testimony.
It is hard for outsiders to understand fully the idealism and honor that exists among the cadets. This is fact, not dramatization. That West Point graduates officers and gentlemen without exception is a result of the code existing there.
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