Sunday, August 8, 2010

An Interesting Book Review

I found this interesting Washington Post book review today on  The Long Road to Annapolis: The Founding of the Naval Academy and the Emerging American Republic By William P. Leeman.  Here are the portions that I think is germane to this blog:

"After American independence, patriots believed that standing armies and professional navies were instruments of royal tyranny and had no place in the new republic. George Washington, "Cincinnatus of the West," set the model, taking up arms to defend his country and then returning to the plow when the threat was past. Militias were to suffice for the new republic's defense.
Barbary pirates, conflict with France and the War of 1812 brought the realization that, indeed, an army and navy were needed, but Thomas Jefferson did not trust their officer corps because they were largely in sympathy with his political enemy Alexander Hamilton. This fear helped motivate Jefferson to establish the military academy at West Point in 1802 to inculcate republican values. Naval officers, while equally pro-federalist, did not present as great a threat as their Army counterparts for they were usually away at sea. Thus, he saw much less need for a naval academy.
So for the first half-century of the Navy's existence, its officers studied their profession in "the school of the ship." Captains took responsibility for the professional and moral training of young midshipmen, requiring them to take classroom instruction at sea from chaplains or civilian schoolmasters, who assigned extensive reading in the classics, science, philosophy and history...
If one were starting from scratch without historical anxieties and political pressures, it is unlikely that the current Naval Academy would be the outcome. There is an inherent conflict between a liberal education based on skeptical inquiry and military indoctrination requiring unquestioning obedience. Combining the two educational cultures tends to create a pressure chamber with too much to do and no time to think and absorb."

I know this is not a typical post but the last part about the "inherent conflict between a liberal education based on skeptical inquiry and military indoctrination requiring unquestioning obedience" really peaked my interest. Does it bother anyone else that at least some people are starting to doubt the merits of a liberal education because it undermines a culture of unquestioning obedience?  This sounds like Sparta not Athens and expresses an attitude that would have been anathema at our founding.


King of Ireland said...

This post was written after I saw the Leviathan discussion down a bit. I think it and my last one on the "Best Regime" tie in well with that discussion. So have at it.

craig said...

Sorry, but I have to react to the opening line about professional navies as the tyrants instruments. The Constitution limits "standing" armie to two years budget but does not limit the Navy. The Federalist is pro navy but feared an army.

craig said...

I'm in a masters program in a school with an honord code so I got myself elected to the Honor Council. Some teachers give a grade of zero if they forget to put the honor pledge on an assignment. I suggested this is excessive and that the code needs an amendment to take away such a draconian measure. All students sign the pledge when they apply to the program. I think your post is onto something.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"For the want of a nail" is the life lesson being taught here, far more important than grades in school.

Even on Final Jeopardy, your answer must be in the form of a question, or you lose. For military types, it's always Final Jeopardy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Craig, since you haven't answered, I'd kick you out of school just for whining, more concerned about your grades, "fairness" and "draconianism." You are not a man.

Draconianism is what half the world lives under. The Taliban did this to a beautiful young girl

Did you see it? On the cover of Time Magazine? Only men---a "man"---can save her sisters from the same fate.

"Draconian." About your grades. I gave you a chance to explain yourself, but you couldn't even come up with the nerve on a lousy website, writing anonymously to reply.

You make me sick, Craig.