The Study Group began its examination of the academic program with the expectation, soon confirmed by many observations, that the Academy is a sound institution. Our task was to find ways to make it better, which meant that the process of the study paralleled in many respects an accreditation review. We initiated conversation with the executive Director of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and we have found his assistance substantial and encouraging. We are confident that when the Academy undergoes its forthcoming ten-year accreditation review, it will be judged an institution of high quality. We hope that the recommendations of our report will point toward the achievement of even greater distinction in coming years.
An Academy education lays the foundation for a life-long career of service. The shape and needs of the Army of the future are not clear, and Department of the Army has yet to specify its future officer education needs. A base of knowledge allowing graduates to adapt to weapons systems of increasingly complex technology is essential, but equally essential is the base of knowledge needed to lead soldiers effectively, to develop a set of personal values, and to understand political, economic, and cultural issues, both foreign and domestic. The "Concept for the US Military Academy" recommended earlier in the report states the academic objectives necessary to lay such a general foundation. Significantly, it represents a conscious decision that the Academy should graduate officers who can deal with both the technical and the non-technical worlds. This decision in turn leads to the conclusion that conventional academic majors are neither necessary nor desirable, a subject discussed later in the curriculum section of this chapter. We believe that the Army officers of the future will perform in a variety of roles as they have in the past. Their intellectual base must be constructed of skills and principles fully mastered, none of which are more important than the power to communicate effectively in the basic languages of daily life--standard English and scientific language. Likewise, an Academy education should emphasize the understanding of general principles, not the memorization of problem-solving formulas. The program should foster a continual development of judgement, ethics, dedication to selfless service, and an appreciation of society.
The Study Group examined many proposals for change. No proposal was significantly more costly or inexpensive than current methods; therefore, no detailed analysis of cost has been included in our report. The Study Group believes that to make radical change in a basically sound academic program is not wise. Moreover, many changes in the academic program will, require detailed study and planning by the Academy. Hence, the most important recommendations to improve the academic program are those which restructure the governance of the Academy so that it can adapt to change more readily in the future; these recommendations have already been discussed in the preceding chapter.
The Study Group has been impressed by the academic achievements and attitudes of the upper portion of each class--approximately the top 30 to 40 percent. Major improvements in opportunities for enrollment in accelerated and advanced courses have been well used. Recently cadets have won Rhodes scholarships for study not only in social sciences but in physical sciences. The results of Hertz, Olmstead, and other national fellowship competitions are similarly impressive. However, we do not believe that attitudes toward academic pursuits are satisfactory among many cadets in the lower 60 to 70 percent of each class. These attitudes are summarized in cadet slang as "cool on academics," "the goat," "2.0 and go," "spec and dump," and "cooperate and graduate," each with its own variation on the theme of giving only that effort to studies needed to graduate. Undoubtedly, such attitudes accelerate the development of poor attitudes in other areas, including honor.
The improvement of these attitudes is the first and most critical prerequisite to improvement of the education for most cadets. Evidence of poor attitudes has been overwhelming and consistent from interviews with cadets, faculty, and graduates, from surveys, and from observations of exchange Air Force and Naval Academy students who note that scholastic pursuits have higher regard at the other academies. Improvements depend on the full cooperation of the entire institution; our recommendations require changes in matters under purview of the Commandant, the Dean, and the administrative staff. It must become clear to every cadet that the Army believes a sound education is a valuable cornerstone of a lifetime career. Common agreement on objectives and measures of effectiveness is a necessary first step. More interaction with people outside the Academy, both military and academic, is needed. All groups at the Academy must pull together for the good of the largest number of cadets by making the best possible use of the fine resources available.
Certain recommendations for no change are as significant as those for change and should not be overlooked, for example, the recommendations to continue a predominantly military faculty, to eschew conventional majors programs, to keep a common core of about 30 subjects, and to postpone the introduction of certain ethics instruction until such courses can be more thoroughly prepared.
Regardless of all other recommendations, the
key to academic excellence is the excellence of the faculty and the student
body. We find great strength in both groups.
B. Academic Attitudes
The attitudes cadets have toward their studies in many ways reflect the larger problems of the institution. Cadets arrive at the Academy wishing for and expecting to find a good education, but certain characteristics of the environment undercut the academic program. In the closely organized society that is West Point, such factors synergistically assume greater importance than they would in the less structured environment of the typical civilian university. The particular nature of this society constitutes much of West Point's uniqueness, but it also has the potential to magnify unhealthy attitudes and has reinforced poor attitudes toward scholastic pursuits.
Most high school seniors approach college idealistically,
but many find that the college experience fails to match their ideals.
In such cases disillusionment may curb their academic effort and achievement.
This sequence is perhaps inevitable, yet some 30 to 40 percent of all cadets
appear to handle the situation well and live up to their potential. To
cope with competing demands for their time, however, the remaining 60 to
70 percent, to some degree like college students everywhere, adapt and
get by with less than their best when faced with unrelenting pressures,
some from the institution and some from within the body of cadets. Apparently
no one becomes particularly upset about the situation. In fact, cadets
in some "cool-on-academics" companies support such behavior. Tactical Officers
who allow such attitudes to develop are at fault. Even the academic departments,
where there should be particular concern about the situation, display a
tendency to acquiesce. In the words of one instructor,
We seem to lower the standard of performance expected of cadets in academic courses for political reasons--too many cadets may fail our course, or if our standards are too demanding, then cadets may not take elective courses in our department.Although cadets continue to view the academic program as important to their success at West Point and as Army officers, the "system" does not seem to support that view. It does not require uniformly high performance, and it allows some relatively unqualified cadets to pass courses and graduate. Many cadets resolve this obvious inconsistency by adopting the attitude that although education per se has importance, studies at West Point are often irrelevant and merit only a superficial approach.
Reports of the Office of Institutional Research at the Academy concerning the performance of cadets prior to entering West Point give clear evidence that entering students view education favorably and have enjoyed prior academic success. Over 90 percent of the Class of 1978 had better than a B average in high school, and the figures are higher for the Class of 1979. A major factor influencing most candidates who enter West Point is its good academic reputation; more than 90 percent of the Class of 1978, for example, cited this reason. After arriving at West Point, cadets continue to value a good education. In a March 1977 sample survey of all four classes, cadets rated academic instruction, the Honor Code, and relationships with classmates as the most important factors in their success at West Point. Among factors important to their long-term success as regular Army officers, academic instruction was ranked third of 17 items (the Honor Code and competition were rated first and second).
On the same survey, cadets were asked to rank the priority they give to several ways of spending their time. Although these results are not necessarily indicative of how cadets actually behave, study and classroom activities were rated first followed by athletics, military duties, leisure, and extracurricular activities.
Obviously, cadets have a favorable attitude in general toward instruction and education. How they view their academic experiences at West Point specifically is another question. Academic disincentives occur both outside and inside the academic program. The main competitors with academic activities for cadet time are military duties, physical education, extracurricular activities, and leisure time. While these activities are important to the overall development and well-being of cadets, their unintended negative effects on studies require recognition and correction. Proper priorities must be established.
In spite of the priorities cadets indicated in the surveys cited above, military and chain of command duties tend to divert time from study, often because those non-academic obligations present more immediate requirements. Cadets know that late reports or unshined shoes quickly result in demerits or other punishment. By contrast, a failure to study one particular lesson may incur little or no immediate penalty and may be offset by later satisfactory work. Administrative details and passing information by slow, clumsy methods waste time which might be devoted to study. Examples from interviews include the cadet adjutant who spends 3 to 4 hours in one evening obtaining the names for a trip section roster and the squad leader who consumes precious time going from room to room to announce information which should be posted on a central bulletin board. Not only do these activities waste the adjutant's and squad leader's time but they also interrupt the studies and concentration of the other cadets.
Physical education and athletics also crowd ahead of academic work at times, partly because of the normative grading system used for physical education and physical fitness tests. The cadets compete against classmates in a system which guarantees that half of them will score "below average." This system causes some cadets to spend time on physical training beyond that required to meet a specified standard and hence to have less time for study. Such strenuous activity also leaves some cadets too tired to gain from classroom instruction.
Several other factors in the military environment which affect cadet attitudes about studies relate so closely to each other that they are best discussed together. These are the Fourth Class System, the Leadership Evaluation System (LES), and the Company Tactical Officer. The Fourth Class System serves a good purpose in providing an initiation and rite of passage from civilian to military life. It creates a disciplined environment, subjecting fourth classmen to pressure, forcing them to establish priorities and to cooperate with others. The system is also a socialization process in which upperclassmen impress their norms on the plebes. Among these may be certain counterproductive behavior such as being "cool on academics." Plebes may be taught that to excel harms classmates who are not performing as well. Since grades and order of merit are common knowledge, those doing well academically stand out quickly. The tools for enforcing the norms in a company lie readily at hand. The Fourth Class System can be used to indoctrinate the new cadets, and the peer ratings of the Leadership Evaluation System are available for the reinforcement of norms. Of course, these same procedures can produce positive results; but they are subject to abuse, and they accelerate the decline of company norms when such decline begins. The attitudes of Company Tactical Officers toward academic efforts are extremely important. Without the Tactical Officer's support, the academic program will always operate under an unnecessary handicap. The effect of the Tactical Officers' attitudes toward scholastic pursuits and our recommendations for change are discussed in Chapter VI, Military Professional Development Program.
The myriad of well organized, well-led extracurricular activities and attractive but sometimes overcrowded recreational and leisure facilities also compete for cadet time and can distract cadets from academic pursuits. College students have similar excuses to postpone studying, but they operate in a less structured environment than the Academy's. The Academy system of privileges does little more than entice cadets from their studies. Since it is deemed a "privilege" to go to the gymnasium, to the movies, to officers' quarters, on trips, and on weekend leave, the logical conclusion is that remaining in the barracks to study is deplorable. Another difference between cadets and college students is their perception of what happens if they do not study. Students at colleges expect to fail or receive low grades, sanctions which ultimately affect their employability. Most cadets know that while it is difficult to make an "A," it is even more difficult to fail, and they know all will have the same Army rank initially regardless of order of merit standing. Cadets also view expulsion for academic deficiency as a remote threat. For the past 10 classes, an average of only 4.1 percent of each class has been separated or turned back for academic deficiency during its four years. Thus, the possibility of separation does not significantly affect allocation of time. The Academic Probation System instituted this year may have relieved some of the pressure to pass cadets as indicated by the increased failure rate of 5.6 percent for AY 76-77.
Certain aspects of the curriculum, pedagogy, and academic administration are also viewed negatively. Cadets believe that their study efforts are fragmented among too many courses, and they desire increased academic specialization in line with their own individual aptitudes and interests. Although cadets may not be the best judges to determine the content of the curriculum, the factors mentioned may have a negative effect on their attitudes. In a survey of 298 first and second classmen, 10 percent of the respondents claimed they do not see the relevance of course material to their future careers in the Army. Cadets reiterated this complaint during interviews. In fact, many of the courses mentioned by the respondents do have great relevance to Army officers, but this has not been made sufficiently apparent to the cadets. Other dissatisfactions mentioned were the frequency of grading in some courses and periodic overloads occurring when several examinations are scheduled and major papers are due within a short time span. On the same survey, over half of the respondents listed one or more of their courses as offering knowledge they could not retain beyond test time. Added written comments indicated that cadets believe courses are forced into this pattern of memorize, be tested, then forget because of the problems already mentioned.
Even the grading system insidiously undermines academic achievement. A grade of 2.0 or above on the scale of O to 3.0 is called "proficient," and everything below is "deficient." A barely proficient grade is perceived as acceptable and is viewed as a "C " grade would be at other institutions. In most courses and certainly in other institutions, a 2.1 semester average would receive a transcript letter grade of "D." The differences between the 3.0 system and the letter grades simply add to the confusion over what is academically acceptable. A more conventional letter grading system is now in the test stage prior to final adoption.
The "goat syndrome" is a synthesis of all the negative attitudes on academic excellence. Probably the quintessential manifestation of the "goat" cult occurs each June at graduation, when the last person in the class crosses the stage amid popping flashbulbs to receive a dollar from each of his classmates and greater acclaim than the top ten graduates. If cadets were not continuously and publicly given their relative standings, there could be no particular reason to adopt the goat attitude. When resectioning, some departments seat cadets in the classroom according to their academic standing; thus, everyone knows who ranks low in the course. The current system of order of merit rankings for each course emphasizes the position of each cadet relative to all others, calling particular attention to those at the low end of the scales.
The "goat syndrome" may be unconsciously abetted in some cases by other aspects of the institution's approach to studies. Each company has both cadets and instructors designated as academic representatives for those doing poorly. Each academic department makes additional instruction available for anyone who desires it. Some instructors even have repute as "goat Ps" or professors, because they are good at instructing the bottom sections. Such efforts are commendable examples of the individualized attention for students at the Academy as long as they do not become overused crutches.
We conclude that numerous factors both internal
and external to the academic program tend to interfere with the cadets'
desire for a good education. Military, athletic, extracurricular, and
leisure activities aid cadet development but are not always conducted in
ways that complement academic objectives. Noting the strong cadet belief
that education is valuable and important, we are not particularly surprised
that cadets think something is wrong. We believe that too many cadets try
to eliminate the dissonance by retaining the ideal view of what an education
should be but dismiss much of the academic system at West Point as lacking
merit or relevance to their future career. Curriculum and pedagogical shortcomings
have significance beyond their brief description here and receive more
complete treatment later in this chapter. To change attitudes and eventually
to alter cadet behavior will be a long term process requiring numerous
adjustments and, above all, a high standard of academic excellence set
by the institution and demanded of cadets.
1. Analysis of the Current Curriculum. The dominant characteristic of the West Point curriculum is the comprehensive core of 40 required courses. Academic conservatism has protected the Academy from the curricular oscillations experienced in civilian colleges during the 1960's Recent studies at Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and other distinguished institutions have firmly reestablished the principle of a broad central core of studies for the undergraduate.
Cadets take six academic courses each semester of the four years. Classes meet five and one half days per week between early morning and mid-afternoon. This schedule, coupled with mandatory physical training and military instruction and supplemented by voluntary extracurricular activities, all conducted in a military environment affected by a perception that every class or drill or activity is equally important, produces an unusually demanding workload. Competition for cadet time and the necessity for cadets to set meticulous priorities breed a mentality, apparently unconsciously abetted by some faculty and staff, in which some cadets try to cope with overwhelming demands by doing just enough to satisfy each, but no more. Our interviews with cadets, junior faculty, and recent graduates repeat this theme. In the April 1977 Institutional Functioning Inventory (IFI) (see Appendix Fl at least half of the cadets polled (out of a sample of 298) designated at least one course which epitomizes this approach, which cadet slang calls "spec and dump. "
The Study Group found no comprehensive, coordinated, set of desired learning outcomes or objectives for the individual departmental offerings making up the core curriculum. Some departments (notably History and Mathematics) have set objectives which relate course offerings to the requirements of a military career, but most have not, or when they have tried to establish objectives have made them unhelpfully vague. The uniqueness of the West Point preprofessional education--pointing toward a very specific career--makes it all the more important that the core curriculum, at least, be guided by a unified and coherent set of educational goals. As a first step in the process, the Study Group presents its "Concept for the US Military Academy," which appears on page 3, Chapter I.
Cadets repeatedly report their inability to perceive the relationships among the parts of their education or the relevance of the curriculum to their concept of military service requirements. While it can be argued that their plight is inherent in their status as novices, interview responses convinced us that the cadets have too many scheduled demands on them and too little time to put the results of their efforts into large perspective. More than a quarter of the 298 cadets surveyed by the Institutional Functioning Inventory cited "too many courses" as a major flaw in the West Point academic program.
We reviewed the curricula of five engineering institutions, eight liberal arts colleges and universities, three military colleges, and three state universities. None currently require as many as the Academy's 48 courses. The average graduation requirement for these institutions is 40 to 42 courses except in professional engineering sequences, where the total is a few more. Even in colleges with ROTC programs whose cadets carry a somewhat greater academic and extracurricular load than their non-ROTC peers, the total is still substantially smaller than West Point's.
Cadets must complete 41 or 42 of the 48 courses in the structured core curriculum, leaving six or seven in which to pursue individual interests. Although these elective choices may focus within one of four interdisciplinary areas of concentration (basic sciences and mathematics, applied sciences and engineering, the humanities, or national security and public affairs), a lack of sequential or building block electives and the existence of a fifth "general" track mean that many cadets never take courses above the intermediate level (i.e., typical of the first semester of junior year). For many cadets, their heavy load of prescribed courses is especially onerous and uninteresting when such courses (particularly those late in the curriculum) fall outside their primary areas of interest or aptitude.
A related issue is the "survey" approach of some required courses that attempt to cover an entire field or discipline in one or two semesters. Zealous faculty members, recognizing that they have only a limited fraction of cadets' academic attention and sincerely believing in the importance of their subject, may try to do too much.
The core curriculum includes six semesters of mathematics, two of engineering science, two of electrical engineering, two of engineering, and two each in physics and chemistry. Cadets electing basic or applied sciences surrender one elective and add another semester of engineering sciences. While these are formidable requirements, particularly for cadets more interested in the humanities and social sciences, this sequence is still not sufficient, without additional electives, to prepare cadets for graduate study in engineering. At the same time, it provides more engineering education than required for the general competence in technology needed by Army officers. Therefore, reduction in the mathematics, science, and engineering core sequence could be accomplished in ways which would retain emphasis on the basic sciences and still provide sufficient study of engineering. Furthermore, such a reduction would be consistent with continuing emphasis on engineering for a substantial number of cadets, provided there is a corresponding increase in engineering electives. A recent survey shows that, given a free choice of elective fields, 49 percent of the cadets responding preferred mathematics, science, or engineering. This percentage would be sufficient to meet current Army needs for Academy graduates in graduate science programs. If necessary, any decline in engineering concentration at the Academy could be compensated by controlling the areas of study allowed in the ROTC scholarship program.
In reply to a Study Group inquiry, responses from field commanders at the division and service school level have helped to highlight curricular shortcomings. These senior leaders as well as subordinate commanders and staff were asked to base their assessments on the performance of recent graduates. Our survey results rated Academy graduates as generally superior to other junior officers in such qualities as strength of character, physical fitness, understanding the role of the officer in the Army, potential for advancement, sense of integrity, devotion to duty, and getting the job done. On the other hand three areas of relative weakness were also reported: (1) seldom are graduates good writers, (2) they do not relate well to enlisted soldiers, and C3) they lack confidence and skill in solving problems that have no set solutions. The Study Group tried to determine whether these deficiencies can be traced to the Academy.
Weakness in writing is a well-recognized and much-discussed inadequacy of American education at all levels. The section on pedagogy contains corrective measures we recommend for adoption.
The problem which young Academy graduates seem to have in their dealings with subordinates emanates to some extent from insufficient instruction in the behavioral sciences, but far more importantly, from inappropriate styles, models, and practices of leadership to which cadets are exposed in their relationships with Academy officers, in their own chain of command, in the Fourth Class System, and in their summer military training program. As a net effect of their Academy experiences and their comparative isolation from society, some graduates have become accustomed to harsh and insensitive patterns of leadership. The Military and Professional Development Chapter addresses this leadership problem.
The third relative weakness which was identified
in the survey of commanders also has roots in the Academy experience. Shortcomings
in dealing with issues for which there are no clear "right" answers
result from the cadets having too few opportunities to study and solve
problems characterized by ambiguity rather than certainty. Decision
making in combat deals most often in uncertainty. The most successful
wartime leaders have been trained to sort meager, often conflicting data,
to develop a workable solution when none is perfect, and then to execute
the plan well. The survey responses from the field appear to be saying
that the curriculum does not adequately prepare cadets for such situations.
The 1976 honor investigations and the Borman Commission's report underscored the inadequacy of instruction in ethics. A semester course in philosophy taught in the First Class year constitutes the sole formal classroom approach to the presentation of ethical systems in the core curriculum. Although this course has been part of the core curriculum for eight years, it has never been taught by instructors trained in philosophy. Rather the instruction is given by faculty members whose graduate schooling is in literature. Our sampling of the classes of 1977 and 1978 suggests that a substantial number of cadets respond negatively to this course. Moreover, placing this course in the last year misses the opportunity for an earlier introduction to the philosophical basis for professional ethics.
The Study Group observed another problem in
the placing of courses in the curriculum. Mathematics and an engineering
course dominate Fourth Class year. They comprise 50 percent of the schedule and place an unbalanced load on entering cadets whose preparation for such concentrated study of mathematics varies widely. New cadets who are weak in mathematics are at a significant disadvantage. Cadets whose interests and talents lie outside the natural and applied sciences must postpone study of their preferred subjects.
Having discussed the dimensions and content
of the curriculum, we now address the question of options for specialization
within a program aimed primarily at general studies. In contrast to the
pattern of colleges offering "majors," the Academy has few advanced level
requires or elective courses. With a core of general studies taking up
42 of the 49 courses in the curriculum, the remaining 6 courses, predominately
located in the First Class year, are too few to permit study beyond the
intermediate college level for most cadets. The Study Group found, in addition,
that the undemanding popular electives offered do not provide rigorous
advanced work. Given the heavy workload of required courses, many cadets
shy away from electives promising even more work. The Study Group believes
that some cadets would benefit greatly from a better. structuring of elective
fields of concentration. As matters now stand, we believe few cadets experience
the intellectual satisfaction that comes from achieving a real sense of
mastery over a parcel of knowledge.
Too often, Academy administrative procedures seem to give little encouragement to effective planning of programs of study. By and large, cadets may choose electives free of any restraints. Good academic advice can discourage dilletantism, but it is not always available to cadets. Selection of elective courses and a field of concentration normally does not occur until Second Class year. Four of the six electives are available only in First Class year, a fact which minimizes the possibility of electing sequential or building block courses. Finally we note that attempts by cadets to schedule a rigorous First Class year obviously conflict in many ways with the heavy demands of leadership positions in the cadet chain of command.
Interviews with 150 cadets and questionnaires administered by the Study Group indicate significant cadet pressure for more academic specialization. While some cadets favor the current ratio between core courses and electives, twice as many indicate a desire for greater concentration.
In summary, the research of the Study Group including the advice of members of the military, the input of field commanders, the sampling of cadets and graduates by interview and questionnaire, and civilian consultants has shown several areas for potential improvement of the curriculum.
Authorities at the Military Academy have not been unmindful of the need for self-examination and curriculum reform. In the past twenty years, several studies of the curriculum have been made, both by internal and external groups. As a result, the curriculum has evolved deliberately and carefully but, in the minds of some observers, too slowly. The latest analysis was made by a curricular study group appointed in January 1976 and charged with conducting a comprehensive study of the academic program and curriculum and recommending "modifications and changes considered necessary to strengthen and improve the quality and appropriateness of the program and curriculum within the continuum of the United States Regular Army officer."
The Academy's Curricular Study Group identified many of the problem areas which have been examined by our Study Group. The Academy's so called Initiative No. 3 addressed these problem areas but simply did not go far enough in our judgment.
2. Suggestions for curricula change. The central idea of the curriculum has been its emphasis on a broad general education intended to provide a sound foundation for the wide range of experiences encountered by the professional Army officer. Since the precise future needs of the service can never be completely defined, the curriculum has been designed to provide an academic base which would support a variety of future requirements. The education stresses the basic and applied sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences. The Study Group recommends no change in this basic approach. The steps necessary for improvement are those which reduce its size, increase the number of electives taken and provide more structure in elective fields.
Of the 15 curriculum proposals considered by the Study Group, the vast majority favored a structured general education approach centering on a broadly based core curriculum. Typically, these proposals contained roughly thirty courses out of a total academic program of roughly 40 courses and ranged from a low of 26 required courses to a high of 34. The majority retained an introduction to engineering and technology in the core curriculum. The consensus that emerged is outlined below.
The Core curriculum must provide early grounding in written and oral communication and in logic. Throughout the four years, cadet writing should be evaluated in every course not only for content but also for form. This effort calls for establishing an integrating agency, crossing departmental lines, setting direction, monitoring progress, and coordinating all activities that bear on the capability of cadets to write and speak effectively. Moreover, the frequency of short (3-5 pages) writing requirements should be increased in the core courses, including courses in science and engineering.
- The academic experience should establish the theoretical foundations of the future Army officer's ability to direct the efforts of people. Needed instruction in the behavioral sciences and military leadership should be coordinated with those summer military training experiences which constitute direct applications of the theoretical material.
- The core curriculum should include a progressive sequence in mathematics of roughly four semesters which covers differential and integral calculus, differential equations, statistics, and probability. This sequence should begin in the first semester of Fourth Class year to ensure the appropriate foundation for course work in the natural and applied sciences, economics and other social sciences, and behavioral science.
- There should be sufficient study of the physical and natural sciences to establish understanding of the physical world, scientific thinking, and experimental methods. This study should include a physics sequence leading to a semester of electronics and an introduction to chemistry or modern physics. At least one major experimental laboratory project should be mandatory. The applied science sequence should be oriented toward decision making and should provide experience in and technical knowledge of problems which do not have unique solutions. The first course in the engineering sequence, preferably taught during Fourth Class year, should be an engineering fundamentals course focusing on engineering methods and an introduction to the use of the computer. The course in engineering graphics should be dropped. Approximately 12 or 13 courses should make up the four-year sequence in mathematics, science, and engineering.
- In the area of the humanities and the social sciences, we considered proposals covering a wide range of specific course designs. The Study Group recommends sequences in rhetoric and literature, military and modern history, economics, government, international relations, and law with roughly eight to ten courses in these subjects.
- We believe that fewer than four terms of a foreign language is unproductive and therefore unwise. We note that language skills decay rapidly but also that about one fifth of the cadets take at least one elective beyond the required sequence. Most cadets completing the core sequence achieve a "level 2" capability on the Defense Language Proficiency Test, which, incidentally, should be reinstituted in all language courses.
- The Study Group concludes that the current
language program with its strong and successful elective offerings is sound.
should study foreign languages in the core curriculum; every effort should be made to ensure that cadets study a language in which they have some experience; and no cadet should be required to take Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, or Arabic unless that language is his or her first choice. We also commend language validation procedures and accelerated programs.
- A sound philosophical basis for ethical standards should be provided. The minimum required courses should include philosophy and ethics, general psychology, constitutional and military law, leadership, and a seminar in American Institutions. Philosophy instruction should occur early in the core curriculum, but appropriate faculty will have to be found. Supporting electives should be available. The work of the Academy's Committee on Instruction in Ethics and Professionalism should be expanded in scope and expert advice obtained on approaches to education in this difficult area. Ethical issues of interest to Army officers and cadets should be discussed wherever appropriate throughout the curriculum and should be emphasized in summer training. The entire staff and faculty must be alert to their roles in shaping the behavior of the cadets. They would also benefit from active participation in colloquia and symposia on this subject. The Study Group recognizes that the entire program cannot be instituted immediately. Competent instructors are essential, and a premature effort could do more harm than good.
- If the higher figures for the number of core courses required in each area as discussed above were used, the total would exceed 30 and the number of electives would fall below 10 for a curriculum of 40 courses. The Study Group recommends a structured elective program which permits cadets to develop depth in their chosen areas of interest. Such a program would follow a carefully designed sequence that builds upon core courses and progresses to a senior level of content. Core courses should be presented in different versions for concentrators in different fields. Eight electives are required for concentration in an interdisciplinary area, but 10 would be preferable. The desire for breadth in the core curriculum must be weighed against the need for adequate specialization in the elective program. The Study Group hoped to recommend no more than 30 core courses, but the 32 suggested below still permit an acceptable elective program.
- The Study Group has not addressed the issue of the most appropriate number of tracking alternatives in great depth. However, in a curriculum structured on a board-based core there should be some freedom in selecting areas of concentration and sub-specialties. We do not recommend the option of general studies with its unrestricted elective choice. Such a program does not meet the objective of ensuring specialization for all cadets.
NOTE: Course titles shown above do not imply equal course credit weights or period requirements. Problem sessions, laboratories and language laboratories may be added.
Each sequence of courses was developed separately by asking the question--what knowledge is needed to achieve understanding of the main concepts of a discipline. This curriculum necessitated several compromises, one of which was accepting 32 core courses. The Study Group offers it as a model which synthesizes the needs of the Army, the current generation of cadets, and the principles of a sound education. This suggestion includes 12 courses in math/ science/engineering (37.5 percent), 12 courses in the social and behavioral sciences (37.5 percent), and eight in the humanities (25 percent) for a total of 32 core courses.
Certain design ideas deserve mention. The two human dynamics courses, psychology and leadership, are placed in Fourth and Second Class years respectively, to take advantage of the proposed summer military training (Drill Cadet and Cadet Troop Leader Training and upper class duties) that could follow. The American Institutions course should be the culmination of the ethics, human dynamics, and leadership sequence. The engineering sequence proposed above departs considerably from previous practice. Not all cadets concentrate in an engineering field, but all must learn the engineering approach to problem solving and analysis. Cadets would be required to select one of the several sequences--perhaps systems, electronic, mechanical, or civil--and to follow one of these from theory to practical application. An important consideration of this curriculum model is the placement of an elective in the Third Class year. This construction has several advantages. It introduces choice earlier in the program. It permits an earlier start on concentration and provides five semesters to structure it, rather than four. Alternatively, it permits cadets in academic difficulty to schedule a remedial course during term time as well as in the summer so that disruptions of course sequences can be repaired without major delay.
Our proposal presupposes an eight-course elective sequence in general areas of concentration--basic science and mathematics, applied science and engineering, the social and behavioral sciences, or the humanities-selected at mid-point of the Third Class year with the guidance of a trained advisor. Two graphic examples of concentration tracks--intended only for illustration--appear at pages 94-95. While our model shows eight electives as the desired level of individual choice, the reduction of the overall program to 40 courses offers considerably greater flexibility for capable cadets to go beyond the minimum graduation requirement by overloading. A maximum overload of one additional course per semester would double elective options. A variant of our model is also worthy of consideration, It would replace the fixed scheduling of courses over the four years with a variable and flexible sequence for perhaps half of the core program. The mathematics and writing sequences should remain firm since they are essential to later work. The basic science sequence should also begin in the Fourth Class year. Foreign language instruction, on the other hand, could be scheduled flexibly. Cadets with strong aptitude and interest in language and who desire to progress through electives could begin their study early. Cadets with other educational preferences or who visualize the possibility of an overseas assignment soon after graduation might want to complete the requirement in the two upperclass years. Similar considerations obtain in scheduling the applied science/engineering sequence.
The scheduling problems are obvious. In addition, more flexibility calls for more information on which to base choices and more advice by experienced faculty. We believe, however, that this can be done.
One alternative curriculum which received serious attention was designed using a system engineering approach. It included several suggestions for multi-course sequences. Certain of its design principles deserve serious future consideration. One sequence of courses was particularly relevant to a military career. It was composed of courses in numerical techniques and modeling to include operational analysis and simulations of small and large unit actions. We recommend that the Academy develop such a sequence as an elective choice on a test basis and that such innovations in military education be evaluated in future curriculum planning efforts.
We believe that the model curriculum, of all
the proposals considered, most nearly reaches the objectives defined. We
offer it with the intention of being suggestive rather than prescriptive.
The variety of coordination and scheduling considerations involved in such
change were not addressed. Course titles do not imply equal time allotments
or emphasis. Mathematics courses, for example, might have added problem-solving
sessions. Only the Academy is in a position to determine the detailed form
of such a curriculum.
The Academy's library is an attractive facility well situated at the center of the campus. In general, the library is a place conducive to study and work. The staff is well qualified and has a strong desire to serve the Academy.
The concern of the Study Group is that the library is not being used as well as it might by faculty or students. If one accepts the premise that cadet use of the library is proportional to that of the faculty, then it is important to increase faculty use of and interest in the library. Faculty use of the main library is hindered by the departmental libraries because their availability discourages instructors from becoming familiar with the more comprehensive main library holdings. On the other hand, these decentralized collections make sense because they are immediately available to instructors and reduce congestion in the main library. Faculty use of the main library may be incrementally reduced by the practice in some departments of issuing instructors small collections of books to support their instruction. This practice also discourages instructor interest in the main library.
Cadets' use of the library is similarly less than optimal. Their use varies from almost none at all during many periods to tremendous peak loading immediately before major papers are due in core courses. The lack of a long-term loan policy may contribute to the congestion during peak periods. A related difficulty is that large numbers of cadets frequently all have the same assignment at the same time. Better coordinated scheduling and more diversified reading and writing assignments would help to ease this situation.
Formal faculty involvement in the running of the library occurs through the mechanisms of the Academic Board, the Library Committee, and departmental representatives. The Academic Board becomes involved in major questions of policy, but the Librarian does not sit on this Board. The assignment of a library officer within each department as is currently the practice facilitates fiscal control and monitoring of the collection, but the program would be strengthened if the library designated a staff member for liaison with each department. The library assistants so designated might attend departmental meetings and otherwise attain greater involvement with the departments served.
Finally, the library does not have a comprehensive
plan to ensure that a decade hence it will be the kind of library that
will best serve the Academy. The impact of technology on libraries is increasingly
great, and unless plans are made to capitalize on these trends, the Academy
will be left behind.
The faculty authorized for the United States Military Academy in Academic Year 1976-77 consists of 540 US officers, three foreign officers, six uniformed civil service teachers, one foreign service officer, and two visiting professors. The US officers fall into three categories. Twenty hold the statutory rank of Professor as Presidential appointees; they can, with the approval of the Secretary of the Army, remain until age 64. Thirty-five serve as associate professors and have tenure until thirty years service. The remainder are instructors serving three or four year teaching tours.
The Study Group unequivocally supports the practice of drawing the bulk of the West Point faculty from the commissioned ranks. The dedication, enthusiasm, and maturity of these officers comprise an irreplaceable component of the West Point experience. The faculty has traditionally received high marks from observers such as the Kappel Board in 1972, visiting civilian professors, the General Accounting Office, the Middle States Accreditation Committee, and numerous Boards of Visitors. While concurring in those complimentary views, the Study Group recognizes some areas of possible improvement.
The very composition of West Point's faculty imposes certain limits upon the depth of academic background the instructors bring to the classroom. While this limitation constitutes part of the price paid to continue the valuable policy of staffing the faculty with commissioned officers, the Study Group believes that some internal and external alterations will measurably increase the academic expertise available to the cadets.
Currently, administrative duties overburden the professors and hinder them from effectively discharging other responsibilities. True, the senior professors must provide institutional governance and manage the Academy's academic affairs. But they also bear, to a large extent, the responsibility for the institution's academic stature. They should, therefore, engage in research and scholarly activities. Additionally, they should remain current in knowledge of the Army and maintain contacts both with cadets and faculty through teaching courses, elective and core, and by managing their respective departments. To do these tasks well requires a judicious balancing of priorities. Presently the professors devote the largest portion of their time to institutional governance and administrative management and thus diminish the value of their experience and background in other areas. The heads of departments, for instance, each sit on an average of 10 committees. During the academic portion of 1975 two of these committees upon which every head of department sits met 35 times, and during the academic portion of 1976 they met 58 times.
The Study Group believes that the amount and type of certain administrative details which occupy the time of the professors are improper and may, in many cases, be more profitably delegated. The Academic Board, for example, frequently considers hundreds of individual cases of admission and deficiency. While some few cases undoubtedly warrant the attention of the Academic Board, most probably can be handled by a subordinate agency. In the April 1977 Institutional Functioning Inventory administered to the West Point Faculty, 61 percent of those responding indicated that the non-tenured faculty should share more of the administrative duties. The Study Group fully supports the steps being taken by the Academy to shift some of the administrative duties from professors to other members of the faculty. A further discussion of the administrative duties appears in the governance chapter of this report.
A second point concerns the issue of change. The Study Group concludes that the professors occasionally delay unnecessarily changes within the departments and the Academy. We fully recognize the benefits of the stability provided by the professors. We also realize revolutionary institutional change is frequently undesirable and evolutionary change is usually healthy. But changes within the current structure of the Academy have been too deliberate in the recent past. Departmental reorganizations, for example, have frequently awaited a specific retirement. Curriculum revisions have been approved only after exceptionally long periods of consideration.
The Study Group recommends that the Academy consider rotating the position of department head of academic departments among the tenured faculty in each department at four- to seven-year intervals. We do not view a hierarchical system of management as necessary in an academic department. The Academy does have a large number of three-year instructors, a situation which suggests more control by the tenured faculty than would be required in a civilian institution; but this control could be exercised by the tenured faculty of a department as a group rather than by one department head at the top. Professors should continue to exercise guidance concerning course content and pedagogical techniques within their respective departments, drawing on their experience and knowledge. By allowing a different officer to assume the duties of department head approximately every five years, fresh ideas would be introduced into the governance structures of the departments and the Academy. Changing department heads would also result in a sharing of administrative duties and would allow greater attention to be placed on scholastic matters, thus improving academic excellence across the institution.
Unlike the professors, the associate professors have too small a share of the institutional governance and academic management. The Associate Professors Council as such has no vote in curriculum and governance issues nor do the associates as individuals. The Study Group believes that granting the associate professors a larger role will have the twin benefits of bringing a wider perspective to academic and institutional questions and lightening the load borne by the professors. Some of the administrative duties currently discharged by the associate professors should be passed on to members of the non-tenured faculty.
The selection process for tenured faculty must incorporate an improved system of checks and balances. A possible method would include an internal screening committee to review prospective candidates, narrowing the field. Following the screening committee's selection, the vitae of the candidates should be further reviewed by a committee consisting of all full professors and, separately, by the Dean. The three agencies (the Dean, screening committee, and full professor committee) would then rank the three candidates, any two votes for one candidate outweighing the third. When at least a two-vote consensus is reached, the name of the selected candidate would be then forwarded to the Superintendent. In addition to the internal screening by the three agencies described above, an ad hoc visiting committee of the Superintendent's Advisory Committee recommended in the governance chapter of this report should also sit as a review agency prior to any final decision on a candidate by the Superintendent.
In the judgment of the Study Group, the Academy's non-tenured instructors possess adequate qualifications but would benefit from increased study. The typical instructor arrives with a master's degree earned in a two-year program. Occasionally, an instructor has a PhD, but such officers are rare. The Study Group recommends allowing some officers to continue their studies to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program. Approving a limited number of four-year tours would provide still another means of increasing faculty expertise. Department of the Army must ensure that the Military Personnel Center understands the value of such extensions and takes all reasonable steps necessary to allow approval of the extension without damaging the officer's career.
A second tactic is repetitive assignments for good instructors who have also had an intervening tour using their graduate degree. Such individuals would have the additional benefit of being able to relate their specific discipline to the Army. The Study Group recommends that the Military Personnel Center, Department of Army, Materiel Development and Readiness Command, and the Academy establish a program for laboratory managers or project managers to serve alternating and multiple tours in Materiel Development and Readiness Command and at West Point. A similar program should be established for officers in the Foreign Area Officer program whose education and experience qualify them as instructors. Third, the Academy should consider granting a limited number of exceptional junior instructors a form of limited tenure, allowing them to remain at West Point until their twentieth year of service. Only a few such appointments should be made in any department. Depending upon the amount of time remaining in the service at the time tenure is granted, they might return to graduate school either full or part time. Finally, the Academy must ensure that its instructors attend only first-rate schools. Only by such attendance can the Academy guarantee that its prospective instructors will derive maximum benefit from their graduate schooling. The Study Group supports the Academy in opposing the policy of assigning an officer as an instructor solely on the strength of holding a master's degree in a particular discipline. Such officers may not be the best qualified, and their degree may be from an undistinguished or inappropriate school. Also a period of years may have elapsed between the graduate study and the teaching tour. Individual qualification and teaching potential should determine instructor assignments, not merely the possession of an advanced degree.
The Study Group notes that in a few cases once instructors do arrive at the Academy, they do not teach courses for which they were educated. This situation sometimes occurs because not all courses can be offered simultaneously. In other cases, instructors regularly find themselves teaching courses for which they are not properly prepared. The Office of Military Leadership has suffered from an insufficient number of instructors qualified in psychology. In the English department the vast majority of the instructors do their graduate work in literature, yet the department's curriculum also embraces the disciplines of philosophy and rhetoric. The Study Group believes that the department would significantly benefit by schooling an appropriate number of its instructors in these disciplines. As another method of increasing faculty quality, the Study Group recommends an expansion of the visiting professor program until the total civilian representation is about 5 percent of the faculty. In view of the recent addition of women to the Corps, we recommend this program be used as a source for the early addition of women to the faculty. Assignment of visiting professors should be based on the need of the discipline rather than equity in all departments. English, history, and chemistry skills, for example, are difficult to find in the active Army. Likewise, some subjects require greater experience than others to handle successfully. It is important that the Academy offer visiting professors appointments in grade levels commensurate with those held in their civilian institutions. Finally, the Academy and the Department of the Army should establish one- to two-year appointments for outstanding Army and Defense Department Career Civilians working, for example, in Department of the Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command laboratories.
The Study Group has noted certain instructor
attitudes which, if modified, could yield considerable pedagogical dividends.
One attitude, addressed in greater detail elsewhere in the report, involves
the unsupportive attitude held by some members of academic departments
toward the members of the Department of Tactics. To a large degree the
members of the Department of Tactics reciprocate, and the situation results
in many cadets divorcing academic achievement from professional success
and playing one group against the other, blaming academic deficiencies
on the military system, and attributing leadership failures and disciplinary
problems to the academic load. The Academy should consider selecting one
permanent associate professor per year to serve as a regimental tactical
officer which would help alleviate this problem. Also, about six officers
per year should be selected to serve split four-year tours, two as a tactical
officer and two as an instructor or vice versa.
A second attitude of concern to the Study Group appears in the belief among instructors and assistant professors that their tour at West Point does not enhance their careers. Not only does this perception affect the motivation of instructors, but, should it became widespread, soon the best officers would avoid tours at the Academy. A puzzling aspect of this problem is that the facts of promotion rates and school and command selection show clearly that such tours are career enhancing. Military Personnel Center and the Academy must do a better job of bringing such information to the attention of past, present, and prospective instructors. Assignment officers must know the facts as should the officers stationed at West Point and the Officer Corps in general. Academy assignments should be integrated with career specialties. The timing of assignment to the Academy must be carefully planned as must the nature of the tour immediately after leaving West Point. The various departments must encourage their officers to take advantage of opportunities which will help develop their overall careers. Appropriate instruction and information should be provided to boards involved in personnel decisions.
It is desirable for the junior faculty to feel free to seek advice from others with deeper understanding and broader experience. Theoretically, the associate professors and professors fulfill this role. In practice, however, some instructors indicated in interviews that they do not feel the permanent faculty is accessible to than. Regardless of the degree to which the faculty sees itself as accessible to the junior faculty, if the instructors do not sense such an openness, little communication will take place. New effort is required. We see a role for an organizational effectiveness expert here.
Finally, the Study Group
applauds the progress made towards a more representative balance of instructors
between Academy graduates and graduates from other institutions but feels
that more progress is called for in this area. Graduates of the Academy
presently make up approximately 60 percent of the faculty assigned for
three-year teaching tours, a sharp reduction from the 70 percent common
before AY 74-75. Although academic departments attempt to add officers
whose undergraduate degrees are from colleges other than West Point, the
Academy does not have a faculty with as great an undergraduate diversity
as could and should be obtained. The Military Personnel Center must assist
in this effort.
The positive aspects of the Thayer System have been praised over the years. The system demands regular preparation and accustoms cadets to working under stress by requiring them to think on their feet and to express themselves before peers and instructors. It teaches than to establish priorities and meet deadlines. Small sections facilitate interaction among instructors and cadets. Sectioning by ability permits the introduction of advanced material in the upper sections and concentration on fundamentals in the lower sections, thereby adjusting the learning experience to the ability of the group. The 3.0 daily grading scheme has some features of a criterion-referenced system in that the instructor determines whether the cadet has mastered the lesson for that day and declares him proficient or deficient. The system thus rewards success and punishes failure regularly.
The challenge the Academy faces is to retain the desirable features of the Thayer heritage while implementing progressive change. The Study Group observed many outstanding classes in the course of its work. With the aim of achieving an even better educational program, the comments that follow point to the problems that we found.
The Study Group identified five general areas for improvement. Two of these--cadet writing ability and facility in the use of mathematics-pertain to cadet performance. The other three--academic professionalism, curricular coherence, and instructional methods--related to institutional practices.
Most senior field commanders surveyed by the Study Group declare that graduates are woefully poor writers. West Point graduates do not stand alone. Poor writing is a national malaise, and officers from other colleges suffer equally. But there are steps the Academy can take to improve writing skills. Contributing to the deficiency at the Academy are disagreements about the purpose of cadet writing, inconsistent standards for content and style, a lack of coordination of written requirements, and most importantly, a lack of frequent, short, thoroughly evaluated written work.
The question of purpose is complicated. The English Department teaches argumentative writing--a logical defense of a restricted thesis. Other departments prefer a narrative or expository style which may or may not support a specific thesis. Of course, no single approach to writing is "right" or "wrong," but cadets become confused when departments seem to be at loggerheads. Most departments do not grade cadet writing on grammar, spelling, diction, or style; they concentrate on content. Yet every faculty member knows that writing improves only through critical evaluation of both form and content. The Academy should establish an interdepartmental committee on writing to address these problems and to coordinate a program of progressive instruction in writing throughout the four years. Without coordination, there has been inconsistency in standards, form, evaluation, and frequency of work. The Study Group recognizes the complexity of this problem and realizes that a new committee will not solve it easily. But a start should be made.
Similar deficiencies exist with respect to mathematics. Again, no interdepartmental committee bears responsibility for assessing cadet performance and coordinating the teaching of mathematics or its application in other courses. The Report of the Military Applications Committee Correlation Study, 1975-76, our interviews with instructors, and our personal observations all lead to the conclusion that many cadets in the middle and lower sections have significant difficulty with mathematics. Their situation results from deficiencies in their preparation at entrance, their poor attitudes toward studies, deficiencies in Academy instruction, and perhaps most important, ineffective reinforcement in other disciplines. The Study Group concludes that the Academy should mount vigorous efforts toward improving mathematical skills among cadets. In addition, we wish to call attention to three major areas of institutional practices which need strengthening.
The Study Group finds that academic professionalism throughout the Academy faculty and staff requires reemphasis. Every consultant who visited classes reported isolated cases of instructional error or laxity which amount to little in a single case but cumulatively have the effect of vitiating the academic experience and in some cases leading to fundamental misunderstandings. For example, they saw instructors who made errors in grammar and in mathematical calculations. It hardly needs to be said that carelessness and inaccuracy can be learned more easily than the habits of scrupulousness and precision. The faculty should take pains to set the right example.
A discussion of cadet attitudes toward studies appears elsewhere, but we mention the subject here because pedagogy influences these attitudes. In any particular course, its demonstrated relevance to other courses and to the Army will greatly affect the interest and enthusiasm of cadets. In general, instructors do not clearly relate their courses to work the cadets are doing in other courses. Nor are cadets regularly held accountable for material previously presented or required to use techniques and skills learned earlier. The lack of such linkages and sequences frustrates the desire of most cadets to understand the ways in which knowledge is unified.
Engineering courses taught at the upper level needlessly devote substantial review time to material thoroughly covered in earlier calculus courses. The thermodynamics course emphasizes such narrow areas as use of steam tables but omits important linkages with earlier courses on statistics and probability. The computer science course stresses Fortran programming without placing sufficient emphasis on a broad range of other computer applications which would be useful later in the curriculum and in an Army career heavily dependent upon the use of computers. The core economics course makes little use of calculus and statistics.
It would be possible to coordinate instruction in the core curriculum so that cadets would learn a particular technique or principle then promptly use it in related disciplines. The Study Group recognizes the difficulties associated with structuring courses in this way, but we note that few institutions would even have the Academy's administrative capacity to manage the coordination. The Academy could do it and should, we believe, to enhance the motivation of cadets.
Cadets are especially interested in the relevance of their Academy education to their future careers as regular Army officers. Accordingly, cadets should learn why and how as military professionals they will use their understanding of the physical world as well as their knowledge of culture, politics, economics, history, and human behavior. The relevance of the academic program to a military career needs greater emphasis.
Another institutional practice in need of change is the excessively firm adherance in core courses to the standardized outlines and procedures which are given to new instructors. Frequent quizzes or recitations, standard written exams, the requirement to rank all students in each course, and the rotation of instructors--all tend toward homogenized teaching. These procedures properly support new instructors, but they also hinder innovation and insulate courses from the fresh ideas brought by faculty members who have recently come from graduate study. As we discuss elsewhere, we also believe that the importance of the General Order of Merit has also contributed in some departments to excessive and unnecessary standardization. We urge maintaining balance between support for new instructors and a reasonable degree of innovation and individual style.
In other sections of this report we discuss what has been called the fragmentation of the educational experience at West Point, the feeling of cadets that the system never stops pulling them apart, never ceases making demands, never allows them periods of reflection and consolidation. Some of this fragmentation stems from the pedagogy, so we comment' on the subject here, looking at three factors: grading, period length, and assignments.
Overly frequent grading contributes to fragmentation by artificially dividing course material into small segments for evaluation. No department any longer practices daily recitation and grading, but some come close, grading two of every three lessons. This practice often emphasizes drill at the expense of understanding. Cadets may find themselves proficient in certain lesson-sized bits of knowledge or problem solving but unable to relate them to larger generalizations or more fundamental principles. Frequent grading entices some of the less adept students into destructive gamesmanship; they search constantly for the minimum amount of factual material that must be memorized to suffice for that day--in cadet jargon, "the poop." This approach will succeed when examinations focus on small segments and do not require cadets to synthesize. Cadets themselves dislike such frequent grading and would prefer fewer evaluations.
Period length can also contribute to fragmentation. The 80-minute period as it is used in mathematics permits, some say encourages, the continual use of 20 to 30 minutes per day for evaluated board work. This limited time often produces little conceptual understanding and is usually inadequate for treating difficult problems. Current policies limiting the time a given department can require for homework restrict the complexity of problems that can be assigned and lead to greater stress on class drill. Reliance on daily board work for evaluation means that exchanges between instructors and the cadets are brief, public, and oral. They have no written work to review later.
Scheduling of laboratories in blocks no longer than two hours also adds to the fragmentation. This brief time means that many labs take a "cookbook" approach, one that compares unfavorably with better civilian colleges. Existing procedures also inhibit the development of project based labs. In these the nature of projects selected by cadets determines the number of four-hour labs devoted to them. The Study Group does not suggest that all labs take the project approach, but we recommend that each cadet take at least one such lab in some subject.
Another concern related to the adverse effects of overly frequent grading and ill-designed periods is the fragmentation of assignments which occurs in many courses. Judicious use of excerpts often provides a beneficial method to present central concepts or examples of larger works, but novels and plays rarely submit to such abridgement. Full works of literature should be assigned whenever possible, and courses should be structured to permit some class discussions of entire works, not merely one day's reading assignments.
One of the main instructional
settings in use at the Academy is the small section, a situation with potentially
great benefits. The Study Group, however, notes some problems. There is
a tendency to overwork the small section method. Lectures are used rarely
and tend to be large evening lectures of uneven quality. When the cadets
attend lectures, generally they are inattentive and do not take notes since
they do not believe that they will be tested on material presented in that
way. We note that while many sections operate effectively, some do not.
Sometimes the instructor lacks knowledge of the subject or does not understand
how to lead a small group; sometimes the students have not studied the
material or they lack skill in discussion.
West Point instructors work hard to compensate for their inexperience as faculty members by intensive preparation, enthusiasm, dedication, and efforts to relate course material to Army applications. Naturally, cadet questions may exceed an instructor's background, particularly when he teaches outside his immediate field. Continuing education of the junior faculty should help to solve this particular problem. Any such program should include the development of skills in discussion leadership. But group discussions may fail for lack of cadet preparation too. As discussed elsewhere, many cadets believe that grades of "A" are almost unattainable, so some resign themselves to working only enough to achieve a minimum passing grade--2.0. Thus, discussion, which flourishes only with informed participation by all parties, flounders. Improvement might follow from assigning different readings to cadets in the same section. Knowing that they depend upon each other for information might spur cadets to more effective reading, listening, and speaking.
The final difficulty of teaching cadets by group discussion is that they have little preparation in critical thinking. A logic course would teach cadets the principles of evidence and the relation between evidence and conclusions; it would lead to more rigorous discussions. While a full semester course in logic may not be appropriate, instruction should be included in the curriculum and should be coordinated among departments that require argumentative discourse.
The audio-visual facilities at the Academy are unrivaled by most civilian colleges. Several of our civilian consultants commented enviously on the quantity of available support, and most departments make good use of the facilities. More, however, could and should be done. Television, the preferred medium for displaying images, and the computer, the best device for manipulating data, should be joined imaginatively to exploit the strengths of each. The Study Group was disappointed to observe lackluster use of the blackboard. Perhaps because of the military instruction tradition that discourages in-class writing on the blackboard, many instructors use the blackboard ineffectively. This deficiency considered alone would hardly merit more than passing comment in our report. But it is another example showing the need for an instructional development program at the Academy. Many teaching skills and techniques need polishing: lecturing, leading discussions, evaluating papers, employing audio-visual equipment, and using the blackboard. Especially because the majority of the Academy faculty is inexperienced in the college classroom (approximately one-third are fresh from graduate school each year), we would expect considerable improvement in teaching as a result of such a program.
The Study Group is concerned about the apparent hesitation of the Academy to experiment with new instructional techniques. In general new ideas have not been tested on a segment of the Corps to determine the advantages of various learning strategies. It is neither necessary nor desirable to try and idea on the entire Corps of Cadets. The Study Group suggests that the Academy consider the following techniques.
- Individually paced, mastery-based instruction. This approach is used at Purdue University and Oklahoma State University, institutions which do not enjoy the favorable instructor-student ratio of West Point. It appears to be particularly compatible with small sections. While there have been some experiments with this technique, there has been no major effort to determine its potential for West Point.
- Computer-assisted instruction. Gaming and simulation would enhance cadets' understanding of the tools available to assist in making decisions in the face of uncertainty. The Academy has the capability for computer analysis of variance and regression, but neither subject appears in the core curriculum. Sensitivity analysis, antidifferentiation routines, and other topics could also be introduced.
The final area of our
concern in pedagogy is the examination process. Cadets and instructors
alike believe that significant numbers of cadets who have not mastered
course material nevertheless pass. Why the apparent unwillingness to fail
the marginal or clearly deficient cadet? The first possible reason is the
severity of the penalty for failure. It can cause dismissal, although in
practice some lesser punishment normally occurs. But in many cases failure
results in loss of summer leave, a full academic year, or both. Second,
the publicity given high attrition rates may contribute to a general reluctance
to declare cadets deficient. While recognizing these influences, the Study
Group believes that there should be a greater willingness to fail those
who do not measure up. We strongly support reducing the penalty for failing
a single course, and we recommend further steps to increase the flexibility
of options for dealing with deficient or failing cadets and to ensure that
isolated substandard performance does not lead to separation from
G. Academic Administration
The Study Group reviewed the administration of the academic program, specifically looking at scheduling, incentives for academic excellence to include grading, service obligations for separated cadets, counseling, graduation requirements, and the interrelations among these topics.
1. Scheduling. Cadets follow a full daily schedule. Normally, their day extends from 0625 until 2330, with the academic day ending at noon into two 60-minute periods. The daily schedule affects the administration of the academic program in many ways, but the net effects are rigid scheduling, fragmented student time, and inefficient use of facilities.
The Study Group suggests a schedule featuring a standard period length, for example, 50 or 60 minutes, and class attendance by regiment to the extent possible. In such a scheme, all periods could be interchangeable, a characteristic which would not only add flexibility and distribute facility use by making labs, lecture halls, and playing fields available during more of the day but would also afford cadets substantial periods (two to four hours or more) of uncommitted time. Possible variations in scheduling include staggering lunch attendance which would add another period and still more flexibility, continuing the scheduled day somewhat beyond 1515 (with appropriate periods reserved for members of intercollegiate teams), and reducing time allotted for meals and associated formations.
The Study Group also sees opportunities for improvement in the academic calendar. The first semester now extends past the Christmas vacation. Cadets return from their leave for two weeks of instruction and then take their term-end examinations. The schedule interferes with their enjoyment of the holiday and requires a significant mental readjustment to prepare for examinations. The Study Group prefers a fall term beginning in January and ending in May. This change would better align study requirements with the holiday. A slight cost savings to the Academy would result since each class would spend about somewhat less time at West Point. The crucial issue with respect to semester scheduling is the time required for cadet basic training (CBT). The new cadets' reporting date must remain in July since many high schools do not graduate until late June. Elsewhere in this report the Study Group notes that CBT and organization week could be shortened. We therefore believe the first term can begin in August.
2. Incentives and Sanctions. Among the prime academic incentives is the grading system. The basic system in use at West Point theoretically arrays cadet academic achievement on a scale between 0.0 and 3.0, with satisfactory performance denoted by 2.0 or above. However, actual practice compresses most grades into the upper one-third of the scale. This system emphasizes this 2.0 threshold, terming achievement at or above this level "proficient" and all below as "deficient." Although the system theoretically allows a full range of assessment, the cadets view it as a "pass-fail" system. Thus a 2.0 rating--equivalent to a borderline "D minus"--has long been viewed by the cadets as adequate.
Within the recent past, West Point recognized these grading system deficiencies. The Academy's 1976 Curriculum Study Group recommended a new grading system. The new system is somewhat cumbersome and does not go far enough to eliminate counterproductive attitudes since departments internally may still use the 3.0 system. We support the intent of the Academy's initiatives but recommend adoption of standard letter grading and a quality point average by all elements.
Like other institutions, the Academy rewards demonstrated academic excellence. Such recognition has included designations as Distinguished Cadet (top 5 percent of a class in all areas of measured performance) and Dean's List (top 30 percent in all academic courses). Cumulative performance and performance within a single year determine separate honors. The Academy ranks all cadets in a class and publishes specific class standings called the General Order of Merit.
The West Point Study Group agrees with the Academy that the General Order of Merit (GOM) hinders the achievement of the academic of the Academy and should be abolished. While the GOM serves a variety of uses, its primary function is to determine the order in which cadets chose their specialty assignment and first duty station. It also determines the order of graduates and subsequent date of commissioning and has several other minor purposes. None of the uses of the GOM seem appropriate nor truly necessary. Just as the uses to which the GOM is put are improper, its effects on attitudes of cadets (discussed in a previous section), administrative load of instructors, and the Army depart drastically from those desired. Long considered a motivator of cadets, the GOM is in fact a discouragement. The incorporation of the Leadership Evaluation System (LES) into the GOM aggravates problems. The peer rater portion of the LES reassures cadets to conform to be and to do only that necessary to "get by." The effect of the GOM on academic departments is generally to emphasize the teaching of the same material in the same manner to as many cadets as possible. In spite of the effort in some departments to break this mold, some instructors are still told to maintain fairness in the system by teaching, examining, and grading cadets in a standard way. The GOM also has an adverse effect on the Army as a whole. Specialty selection by order of graduation concentrates successful graduates in certain branches. The combination of location and specialty selection in turn produces an undesirable distribution of graduates among various Army posts.
Clearly, a program of academic incentives should be retained; however, an alternative system of recognition should be developed using the quality point average to determine those to receive honors at set intervals such as term end of year end. Furthermore, only those achieving honors should be identified. Precise course or class rank should not be published. By not identifying class standing and by incorporating a Quality Point Average in graduation requirements, cadets will be forced to meet absolute standards rather than allowed to rely on the security or relative class position. This system has the added advantage of not attaching notoriety to those who barely escape failure.
Another incentive, guaranteed graduate schooling, warrants separate discussion. This program terminated with the Class of 1977. Some exceptions exist, since cadets may continue to compete for certain graduate scholarships. But winners are usually advised to defer schooling until they have completed an initial tour of duty with troops. The advantages of that first tour with troops are significant. Performance as a troop leader is a critical indicator of future potential, a measure that should be taken early in an officer's career. Furthermore, the entire Academy experience points toward positions of leadership, and to delay such duty is undesirable. After about four years of service all graduates are considered along with their contemporaries from all commissioning sources for fully funded graduate schooling programs that support the projected needs of the Army. Selection criteria include duty performance, undergraduate records, potential for future service, officer interests, and the needs of the service. Competition for the program is keen. We think that all officers should compete on an equal footing, regardless of source of commission. We believe the Academy should not reestablish a separate program to guarantee graduate schooling.
Under the current system of rewards, the cadet who excels receives additional privileges, but the marginal performer suffers no significant loss of privileges. The primacy of academic pursuits would be enhanced by devising a stronger set of sanctions for marginal performance. With the addition of a set minimum quality point average (QPA) as a requirement for graduation, it would be prudent to apply this same criterion at intermediate points (term and year end) to identify as early as possible the marginal performer who has accumulated repeated "D" grades. A cadet whose GPA falls below the established standard should attend individual counseling sessions and assume a probationary status for some period with an attendant loss of privileges and eligibility for certain extracurricular, athletic, and chain of command positions.
A more restrictive privilege system during the week but with more liberal weekend privileges should be considered. Facilities in Eisenhower Hall which reflect contemporary standards would benefit cadets not wishing to leave the post. The Study Group supports a system of increasing freedom of choice over the four years approaching the status of junior officer coupled with the sanctions for marginal performance discussed above.
3. Service Obligation for Separated Cadets. Department of Defense Directive 1332.23, dated 9 May 1968, provides that "with the commencement of the Second Class Academic Year, a Second or First Classmen who is separated prior to completing the course of instruction, except for physical disqualifications, unfitness, or unsuitability, will normally be transferred to the Reserve component in an enlisted status and be ordered to active duty for not less than two years...." When, however, separation results from a deficiency not considered willful, the active duty requirement may be waived.
In practice, cadets separated for academic deficiency have not been required to serve. As of 31 May 1977, 24 ex-cadets were serving on active duty in an enlisted status as a result of the directive, but none for academic failure. The policy has had three adverse effects. First, it creates pressure to resign at the conclusion of Third Class year. Second, it causes some cadets to consider active duty service in the enlisted ranks as a form of punishment. It has also been suggested that this perception caused some reluctance to report violations of the Honor Code. Third, it means that separated cadets who enter active duty as a result of this policy are non-volunteers in the volunteer Army. In short, we are using Army service as a form of punishment and retaining the wrong type of individuals in the service.
Several alternatives to this policy are available. The first is to revoke the directive. Doing so would obviate any stigma associated with enlisted service since separated cadets would not serve. Furthermore, poorly motivated cadets could resign at their pleasure, and the services would not have to deal with an unmotivated officer. An obvious disadvantage is that cadets might obtain several years of free education and then resign without rendering subsequent national service. If a sanction is retained, the Study Group believes it should take a different form. For example, the ex-cadet might be required to repay some dollar amount for education and training received. The costs considered should be those directly attributable to the period of education and training. While the GAO previously made a similar recommendation, we doubt the political feasibility of such a change in statute. Careful consideration should be given to possible variations of this sanction. Alternatively and perhaps best, cadets separated after the start of the Second Class Academic Year could be required to serve on active duty in the enlisted ranks for a period of two years unless they enroll in some other precommissioning program within nine months following separation from the Academy. Subsequent voluntary or involuntary departure from such a program for any reason other than physical disqualification normally would be grounds for immediate entry into active service in enlisted status. This alternative would afford ex-cadets already identified as having potential for commissioned service the opportunity to seek that commission in other ways, for example, the fine performer who resigns because of marriage. The services would benefit from the individual's subsequent service as a commissioned officer. Such a policy also permits ex-cadets greater freedom of choice yet does not remove the "pay back" provision for education and training received. It allows the services to capitalize on the precommissioning training the ex-cadet experienced while a member of the Corps. Canada successfully uses a somewhat similar procedure.
4. Counseling. The Study Group's interviews with cadets and junior faculty indicated that cadets obtain most of the advice on which they base important decisions concerning elective courses, branch choice, and improvement in learning skills from peers rather than tactical officers, staff or faculty. This situation points to the need for an improved counseling program.
Several agencies have a portion of the counseling function: Tactical Officers, the Dean's office, academic departments, the Office of Military Leadership, the Office of Military Instruction, the medical staff, and the faculty. Only the Tactical Officers have the charge to deal with all aspects of cadets' development, but they have neither the time nor the expertise to address all areas. The entire counseling program suffers from fragmentation, inefficient use of resources, and a lack of effective assessment. A coordinated and comprehensive plan to develop a new counseling program does not exist. The Study Group believes the Academy should develop an efficient and comprehensive plan for a coordinated but decentralized counseling program using all available assets and establishing coordination requirements to provide cadets the full range of counseling services including diagnostic testing.
5. Graduation Requirements. Present requirements include a four-year residency containing 48 courses, completion or credit for prescribed courses, completion of military training, completion of physical education, and satisfactory conduct. Graduation is permitted only in June or before the start of the fall term. No minimum overall grade average is prescribed. Put another way, a cadet can graduate with the equivalent of straight "D" letter grades, a 2.0 average in Academy terms. Requiring a minimum Quality Point Average would raise the standards of academic performance and make clear that while marginal performance in isolated areas can be accepted, coasting to a marginal performance in all cannot.
Requiring the completion of 48 courses in residence (or 40 if the curriculum recommendation of this study is accepted) and requiring a four-year residency reduce the attractiveness of the Academy to transfer students and are costly in terms of dollars and manpower. We believe the Academy should consider allowing the transfer student to graduate at the end of his fourth summer training period or at mid-term of his last year providing he has satisfied all other requirements including military and physical. A somewhat analogous situation faces a cadet who is deficient in one or more courses and joins the next lower class at the start of the next academic year (in Academy terms a "turnback"). He now is required to complete a five year residency carrying a full load and in some cases to complete 10 or more courses beyond the basic 48 required. If permitted to continue with his original class in military and summer training, he might, by use of leave time for course make-up and if necessary by use of the fall semester, be ready to graduate only one academic term behind his class thereby joining the active force five to six months earlier.