Phi Beta Cons

A Naval Academy Prof on Preferential Admissions

In the December 3 print edition of National Review, we read this letter from a former history prof at the Naval Academy, giving us a sobering view of the reality behind the smiley face of “affirmative action”:

I’ve just concluded “A Failed Policy” (November 12), Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom’s review of the book Mismatch, a critique of affirmative action. As a former history instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, I am intrigued by the review and will be purchasing the book shortly.

The book’s authors conclude that policies intended to aid black and Hispanic students in fact “do more harm than good,” because they result in students’ being admitted to schools for which they are unprepared. I can say from experience that this holds true for the Naval Academy. Professor Bruce Fleming, a tenured English professor at the Naval Academy, has been arguing this case for years, but he has unsurprisingly been dismissed not only within the Navy but also by the wider world of academia.

All service-academy graduates are commissioned officers in their respective services, and they will lead enlisted personnel, perhaps in combat. Unprepared and incompetent service-academy graduates should be a cause of concern for all Americans, especially parents entrusting their children to recently graduated officers empowered with substantial legal authority. I’ll never forget a midshipman I taught. The midshipman had a combined SAT score of 800: 450 math and 350 English. This individual struggled all semester and could not even cheat effectively: For an assignment on the French Revolution, this person simply Googled “French Revolution” and copied the text at the first link. I failed the student and documented the transgression. But the midshipman was retained.

John Cauthen

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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