Military schools seem to go in and out of favor with the general public. Perhaps that has to do with some rather common misconceptions about what military schools are and how they operate. The truth is that America's military prep schools carry on a proud tradition of academic and personal excellence which has withstood the assaults of negative media attention and changing fashions in education. Let's debunk five common misconceptions about military schools.
1. They are retirement outposts for retired officers.
Hollywood loves to portray military schools as retirement outposts for disgruntled officers with enormous grudges against just about everything and egos to match. (Think Taps with Timothy Hutton and George C. Scott.) The truth is that most military schools have a headmaster who is styled a commandant or superintendent according to military nomenclature. Becoming an administrator in a military school is a perfectly logical next career step for an officer who has retired from active service usually in his '40's or '50's. Their egos? Most of the them are pretty average. Their job is to run the school, hire the best faculty they can find and manage the finances. That's what any headmaster does.
Running any private school these days requires immense amounts of administrative savvy combined with a deft touch for fund-raising and the diplomatic skills of a career diplomat. Being a head of school is a multi-faceted job. Being the head of a military school requires all these skills together with the military experience and background.
2. All military schools teach is military stuff.
The truth is that military schools are simply private schools with a particular emphasis. They are no more off the beaten educational path than, say, Christian or Muslim schools are. Put another way, they combine academics with military training. Most parents expect their son or daughter to graduate from a private school and matriculate to college. So, whether you send your daughter to a military school or a prep school for high school, the objective is the same. Only the enrichment focus of the schools will be different. Instead of having 10 hours a week of religious education as you'd find in a parochial school, you will have 10 hours of military history and related subjects.
A military school education embraces stucture, team work, and a solid focus on self-discipline. And they are not just for men either. Several schools are co-educational. Technology plays a major role in military schools these days, reflecting the enormous changes technology has wrought across the entire defense spectrum in America today.
Military school graduates have gone on to be our nation's leaders. They have paid the price for defending our freedom.
Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.
Stanza II from O Valiant Hearts by John Stanhope Arkwright
3. Military school graduates only go into military service.
Some do. Some don't. Many students and their parents see a military high school as a logical first step down the path to military service at some point. But it is just that: the first step. Going to college is the second step. Military service is the third step.
Military schools can help your child develop good habits of discipline and structure. Just about anything worth doing well requires lots of discipline. Discipline takes hard work, persistence, stamina and time. Children need to learn how to work hard, be persistent, develop stamina and patience. A military school education can help provide the structure to accomplish those aims.
In an era when instant gratification seems endemic, good old-fashioned discipline lays a solid foundation for success in adult life. Discipline evolves into a pattern of self-discipline. After several years of this kind of training your child will know what she has to do to accomplish her objectives. Military schools serve up discipline as regularly as they serve breakfast.
4. Military schools are for students who are troubled.
Military schools are most definitely not alternative schools. Alternative schools are specialized schools catering to children with emotional and other difficulties. Their programs focus on remediatiion for the most part. Military schools no the other hand provide a military style structure to every day life combined with comprehensive academic, athletic and extracurricular programs. Many parents and students find that appealing and therefore choose to attend a military school.
The graduates of the 42 military schools in the U.S. matriculate to colleges and universities at home and abroad. Academic training and good results are primary objectives of military schools. Always have been. Always will be. Most military schools think of themselves as college preparatory schools. That’s how important the academics are. Strong leaders need a solid academic training too. Military schools do their very best to provide that.
Knowing that your child will receive a comprehensive education in academics, sports, extracurricular activities as well as a solid military training is in my opinion the most important benefit a military school offers. No more worry about planning all that activity and making it happen. The school does it as part of its daily, ongoing program. Seamlessly. Professionally. Effectively.
Private schools aim to educate the whole child. Education is not just the academics, important though those may be. Education also involves teaching children to get along with each other, to respect views which differ from theirs and to be an effective part of a team. Because private school classes are small with typically 12-16 students, your child will receive the personalized attention she deserves. The athletics and extracurricular activities combine with the military training to develop your daughter's abilities and personalty to the fullest extent possible.
And finally you need to remember that you chose the school and the school chose you. Both parties mutally agreed to this partnership. There's no passive acceptance factor here. You didn't have to send your child to a school simply because you lived within school district boundaries. You wanted your child to attend that specific private school. That school wanted her to attend.
5. Going to a military school guarantees you a place in one of the service academies.
Going to a military school and doing extraordinarily well in every aspect of your life and work there will help. But the key to getting into one of the service academies is getting nominated by your congressman in addition to meeting the academy's admission requirements.
Many military schools offer JROTC or Junior Regular Officer Training Corps. This is a Federal program sponsored by the United States Army. The Army cannot recruit high school students. So it uses the JROTC program to expose young people to the possibilities and potential of military service with the hope that some of them might choose to become part of the armed forces in later life. Needless to say, military schools are committed to the success of their graduates. If a military career is part of your child’s plan, a military school makes perfect sense.
Service to country is a high-minded concept. Military schools get to the heart of the concept with community service and other programs which teach their students compassion and concern for the welfare of others. Service to country has kept our nation free for hundreds of years. Patriotism and love of our nation are part of the DNA of any military school. Your child will benefit from that as well.
Attending a military school and doing well academically will certainly improve your chances for being accepted at one of the service academies. But it is after all the first step in a much longer process.