Lots of fun reaction to today’s TIME column on what lessons the Marines might offer the public schools. But also a few worth looking at more.
Marines go through a brutal 6-wk training resembling brainwashing. This is what makes the other things you mention possible. Well, the initial training is 13 weeks and it’s not really brainwashing. It is an intense and deliberate training period though, but there is value in that for what they do. The takeaway is merely that clarity on what essential pre-service and in-service training is helps with effectiveness whether your mission is fighting a war or teaching kids.
It’s an all volunteer force, how can you possibly compare it? While I think there are some lessons from Marine training about values and character education that are transferable when we think about students, the all-volunteer nature of the Marines (and entire military today) is important context and in some ways limiting, of course. But, our teaching force is all-volunteer and the ideas about organization, training, etc…can travel easier.
One goal of edreform is to militarize teaching. To be clear for the literal amongst us, it’s not the specifics of what the Marines do that matter for education, it’s the elements and ideas we can learn from, as the former Marine Major discusses in the column. Communicating in a decentralized organization operating in a fluent environment, for instance. And I’d suggest we’d have happier – and more effective – teachers if education leaders were as good as the Marines are at coupling a fair amount of empowerment with meaningful training, accountability, and structure.
There is obviously a visceral dislike of many things military in the education world – it’s one symptom of the troubling divide between those who protect us and the rest of American society. But an irony that jumps out at me is that when you talk to Marine officers and seasoned NCOs, including some pretty battle-hardened guys, some are better at articulating how all the soft skills matter, teamwork, leadership, even feelings etc…than many people in our allegedly hopelessly touchy-feely field are.
(1) As a Marine, I’m a bit flattered. Though, respectfully, this comparison is off the mark. The values equate, the missions do not. (2) …the last thing our school system needs is to adopt the Marine ethos. A Marine has to be what he is because it is a matter of life and death. The training, the discipline, are [sic] the instant execution of an order are the differences between life and death in combat situations. Absolutely. But again, the issue is not adopting the specifics, many of which are totally unrelated to the work of schools. The point is to look at elements and ideas that make one institution effective in its mission and think about how they can be applied to another. How the Marines emphasize markmanship is not relevant, why they do it offers some ideas. And when you talk to Marines in leadership positions about what they worry about they are focused on mission and being ready to deploy immediately. That focus on mission transcends particular missions or purposes . A similar urgency and immediacy around the critical aspects of education – which you do see in schools that are succeeding in challenging situations – would be valuable, no?