Academies teach officers ‘blind obedience,’ not ‘rationality and discussion’
A U.S. Naval Academy professor who has been disciplined by the institution for speaking out against the school’s practices just released a book chronicling his fight to save service academies from “military bureaucracy.”
Professor Bruce Fleming’s new book, “Saving Our Service Academies: My Battle With, And For, The US Naval Academy To Make Thinking Officers,” published Jan. 9, addresses growing concerns about leftist political ideologies dominating – and weakening – U.S. military academies.
In a phone interview with The College Fix, Fleming said the most pressing threat to military academies right now is the discouragement of rational discussion and the promotion of ideological orthodoxy.
“Instead of encouraging rationality and discussion from people who actually know what’s going on, things are imposed from the top down that are frequently disastrous,” Fleming said.
“The United States hasn’t won a war in the last 75 years. I would maintain that’s because a culture has arisen of kissing the behind of the officer that’s your commander,” he added.
In the book, Fleming wrote that service academies no longer fill the needs that the government created them for, and instead “teach blind obedience in officers rather than informed and respectful questioning, and so sap our military strength rather than increasing it.”
Fleming said the academies must be re-examined.
Referencing the title of his book, he said he has been fighting a battle “with” and “for” the nation’s military academies for years. A former Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the Naval Academy in Annapolis for 36 years.
“The battle ‘with’ is that I started writing articles about 20 years ago that the administration didn’t approve of, and they started punishing me at an increasing scale,” Fleming told The Fix. “The battle ‘for’ is committed to what the Naval Academy says it is, but not at all to the unfortunate reality of what it actually is.”
Fleming linked this cultural shift in the military to the failures during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, calling it an “endemic threat.”
“People on the ground like the enlisted in Afghanistan who look at the situation and say, ‘This is awful, this isn’t going to work’ — they weren’t listened to,” he told The Fix. “The top brass was too interested in looking good rather than producing results.”
He added that a more “immediate problem” is “stopping the imposition of all of these culture war topics” on the service academies and military.
Fleming’s new book addresses concerns that others also have raised about problems inside U.S. military academies.
In 2022, Major General Paul Vallely, an alumnus of West Point, also spoke out in an interview with The Fix, including academies’ mandatory vaccination policies and an absence of conservative guest speakers.
Vallely said he has received complaints from cadets that “there wasn’t real teaching going on in some of the social science departments; that they were receiving this mandatory indoctrination” on critical race theory and other leftist ideology.
Around the same time as the interview, a Judicial Watch public records request revealed the teaching of critical race theory to cadets at West Point.
“Our military is under attack – from within,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in response to the document.
In another example, last year, five military health providers, including two university professors, advocated for “gender affirming” treatment for young people with gender dysphoria in the U.S. Military Health System, The Fix reported.
Meanwhile, in October, the nonprofit legal advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions sued West Point for alleged race-based admissions practices.
“The Academy sets specific racial goals for each incoming class and adjusts them year over year to balance the racial demographics of each class with the racial demographics of the general population and enlisted corps,” SFFA’s complaint alleged.
Students for Fair Admissions is the same group that successfully defeated affirmative action in a case against Harvard University before the U.S. Supreme Court. The 2023 ruling includes an exemption for military academies.
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