Then Why Shut it Down? Primarily, because I think that much of what makes a service academy graduate great is present before the student steps foot on campus. Even considering attendance at a service academy requires an enormous amount of fortitude; I know that I gave up the idea when I was a high school senior because I was convinced I couldn't hack it. Going to Yale, Michigan, UC-Berkeley, the University of Kentucky, or the University of Washington is unlikely to weaken the resolve of the typical service academy applicant; I don't believe that exposure to a more rigorous academic environment will make the typical cadet or midshipmen less capable or dedicated. On the contrary, I suspect that exposure to the wider academic universe, accompanied by capable ROTC training, would produce better officers.
Moreover, I think that it's a two way street. The number of academy students who would be diffused across the American university system is relatively small, but would represent the elite of those interested in military service. I suspect that the diffusion of the very best of America's military officer prospects across America's university system will serve to improve the system, both by providing more diversity in the classroom and by raising the general level of student commitment. It's fair to say that this is not, in academia, a universally held sentiment; while I was always very happy to have ROTC students in my courses, some faculty view them in a less positive light.
We know this is going to strike a chord with some readers and contributors of this blog and that is precisely why we are posting it. As a graduates of one of the lesser-known "seminaries", we have our thoughts on the matter but will refrain from sharing but one.
A long-running argument with one of our family members is of the discipline vs. structure aspect afforded by the acadamies. The discipline instilled by the acadamies and perhaps the military in general that we know you have heard about is largely a myth. You gotta trust us on this one: any degree of time-management we learned from having to balance a 20-unit course load with the demands of regimental life was learned not necessarily through any self-discipline but rather the fear of sub-par grades (leading ultimately to expulsion) and/or demerits on the regimental side of the house which very easily leads to restriction on weekends (a closed campus does wonders for those freedom-loving motivational impulses).
Of course, whether or not the acadamies will go away is largely a rhetorical exercise as they collectively carry too much juice and prestige (although, our alma mater's fate has been spoken aloud in D.C. over the years). We would, however, like to hear your take. From academy grads to folks who work with them and/or ROTC grads and to those who have served in the enlisted ranks and who have some clear cut opinions about the quality of officers the service academies are generating vs. that of ROTC.
Pictured: Plebe summer at Kings Point, i.e. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
P.S. Please check out the comments at link to Information Dissemination. Excellent as usual.