kitchen table math, the sequel: military schools

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

military schools

Only in the military?

After my first visit to Hogwarts, on Sports Orientation Night, I came away thinking the place felt like a "happy military school." As it turned out, that was by design; the principal told us so on Family Orientation Day. I've forgotten how he put it, but the gist was that Jesuit schools have much in common with military schools.

Loyola himself, of course, was a soldier.

My point: happy military schools work.

Knowing what I do now, I take issue with this observation:
Behavioral problems are not an issue [inside military schools] due to the values students are taught at home.
I would wager a very large sum of money that a person who has actually taught in a military school would read this passage and hoot.

Your typical classroom pits 20 to 30 kids against 1 adult. That's not quite the Battle of Thermopylae, but close enough.

Kids in groups are like dogs in packs
* (I say that with affection for kids and dogs): they rev each other up, and beyond a certain point parents can't control their kids from home no matter how sterling their values. It is the school's job to keep order and a cheerful spirit.

Most schools don't: because of political correctness that dictates "radical inclusion;" because ed schools don't teach classroom management skills; because public schools seem to believe that classroom discipline begins and ends in the home.

It doesn't. The public schools in my district, where the school population is upper middle class children from well-organized families, are safe and reasonably orderly, but there are constant complaints about disrupted classrooms, kids not being able to hear because of commotion made by the 'hyper' kids, etc. At the high school, students and parents have been told that disruptive kids in honors courses "don't deserve to be in the class."

I think it's unlikely that military kids are better behaved than kids in my district when they're not under their parents' direct supervision, and I credit military school personnel, not military parents,** with the orderly environment inside military schools.

* "In 2008, 39% of the fatalities involved multiple dogs."

** Not a criticism of military parents or anyone else. All I'm saying is: if a parent isn't inside the classroom, he isn't the one keeping order.


Doug Sundseth said...

As a graduate of a DoD dependent school, perhaps I should relate a bit of my experience:

First, there weren't really striking differences between the DoD schools and the decent civilian schools I attended. There were jerks and decent kids in both. Both had most of the range of teacher quality. The schools had similar levels of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use to my eye, looking from the outside of that culture. (This was during the '70s, so the later serious crackdown on drugs hadn't really started yet.)

The differences were (I think) mostly at the margins:

1) The DoD schools were more racially diverse than most middle-class civilian-run schools. But I (and most of the other kids) had grown up in that sort of environment, so I only really notice it when looking at my yearbooks.

2) Nearly every family in the DoD school was middle class, with a strong culture of support for education. School-age children are mostly members of the families of officers and NCOs in military families. That is, the military member of the family was a manager or skilled worker, normally with seven or more years working for the same employer.

3) Most families in the DoD school were at least nominally functional, since service members with serious problems would usually be separated from the service relatively early in their careers.

4) While minor disciplinary issues occurred at approximately the same rates in both types of schools, there were almost no serious disciplinary problems in the DoD schools. Serious discipline issues would be referred to the service member or (if necessary) to the service member's commander. Continued or very serious problems could result in the dependent being sent back to the US.

5) The very bottom of the bell curve of teacher quality was clipped at the DoD school. While there were mediocre and poor teachers, there were no godawful teachers. DoDDSEUR was a prime teaching job that got lots of applicants. (I don't know how easy it was to get rid of teachers.)

Parentalcation said...


You are wrong and right...

First my credentials... I raised 2 kids in DoDEA schools overseas.

First their are no military school personnel. DoDEA schools are entirely a civilian run institution. They are run no differently than any other suburban school district.

The reason the kids are well behaved and orderly is because they were taught at home to behave orderly and well behaved by parents who work in a job that required them to be orderly and well behaved.

In other words, it's the parents not the schools.

I also think that you would find that military kids are slightly better behaved than kids in your school district or at least a comparable district, especially taking into account that they are from a much lower SES group.

It is pretty common to hear kids refer to adults as sir and Ma'am, and the military culture still tends towards a sort of village type of culture where we all look after each others kids.

It is pretty common for military parents to set straight neighborhood kids... something I never saw when I lived off base.

Of course there are some problems caused by parental deployments and moves, but on the whole the one reason I haven't retired is because I want my kids to be raised around military kids and peers as much as possible.

I almost forgot one thing... just to illustrate that there is nothing special about DoDEA schools, my kids go to Anchorage School District schools that are located on base and serve entirely military students and they are exactly the same environment as DoDEA schools overseas. Its the students (and parents) not the school district.

Sheila said...

I'm married to military and a former AF brat. I have also taught in non-military schools in military towns without DoD schools.

Trust me, you can tell by the end of the first week, which kids are military and which kids are not. You're not going to have the same kind of trouble from the military kids.

Military kids can act up but there are much more serious reprecussions for the entire family if that happens. So it just doesn't happen as much.

Plus they usually come from a strong 2 parent household with at least one family member who has been trained to follow orders and be respectful. They expect the same from their children. If they are in a single parent home, that single parent is ususally a "make no excuses, get the job done" female servicemember.

Anonymous said...

I was raised on military bases through the 6th grade until my dad retired from the AF. I remember a wide range of quality regarding teachers, but in the first half of my schooling (early, middle 60's), most teachers that I encountered taught using pretty traditional methods, although those were also the Dick and Jane years.

We had a a decent amount of diversity all around, but in general, the military has a certain attitude and culture that I found comforting as a child. You are just more likely to encounter people with a similar value system on a military base, so there's a higher level of trust.

It was also pretty much understood that if there was a problem with a teacher, it was probably my fault.

Moving off base by the early 70's, I was surprised at the huge range of parenting styles I encountered. My parents became much stricter about who I was with and what kind of family they came from. Up to that point, I had always been free to run around the base with little oversight.


lgm said...

I too am a military brat, attended DOD schools for K-8 except Gr. 2 and public high school. The difference to me is the student culture - military kids have self-control, respect, and discipline in greater quantities than their civilian peers, especially when similar SES is compared. I went to 2 high schools - the difference was obvious even in the high school that had 98% of students middle class & coming in from Catholic K-8 feeders.

After that, it's the school system culture that is totally different. If you google a military school handbook, you'll see the responsibilities of all parties delineated. The biggie for me: My DOD teachers were responsible both for teaching and re-teaching the students before them. In my current public school district, the teacher has only to attempt to teach a concept once; re-teach is the responsibility of a specialist if the parent decides not to hire a tutor AND the child qualifies for intervention. My kids won't ask questions, because that will show they are 'dumb' and they'll be dropped into a lower ability track with all the out of control students.

The discipline code and response to poor behavior is also general, public school punishes rather than uses effective discipline and public school ignores certain categories of poor behavior (bullying, low level physical violence, aggressive verbal intimidation) that DOD schools do not. The 'boys will be boys' attitude that flies here in public school wouldn't go far in any of the DOD schools I attended.

I'd recommend a visit to a military base school to see the difference.(West Point maybe?) I notice it most in conduct at lunch/recess, but it's also noticeable in the hallways and classroom.

On honors classes - my district will not put high acheivers or gifted into the honors track if the behavior is disruptive. They will let the high status parents override for the first year, but after that they drop the student down a track. The view is that the other students deserve to learn...which kind of ticks me off because ALL students deserve to learn, not just those in the honors track. We're putting in an alternative middle school now to go with the alternative high school for those that can't discipline themselves to be respectful all day...

Catherine Johnson said...

I just read these comments -- I take it all back!

(seriously - I do)

Frances said...

I'd have to agree that these military schools impose a highly traditional education program anchored in discipline which will definitely be of great benefit for your child.