I propose that Furman’s revised curriculum exclude Military
Science courses from receiving academic credit, and make ROTC a purely
extra-curricular activity. My reasons follow my plea to my readers.
I realize this proposal will be unpopular with many at the university, and with many more outside it, including alumni. Our task, however, is to think clearly and carefully about what the faculty believes to be essential to a liberal arts education, and this is the appropriate time to ask if giving academic credit for military science is in keeping with our vision of a university, and of the faculty which oversees its educational program. I have just returned from a moving ceremony to re-dedicate the Doughboy memorial at Furman, and saw a number of my friends and students there, leading the ceremony. I have nothing but respect for those who participate in ROTC; I participated in it as an undergraduate. We need good, educated people in the military as in other areas of society. A curriculum review, however, is not a referendum on which departments contain good people; it should be a serious attempt to define our educational goals, and amend our program to conform to those goals. This is the reason I call for this re-consideration of military science courses, and I hope my readers will give my thoughts a fair hearing. Consider the following:
(1) The Furman faculty does not hire Military Science professors, does not review their performance, and has very limited oversight of their curriculum. All of this is done by the Department of the Army, in the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. The faculty therefore has virtually no control over the program. It is the only such program at Furman, and this reason alone, I believe, justifies our questioning its place in the academic program. Why should Furman give academic credit for a U.S. Army program?
(2) The purpose of ROTC courses is primarily narrow ‘professional’ training to be an officer in the U.S. military. This is much more job-oriented than other Furman departments.
(3) Half of the courses in the department are not open to most Furman students, but only to those who have committed to serve in the US Army. Again, this is unparalleled by any other department.
(4) The reason for offering course credit for ROTC is to make it easier for students to both get a college education and be trained for leadership in the military. Thus Furman is serving as a recruitment instrument for the US Army, helping them to fill their quotas. This may have been more justifiable when there was a universal draft, but it should be unnecessary for a volunteer army. The equivalent situation would be for Furman to give academic credit for training courses run by BMW or some other corporation.
(5) Not every university allows ROTC courses for credit; many do not (Harvard, Yale, Colgate, Amherst, Williams, etc. Colgate, incidentally, does have an academic Department of Peace Studies). Those that allow students to participate in ROTC often do so by a co-operative arrangement with another campus or nearby base, so that the program remains extra-curricular.
(6) Though war is a part of our world, and study of issues related to war is obviously a legitimate issue for academic disciplines, the training of military leaders is a very different matter, and is in basic conflict with Furman’s history (“grounded in Judeo-Christian values” – Catalogue, p. 4) and its aim as a liberal arts institution to teach critical thinking. If Furman is not going to excise all references to Christian values from its marketing literature, then it should not give credit for courses that help train soldiers for combat. Though those who have served in the military might consider this proposal “ridiculous,” those of us who are Christians consider training soldiers as an expression of Christian values “ridiculous.” That such training happens without careful thought and justification by the faculty is indefensible.
(7) As other universities have found, it is perfectly possible to offer ROTC and the scholarship money it offers without giving academic credit for military science courses. ROTC would become an extra-curricular activity that students may choose to participate in, and which may continue to turn out commissioned officers for the US Army. But Furman would not be endorsing such training as a legitimate educational aim of the institution. Furman should investigate such a possibility here.Posted by mfairbairn at November 17, 2004 03:44 PM