Education

Military Schools Are Again Popular With Students

By Glen Macnow — January 19, 1983 6 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Culver, Ind.--It’s not that Bill Linsenmeyer didn’t appreciate the opportunity to attend a preparatory school. He just figured that students at Andover or Choate would be more concerned with the proper clothes and proper social standing than with proper academics. “I wanted to go to a school stressing serious academics and hard work,” says Mr. Linsenmeyer, 17. “So I chose the most serious school I could find.”

Mr. Linsenmeyer convinced his parents three years ago to send him to Culver Military Academy, an 800-student college-preparatory school in northern Indiana. Instead of the tweedy wardrobe he thought might be requisite at other prep schools, he and other students here wear sharply creased uniforms and spit-shined shoes.

Their day begins with reveille at 6:30 A.M. and ends with taps at 10 P.M. In between are seven hours of classes and two and a half hours of mandatory studying. In addition to traditional academic subjects, students take courses in leadership, military science, and riflery.

“It’s a tiring schedule,” concedes Mr. Linsenmeyer, a senior from Monroe, Mich., who hopes someday to be an Air Force fighter pilot. “But it’s taught me a self-discipline and self-respect I wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Wouldn’t he rather be at home leading a “normal” teen-age life? “No,” he quickly responds. “Military school has forced me to learn things that will give me a big advantage when I get out in real life.”

A growing number of parents across the country also seem to think that military schools will help their children in the real life that follows graduation. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy a decade ago, many of America’s military schools are now jammed with college-bound students and are generally respected by the public.

Enrollment at Culver Military and its sister school, Culver School for Girls, is up 7 percent this year, after an 8-percent increase in 1981. Similar increases are reported at the other prep schools that are perceived to be a feeder system for the Army, Navy and Air Force academies.

Applications to the postsecondary military institutions are rising even more dramatically, perhaps for related reasons, although the military prep schools are not in fact their principal source of students. Applications for admission to West Point--which accepted about 2 percent of military-school applicants this year--increased 20 percent over 1981 totals. At the Air Force Academy--which reports that less than 50 percent of its entering students came from military schools--the increase over last year was 17 percent. The Naval Academy received 12,614 applications for the class of 1986, versus 11,897 for the class of 1985 and 10,400 for the class of 1984. The size of the entering class at all three institutions, however, remains fairly constant.

Culver, according to its public-information officer, sends about one or two percent of its graduates annually to one of “the big three” service academies. Nationwide, there are about 45 military schools, enrolling more than 9,000 students, according to W. D. Crittenberger Jr., a retired Army general who serves as executive director of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States.

“Times have changed for schools like ours,” he says. “Back 10 years ago, we were afraid many of the schools would go out of business. But now people see jobs are scarce and the military is a good place for an honorable career. Just about all the schools in our association are growing at the rate of 5 percent a year.”

Glenn Cox, director of admissions at the Howe Military Academy in eastern Indiana, agrees: “The pendulum has swung back. During the Vietnam era, schools like ours suffered because of anti-military feelings and social liberalism. But things have changed. Parents are again seeking a conservative, traditional education.”

At Howe, the recent increase in student applications meant a general tightening of standards. “We can afford to take only the best now,” says Mr. Cox, whose school takes just 270 students. “We’ve toughened up on both academics and discipline.”

Not that anyone might regard military schools as being soft on discipline. At most of the schools in the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States, students live under the demerit system, in which they are penalized for infractions such as being late to class, wearing jewelry, or failing room inspection.

“We’re not going to expel a student for littering,” says Dr. Ralph Manuel, the former dean of students at Dartmouth College who is now Culver’s superintendent. “But neither will we let him get away with repeated violations. We use penalties, like loss of privileges or an extra work detail. Students know they must live up to our standards--or else.”

Few students try to learn what the “or else” means. “My parents pay good money to send me here,” says Kurt Broock, 17, a Culver senior. “They don’t expect me to do something stupid like rebel.”

Indeed, the parents, who pay about $9,000 a year to send a son or daughter here, expect much in return. Ninety-nine percent of Culver’s graduates go on to college or a military academy, and 86 percent of those graduate. Culver boasts about its alumni, who include George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees; Nelson Bunker Hunt, Texas financier; U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker, a Connecticut Republican, and the actor Hal Holbrook.

Ninth graders enter Culver as “plebes,” a status that requires them to salute upperclass students and prohibits them from walking down the center of halls. During their freshman year they must pass strict tests on table etiquette, school history, and leadership development. And they must attend chapel services regularly.

If they do well enough, they earn collar pins that signify their completion of the rites of passage.

“The tests, the tough discipline, even the uniforms are designed to make us prove ourselves,” says David Johnston, a 15-year-old sophomore from Flint, Mich. Mr. Johnston, a lance corporal in Culver’s equestrian Black Horse Troop, transferred to Culver from a public school where, he says, “I could spend my days and nights in front of a television.” At Culver, where no televisions are allowed, “I have to work all the time--mornings, afternoons, nights.”

Contrary to popular myth, military schools are not filled with rabble-rousing students who get thrown out of public schools. Says Vincent Duke, admissions director at Culver, “We’re not the right place for parents to send their discipline problems. We want motivated kids who already have a strong sense of self-discipline.”

Those “motivated kids” include the children of foreign diplomats and corporate ex-ecutives, inner-city students on scholarships, and fourth-generation Culverites. And, since 1971, they have included girls.

“A lot of our old-timers were shocked when we started the girls’ academy,” says Mr. Manuel, “but it saved this institution; 1971 was still the lean period for miltary schools, we doubled our potential enrollment pool.” The 200 girls at Culver wear uniforms, although they are more like parochial-school outfits than military dress. Classes are coeducational and students may date, although public displays of affection are forbidden.

“You learn to live with the rules,” says Sue Knoll, a 17-year-old senior who has a varsity letter in rifle shooting. “I looked at other prep schools, but girls there were too engrossed in the social aspects of things. Sometimes things seem a bit strict here, but I’d rather be in an environment like this than in a place where anything goes.”

Renee Roelke, 18, a senior, admits she sometimes finds the arduous schedule exhausting and that she is occasionally homesick.

“But I’m going to make it through here, go to college, and go on to be successful,” she says. “I want to be part of the tradition.”

Culver Girls Academy, a non-military school, above, was opened in 1971. Senior Kemin Tsung fulfills his fine-arts requirement, above right. Staff Sergeant Michael Baig with members of his unit, right.

A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 1983 edition of Education Week as Military Schools Are Again Popular With Students

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)