To the Editor:
Paul Kimmelman’s interview with Donald Rumsfeld brings out some valid points (“Learning From Military Leadership,” Commentary, Feb. 20, 2013). But President Barack Obama’s characterization in last year’s State of the Union address that the military exceeds all expectations is problematic.
The expectation has always been that the most powerful and expensive military in the world will defeat any enemy army, and it has done that. But celebrating military success is strange as we wind down our longest-ever war without achieving clear success in establishing order and peace.
The parallels between the education and the military establishments are stunning. Both are very hierarchical. Both can, and often do, cause psychic wounds that will afflict participants forever. With federal mandates like the No Child Left Behind Act, education is gradually becoming more centralized and resembling the military more in this way, too.
I join with Mr. Kimmelman in hoping that Mr. Rumsfeld’s points will incite useful discussion. But I hope this discussion begins with acknowledging the difference between the goal of crushing an enemy and the goal of helping young people prepare for productive and rewarding lives.
A version of this article appeared in the March 13, 2013 edition of Education Week as Military-Education Analogy Not Perfect