The ‘Military’ in Military School

Boys Military School Cadets Posing with Authority Figure

The education that we provide to our children is a critical component of their personal, emotional, and social development. When we choose an educational path for a young man, it is one of the most important decisions that we make through his adolescence, and it is an essential step in helping him to define his path for the future. A boarding school environment offers many benefits over a traditional non-boarding private or public school education, including a focused environment that is free from distractions, and a greater opportunity for students to engage with teachers throughout each day. A military school, however, builds on the foundation of the boarding school philosophy using military traditions. Military schools focus on the development of leaders, helping each individual cadet to focus on his own personal development by providing unique opportunities to build lasting relationships with mentors who exemplify the highest ideals of character and respect. Such an atmosphere puts young men in a position to develop into confident, and responsible leaders.

A Leadership Laboratory

While traditional schools place an appropriate emphasis on academics and social growth, the military school philosophy focuses on developing young men comprehensively – academically, socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Every aspect of military school, from academic instruction, to athletic competition, to student leadership, aims to develop cadets into leaders. Cadets take an active role in the planning and execution of daily tasks, special events and ceremonies, and the maintenance of good order among the corps. Cadets are given the unique opportunity to do more than complete coursework and advance through the semesters. They may petition, and be personally selected, for high-ranking positions within the corps of cadets. With each new rank earned, cadets are given new opportunities, greater responsibilities, and must live up to higher expectations — not unlike what they will face upon graduation once they enter college or the workforce.

A High Standard of Accountability

While traditional schools may offer students an opportunity to participate in student council, military cadets help to train their younger peers, and are given the responsibility to monitor and enforce the school honor code. Unlike traditional schools where faculty members are judge and jury on student infractions, military schools offer a cadet-driven disciplinary model in which a cadet’s violation of the code of conduct is judged by a committee of his peers with faculty supervision. Cadets who have proven to be the most honorable and respected among their peers earn the opportunity to participate in the cadet court. These cadets learn how to hold themselves, and their peers, to the highest standards, even when those on trial are their closest friends. For young men who will shortly be facing the challenges of college or the workplace, learning how to make decisions that impact their peers with tangible consequences is an experience that not many high school students are afforded, however it is invaluable in teaching the lessons of discipline and equity.

This model of a student enforced honor code not only teaches those making disciplinary determinations the importance of judicious and fair treatment, but it stimulates a more impactful response from the infracting student. Being judged by one’s peers teaches a lesson that each individual has the capacity to rise to the level of the collective expectation, and succeed on that plane.

Paragons of Achievement

While the faculty members at traditional schools are placed in positions to teach important academic lessons to their students, the faculty and staff at military schools are challenged beyond curriculum instruction to act as mentors to their cadets, and to truly make an impact on their beliefs and behaviors. Having served their nation and committed to the highest ideals of honor and personal responsibility, military advisors are uniquely positioned to meet these expectations. They act as mentors to cadets throughout their years at school, helping guide them through their personal and academic development.

Military school cadets continually describe the influence that their military advisors have had not only on their adolescent years, but on their entire lives. Military school faculty hold the highest expectations that each cadet present himself with respect, responsibility, and maturity.

Military advisors know what it takes to lead, to overcome adversity, and to represent an ideal that is greater than themselves.

By bringing these experiences to a military school, they embody the tenets of character, leadership, and fortitude, and become role models for impressionable cadets.For young men who, prior to military school enrollment, were not fortunate enough to be exposed to a mentor, military school gives them exemplars to which they can aspire, and exposure to honorable behaviors that they can emulate.

A Safety Net for Failure  

While military schools typically offer a junior reserve officers training corps (JROTC) program, the goal of exposing cadets to military-style officer training is not to prepare or motivate young men to enter the armed forces. While cadets who choose the path of service are supported, the military school curriculum and structure is intended simply to teach young men the morals and values of the armed forces – not to generate future soldiers. The beliefs that define military services that are instilled in cadets during JROTC activities are those that will benefit young men throughout their adult lives in their roles as college students, employees, husbands, fathers, and friends. They are the values of citizenship, service, and personal responsibility. The JROTC program aims to help young men develop self-reliance and responsiveness to authority figures; to improve communication skills; to develop an appreciation of the importance of physical fitness; and to develop knowledge of the importance of teamwork.

What makes a JROTC program unique is its ability to instill these lessons in the supportive environment in which the decision-making opportunities, and consequences, occur. Cadets are allowed to fail in a safe environment, where they are supported, regardless of whether or not they succeed. With every lesson learned, cadets are encouraged to reflect upon how the experience applies not just within the walls of the school, but to the greater context of life. Such lessons will give a young man a foundation on which he can build his future as a responsible, confident, and respectful member of society, and cannot be replicated without the type of military training simulation that a JROTC program offers.

The Cultivation of Leaders

Each young man who graduates from military school leaves through its doors as a leader, rather than a follower. While a traditional boarding school provides young men with the opportunity to become immersed in a focused, academic environment, only a military school fortifies these opportunities with traditions that build character, enable personal success, and teach the skills needed to overcome adversity — fostering the leaders of today, and tomorrow. With a military education, a young man will be ideally positioned to carry himself with respect, pride, and confidence, into whatever course he sets for his future.