Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Ah, memories of the Air War College

Space expert Joan Johnson-Freese, now of the Naval War College (which does a good job on strategy) recalls her five years of labor down at the minimum security Air War College, which despite my best efforts apparently remains open. Note she doesn’t hurl the infantile word "silly," as might a lesser mind. Three instructions in ...

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Space expert Joan Johnson-Freese, now of the Naval War College (which does a good job on strategy) recalls her five years of labor down at the minimum security Air War College, which despite my best efforts apparently remains open. Note she doesn't hurl the infantile word "silly," as might a lesser mind.

Three instructions in the required "teacher training," for example, explained the AWC pedagogy. First, never use red ink grading student papers: direct criticism of military professionals would be insulting. Second, never cold call a student: not knowing the answer would be demeaning. Third, faculty were classroom "moderators," not teachers. The classroom was for sharing student views, so faculty should speak minimally. This last instruction often resulted in 90-minute sessions where students mostly reinforced each other's views and exchanged dead-wrong information, but this was equated to "education." Though never encouraged to publish at the AWC, I was encouraged to play golf in the afternoon student-faculty team-building tournaments. And while there were dedicated and productive faculty and exceptional students, they excelled mostly through personal initiative rather than institutional support.

(HT to TN)

Space expert Joan Johnson-Freese, now of the Naval War College (which does a good job on strategy) recalls her five years of labor down at the minimum security Air War College, which despite my best efforts apparently remains open. Note she doesn’t hurl the infantile word "silly," as might a lesser mind.

Three instructions in the required "teacher training," for example, explained the AWC pedagogy. First, never use red ink grading student papers: direct criticism of military professionals would be insulting. Second, never cold call a student: not knowing the answer would be demeaning. Third, faculty were classroom "moderators," not teachers. The classroom was for sharing student views, so faculty should speak minimally. This last instruction often resulted in 90-minute sessions where students mostly reinforced each other’s views and exchanged dead-wrong information, but this was equated to "education." Though never encouraged to publish at the AWC, I was encouraged to play golf in the afternoon student-faculty team-building tournaments. And while there were dedicated and productive faculty and exceptional students, they excelled mostly through personal initiative rather than institutional support.

(HT to TN)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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