Mandatory Meals Save World!

A recent piece by National Public Radio’s Tom Bowman looked at administrative changes to the U.S. Naval Academy’s liberty policy and other events in midshipmen daily life like meal attendance and extracurricular activities involvement. 


Though specifics were not quoted, liberty has been cut back for upperclassman, probably specifically first classmen, or seniors, because townies are lamenting the loss of mids-as-barroom-fixtures and the recreational pub crawls that put dollar bills in their sometimes empty cash registers. The changes have been made by Superintendent, Class of 78er and Nuke Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler. 


Fowler’s point: Because we are a “nation at war” (see “Fantasyland”) midshipmen, who will be in the fleet sooner or later, need to refocus in this time of war. This is opposed to the frivolous, shallow derelicts that were OK to graduate in the past. (Thank you, admiral, we won’t take that personally.) 


The Big Guy also has made meal attendance mandatory so the squads can spend more time with each other. Meals force them to be with each other, he says. So does living with together in rather close confines for four years, but he neglects to mention that. 


The brings up a decades-old debate: Keep a tight reign on mids, and you’ll graduate better, more-disciplined officers; or give them more freedom, and let them learn and make some mistakes and you’ll release a better, more disciplined officer. Both schools have merit, though we prefer to see mids choose the correct path themselves. If they can’t cut it, better we know it now (if possible) than when they are driving that ship in that very narrow channel during General Quarters. 


But we’re at war! A nation at war! (Update those talking points!) And the midshipmen are still a bunch of college kids whose focus is on academics. You will probably survive if you cut it academically. What does preparing for war really mean to a 20-year-old who needs to pass electrical engineering and is carrying 21 hours? That is war. A very real war. 


If Fowler and Company want to tweak these policies, fine, but be honest and don’t pass these efforts off as “refocusing” in preparation for post-graduation conflict.

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