September 19, 2008
Comparing the Candidates' CollegesBy Jeff Carter
When I speak with my liberal friends about the upcoming election, one point they think that they can trump me on is intelligence. They regurgitate the litany of how dumb Reagan was, and connect the dots to how dumb John McCain is because he graduated at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. It is amazing to me how uneducated liberals are when it comes to education. The world begins and ends with the Ivy League, and class rank must be the only indicator of intelligence.
Let's compare the schools the candidates went to, how they were graded, and what was expected of students. For argument's sake, I am going to select the two years Senator Obama spent as a transfer student at Columbia*, and the 4 years Senator McCain spent as a cadet at the Naval Academy.
Entering an Ivy League school as a transfer is a different process than entering as a freshman. Grades and especially faculty recommendations, as well as life story, may play a significant role.
In order to enter any service academy, you must pass a battery of interviews, physical tests, and standardized tests. Only the cream of the crop are admitted, and there are no preferences for race. Getting in at either as freshman is extremely tough.
Let's look at what happens when you arrive. Going to the Ivy is a typical college experience. You take classes that you need to take to graduate and declare a major. You have plenty of time to study, party, can miss class if you want. It is a casual atmosphere where it really doesn't matter what clothing you wear to class. You are accountable to yourself. If you want to participate in intramural activities, you can, or not. No matter what your behavior in your abundant unstructured time, if you do well on tests, you will get a good grade in class.
At a service academy, life is drastically different. http://www.usna.edu/midlife.htmBugle calls wake you up early in the morning. You have to wear a uniform of the day. Freshmen wake up a little earlier, and have to stand at attention and "shout" the days down the halls. Rooms are kept neat as a pin. Occasionally, they have to meet a SAMI (Saturday Morning Inspection). There are regulations as to how you store the equipment that is issued to you on the first day you came to the academy. Meals are regimented, and freshmen serve their upper class cadets.
You march to lunch. You walk at attention all the time when you are a freshman. With each passing year, your class assumes greater responsibility in running the academy. By the time you are a senior, your class runs the academy and is responsible to the entire corps of cadets.
Each day, you have to participate in intramural sports. You are not only graded in the classroom academically, but you receive a military grade as well..
Academically, there are no "rocks for jocks" type classes. You carry a huge load of semester hours. Cadets will carry 4-6 more hours of classes per semester than a typical civilian student.
You are specifically trained in leadership skills, and you are expected to use them. This is drastically different from anything offered to Ivy League undergraduates..
Oh, did I mention that you can get a thing called demerits?
Demerits are penalties issued to cadets for violations of the rules. It can be as much as leaving your lights on too late, to having un-shined shoes. The way to work off your demerits is to "walk tours" around a square line at the academy. You walk at attention with your rifle.
McCain has the record for demerits at USNA. His son attends Annapolis now, and I hope he is not trying to break it.
Class rank is computed from all of the above factors. It's not just academic grades. Ask an academy graduate if he is proud of the person that graduated last in their class. You will be intrigued by the answer.
When people hail Barack Obama's intelligence because of his college resume and degrades McCain's, tell them to check out the Naval Academy website.
There is a significant difference in their collegiate experiences.
*His first two years were spent at Occidental College, and elite liberal arts college in Los Angeles.