West Point’s current superintendent, Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams, has taken a lot of heat over his lenient treatment of black cadets caught cheating on a final exam last summer. I believe he likely had little leeway in dealing with the scandal. Dating to Obama’s administration and possibly earlier, all military installations, including the four service academies, have been directed to inject Critical Race Theory into every facet of military life.
Like LTG Williams, his counterpart at the Air Force Academy is also African American.
Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams
Office of the Superintendent
United States Military Academy
Lieutenant General Richard M. Clark
Superintendent, United States Air Force Academy
Vice Admiral Sean Buck
Superintendent, United States Naval Academy
Rear Admiral William G. Kelly
Superintendent, United States Coast Guard Academy
Dear Lt. Gen. Williams:
“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” To someone like me who has never served, West Point’s honor code seems unambiguous: cadets caught cheating on exams will face severe punishment.
Last May, when I presume classes were being taught online due to the pandemic, 73 freshmen cadets were accused of cheating on a final exam in calculus. Your chief of staff, Col. Mark Weathers, told USA Today that although he is disappointed in the cadets for cheating, he did not consider the incident a serious breach of code, speculating that cheating might not have occurred had the exam been taken in the classroom, rather than remotely. I’m sure it wasn’t Col. Weathers’ intent, but that rationalization comes close to sounding like cheating at West Point is no big deal as long as it occurs outside the classroom.
Col. Weathers’ position on the scandal was not the only suggestion that leniency is in order. In a memo to faculty, you wrote that the honor code constitutes “an inequitable application of consequences and developmental opportunities for select groups of cadets,” with one of the select groups to which you referred apparently being the disproportionate number of African American cadets implicated in the scandal.
If you were suggesting that black cadets generally receive an inferior pre-college education and therefore should receive leniency, I wholeheartedly agree with the first part of that position: that black cadets as a group are disproportionately burdened by a substandard pre-college education.
If, however, you meant to suggest that systemic racism in K-12 public schools is the reason for that educational handicap and that black honor code violators should therefore receive special treatment, I could not disagree more.
Please consider the following examples of the type of substandard education meted out to millions of young African American students:
- In 2010-2011, public schools in the nation’s capitalspent$29,345 per pupil—nearly $600,000 per each classroom of 20 students—yet the District’s 8th graders finished dead last in a nationwide proficiency test in math and reading.
- According to a 2015 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 96 percent of 8th graders in Detroit’s public schools tested not proficient in math, and 93 percent tested not proficient in reading.
- According to a 2017 investigation by Project Baltimore, 13 of the city’s 39 public high schools had zero students who tested proficient in math. Zero! Going back to 2011, nearly 90% of Baltimore elementary and middle schools fell short of academic targets on state assessment tests.
Similar horrendous results can be found in every big city school district in America. Since 100% of these districts portray themselves as passionate champions of anti-racism, their collective failure to adequately educate our country’s most vulnerable children is obviously not caused by systemic racism. Instead, blame can be placed squarely in the lap of blue city school systems that have failed for decades on end to provide even a minimally acceptable education to generations of minority students.
Your words seem to suggest that the cheating scandal should be downplayed because a disproportionate number of the accused cadets belong to a “select group,” the members of which share a characteristic—skin color—that is totally beyond their control. That’s not much different than saying cadets of color are inherently unable to conform to high honor standards, which is, of course, patently untrue.
African American cadets are not hapless young men and women incapable of overcoming prior educational disadvantages without cheating. As a group, they are blessed with just as much native intellectual ability as their white counterparts, and therefore should not, in my opinion, be given special consideration regarding consequences for honor code violations. Like everyone else, they should be judged by the content of their character, not by an immutable attribute they inherited at birth. Any lesser standard seems patronizing.
The phrase “inequitable application of consequences … for select groups of cadets” sounds like the language of “critical race theory,” one of the most pernicious political constructs foisted on the military during President Obama’s eight years in office, A form of victim vs. oppressor ideology (Marxism), critical race indoctrination is used to advance the false narrative that black people in America just can’t catch a break because the nation in which they live is an incurably unjust place plagued by unchecked systemic racism.
West Point once had a zero tolerance policy regarding code violations—zero tolerance is what the 12 words of the etched-in-stone Cadet Honor Code strongly imply. As recently reported by NPR, a ‘second chance’ policy was put in place in 2015, sending the message that cheating is tolerated, provided it’s committed by members of “select groups,” and as long as it’s not done more than once.
If a code violation is tolerated once, why not twice? Or three times? Or ten? With the Pentagon soon to be hit by a new tsunami of social experimentation, further erosion of the honor code is all but certain.
The constant promotion of critical race theory and its first cousins—white privilege, Project 1619, political correctness, wokeness, etc.—is a major contributor to a sharp drop-off in feelings of patriotism in half of our country. Evidence that patriotic fervor has dropped like a rock on one side of the aisle is shown by a Gallup finding that less than a third of today’s Democrats are extremely proud of being Americans. Less than a third. Just as ominously, a 2019 survey by Public Opinion Strategies found that an astounding 77% of Democrats have fallen under the spell of socialism, the precursor of communism.
I presume you and your counterparts at the other service academies are under orders to inculcate critical race ideology into the institutions the four of you lead. If so, those orders must be obeyed. But doing so comes at a price.
Subjecting young, impressionable future military leaders to the poisonous idea that the nation they’re preparing themselves to serve is actually an incorrigible racist hellhole has a way of eroding love of country, likely causing some cadets and midshipmen to question whether their nation is worthy of being defended.
America’s deplorable history of slavery and segregation will always be a permanent stain on the legacy of an otherwise great nation. That unpleasant fact notwithstanding, it’s also a fact that a black child born in America today has the exact same legal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a white child. As I’m sure you know, that wasn’t always the case.
There was a time in our country’s past when systemic racism was more than a political talking point. Having grown up in the Old South during Jim Crow, I witnessed real, unmistakable systemic racism with my own eyes. In that unenlightened era, black citizens were denied public accommodations, denigrated as lacking intelligence, forced to sit in the back of the bus and generally treated like dirt. When I enrolled at Georgia Tech in 1962, there were no black football or basketball players in the SEC, and only a handful of black students. But look at what’s happened since.
Although enormous strides have been made at mitigating racial injustice, no reasonable person would argue that things are anywhere close to being perfect. Fair-minded people agree that we must continually strive for improvement, but here’s something that’s almost never acknowledged: no nation in history has ever done more to correct wrongs once committed against an oppressed minority of its own citizens than has this great nation. If that was not so, you and Lt. Gen. Clark would not be wearing three stars.
Finally, in an 1838 speech in Springfield, Illinois, the future president who would end slavery in the United States said in so many words that if freedom in America is ever destroyed, its destruction will not come from the outside, but rather from within. The greatest threat our free country faces today is from the political party that churns the racial landscape as a means of achieving single-party socialist rule, the antithesis of the constitutional system that those in uniform risk their lives to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Thank you for your 38 years of service to the country.
Marietta (Atlanta), GA
BSEE Georgia Tech, 1968
©John Eidson. All rights reserved.