More Students Step to Military Beat Enrollments at Military Schools across the Country Are Rising as Parents Worry about Lack of Discipline in Society

By Sara Terry, | The Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 1998 | Go to article overview

More Students Step to Military Beat Enrollments at Military Schools across the Country Are Rising as Parents Worry about Lack of Discipline in Society


Sara Terry,, The Christian Science Monitor


As far as Tom Holmes was concerned, it was bad enough that his teenage son, Tommy, managed to be late going from one class to another 68 times during his freshman year at a pricey private school in Manhattan. Worse, school officials didn't tell him about his son's behavior until after the school year was over.

"I said, 'That's it, I'm not paying $20,000 a year for this,' " says Mr. Holmes, who was also concerned about his son's low grades and the friends with whom he was spending time.

Holmes and his wife decided their son desperately needed a learning environment that provided structure, discipline, and responsibility. They found what they were looking for at the New York Military Academy (NYMA), a private school where their son ended his sophomore year with four A's and three B's.

The Holmeses aren't the only parents turning to college- preparatory schools run by ex-military officers as a way to get their children motivated. After years of post-Vietnam War decline, military academies across the country are thriving, with enrollments at near or full capacity.

"I get calls every day from parents who are not happy with their kids, who feel they're not performing up to their potential, or they're not happy with the schools where they are because they're undisciplined or the academic standards are too low," says Dr. Lewis Sorley, a retired Army lieu-

Military Schools Thrive Again

tenant colonel and the executive director of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools (AMCS).

"They have somehow gotten the impression that a military school can help them with one or both problems," he says. "We agree."

Like other private schools, military academies stress academic achievement. But they do it in a strict environment - complete with uniforms, polished shoes, saluting, drills, merits and demerits, perfectly made beds, and almost no free time.

"We teach the five R's," says NYMA's superintendent, retired Army Maj. Gen. James Lyle, in a promotional video. "Reading, writing, arithmetic, respect, and responsibility."

The training starts early at the 84-acre campus set in the rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley. Last week, before classes began, some 130 new students - or cadets, as they're called - spent day after day in their regulation gray-and-maroon 'PT' (physical training) outfits. Uniforms come later.

Lined up in platoons around a grassy quadrangle, they learned to march as older students drilled them to the sing-song military cadence of "Left,... left, right, left." And they pored over the cadet manual, with its rules and regulations ("A cadet will neither lie, cheat, nor steal"), guiding every aspect of their life at NYMA.

"Parents know we'll put their kids in a structured environment and require them to obey the rules," he said in an interview. "They get up when we tell them to get up, they go to bed when we tell them to go to bed, and they go to class when we tell them to go to class. There's maybe one hour during any given day where they can even think about watching TV."

Discipline back in vogue

Military academies date back to the early 1800s, a period when there were few public schools. After reaching a peak this century of 100 or so in the mid-1950s, dozens of military schools were forced to close in the wake of the Vietnam War, their enrollments hard hit by the military's decline in public favor.

But in recent years, as concern among parents over the quality of public education has grown, military academies have experienced a resurgence in popularity. …

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