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For Teachers to Learn from Marines, Need to Include USMC Sticks as Well as Carrots

COMMENTARY | Andrew Rotherham at TIME wonders why American public schools can fail to turn a kid into a productive citizen in 12 years while the U.S. Marine Corps can turn an 18-year-old fresh out of high school into a competent, respectable man who can think on his feet, speak with pride of the Corps’ history and mission, and overcome tremendous odds.

Rotherham’s article does a great job discussing the Marines‘ esprit-de-corps and emphasis on pride, autonomy, character, and competition, all of which are qualities that would definitely improve the field of teaching. A reader’s commentary below the article, however, reveals the biggest differences between the USMC and public school and emphasizes how unfair it is to compare the two:

The Marines can be selective. They can also kick people out. Public schools, by definition, accept all students and have a much more difficult time kicking kids out. To give America’s public schools the ability to mold young people as quickly and efficiently as the Marines, policy-makers must allow such schools to enact Marine-style discipline.

One key factor in the Marine Corps’ reputation is its exclusivity. Being the smallest fighting branch, the Corps is considered more elite than the much-larger U.S. Army. In fact, recruiting commercials tout “the few, the proud, the Marines,” with emphasis on “the few.” Not everyone can be a Marine, so those who are Marines have an incentive to perform and remain Marines. If public schools were a bit more exclusive by being less hesitant to remove troublemaking students, the reputation of education would improve.

If American teens came to realize that education was a privilege and not a right they would undoubtedly perform better.

As a teacher, I have been appalled to have students tell me that they care not a whit for passing and are only in class because the law says they have to be. To them, education has been forced down their gullets. If we stop forcing education on students who think they don’t want it, in a generation or so kids will be begging to have a chance to perform.

The one benefit of eliminating the military draft in the United States is that people now want to join the elite Marine Corps. Unlike school, the Corps is not forced upon them. If we stop forcing school on teens and let schools discipline like the Marines, the situation will turn around fast.

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