In the late 19th century when the New York Military Academy was formed, military high schools were a popular career gateway to the service academies and a promising military career. After the Vietnam War, hundreds of military schools began to fall on hard times because some of the pride associated with the military was lost. Today the New York Military Academy is the only military secondary school left in the Northeast. Recently, military schools are receiving renewed attention in part because they have something important to offer beyond a career gateway.
When President Trump won the Republican nomination and the national election, many journalists visited his alma mater, the New York Military Academy. They wanted to find out what is special about a secondary military school. Many said their audiences don’t know about military schools because they don’t have these types of academies in their region of the country. Across the U.S. it seems few people know about the value of military schools. Most people incorrectly assume that military schools are similar to reform schools and are just one step away from prison. As a child they might have been threatened with a common parental admonishment: “Misbehave like that again and you will be going to military school!” In this way military schools have received an undeserved poor reputation as a place primarily of discipline. Parents might also think of them as institutions where behavioral problems are addressed so cadets can then be marched off to combat. This is certainly not true of military academies today.
The founder of the NYMA, Charles Jefferson Wright, assembled a great staff in the 1890’s. They consisted mainly of graduates from Yale who were committed to train future military officers before they entered West Point or another service academy. By the 1920’s however, the New York Military Academy was no longer just focusing on educating cadets for a future military career. Most of the students went on to study at a university so the academy refocused on promoting “The Six C’s”. The Six C’s are core values that empower students to achieve their goals and the goals of our community. These values are summarized below:
Confidence – empowering students to try hard to succeed
Character – holding cadets to high standards for behavior even in challenging conditions
Craft – forcing ourselves to pay attention to detail and earn the respect of a community
Cooperation – learning to complete tasks using all available resources as a team
Compassion – stepping up to help others in need
Control – aligning behavior with long term goals – first with regard to oneself and then as a team leader
Cadets are trained to lead by these principles in the classroom, the workshop, the parade grounds, the sports fields, and the barracks. These behavioral and emotional values are instilled through an effective teaching approach that is popular today. Our students become well-developed through a classical almost Platonic approach to holistic education. This approach includes demanding academics (especially in science, creative arts, engineering, and math), a wide range of athletics and community service, and frequent leadership experience.
Peer to peer teaching, vertical mentoring, and authentic contexts make up the lifeblood of a military campus. Cadets are shaped not just by teachers and staff, but by the feedback from their own peers. As a result, they quickly mature into successful adults.
Schools are designed to make dreams come true; an aspiration of all, but a quality of few. Ironically, at a time when many potential parents are not considering military academies for their children, the Six C’s described above are now incredibly popular values for educators. This popularity stems from the empowerment they provide all students and that empowerment is the first major step in making dreams a reality.
At the New York Military Academy, we hold dear our standing as the American military school with the highest academic standards and a history of training leaders in politics, business, and the arts. Yet, above all else, we believe that the cultivation of the Six C’s in our cadets is our strongest claim to providing an excellent educational value whether you come from down the road or across the globe.
Hope to see you soon,
Assistant Superintendent, New York Military Academy