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Home/Rod Dreher/West Point & Critical Race Theory

West Point & Critical Race Theory

West Point honor code

Did you know about the West Point cheating scandal? The US Military Academy takes honor very, very seriously — or used to. USA Today broke the story, and followed up with a piece about how the Army was breaking its own policy to let some of the accused cheater play in a bowl game:

The majority of the cadets involved in the worst academic cheating scandal at West Point in 45 years are athletes, including 24 members of the football team that is scheduled to play in a bowl game on Thursday, according to West Point officials.

In all, 55 of the 73 cadets accused of cheating on a calculus final exam in May are athletes, including 17 who remain on the football team, according to figures released to USA TODAY by West Point.

A few have played in football games this season after having been accused of cheating. Some of those players could dress and play in the Liberty Bowl on Thursday, according to Army Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, a West Point spokesman.

They’re allowed to play because West Point’s superintendent in October suspended a policy that limited or prevented cadets found in violation of the academy’s honor code from representing the academy in public, including athletes at sports events.

We see here once again that sports matters more than honor. USA Today reported in November that my alma mater, Louisiana State University, allegedly turned a blind eye to sexual assault and related violations by its star athletes. Now LSU faces an NCAA investigation that could be a massive catastrophe for the university and its athletic program. This is what happens when athletic success matters more than decency and honor. If the allegations are substantiated, the LSU deserves to have the hammer come down on it hard for this disgrace.

From the original USA Today story:

Army Col. Mark Weathers, West Point’s chief of staff, said in an interview Monday that he was “disappointed” in the cadets for cheating, but he did not consider the incident a serious breach of the code. It would not have occurred if the cadets had taken the exam on campus, he said.

So the West Point chief of staff is willing to cut them a break because they cheated at home?! They say character is what you do when you know that nobody is looking.

So we know that West Point bent the standards to allow accused athletes to play football. Worse, here’s an eyebrow-raising aspect of the West Point cheating story, from USA Today:

Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the superintendent, in an Oct. 23 memo, wrote to the faculty that the policy “has resulted in an inequitable application of consequences and developmental opportunities for select groups of cadets.” USA TODAY obtained a copy of the memo.

Wait, “inequitable”? Whenever you see the word “equity” in contemporary discourse, that’s usually a sign that it has to do with race. West Point has not named the accused cheaters (most of whom have admitted to having done so). When it does, I certainly hope that it does not emerge that a disproportionate number of them are black. That would mean that Lt. Gen Williams, the superintendent of West Point, believes in a double standard of honor, based on race. If it emerges that by “inequitable application of consequences,” Lt. Gen. Williams meant that many, or even most, of the cheaters were black, and he withheld punishment for politically correct reasons, then he should be dismissed at once.

You should know that “equity,” in the language of Critical Race Theory, means that outcomes must be proportional to racial representation. In plain language, the West Point superintendent might be saying that if an unusual number of the alleged cheaters are black, then it would be “inequitable” — racist — to punish them.

Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, but I don’t know what else Lt. Gen. Williams could have meant by “inequitable application.” We will see. If he’s not talking about race here, then what is he talking about? What makes me particularly suspicious is that wokeness has come to West Point — see my post here, and then here. In the second post, a reader wrote:

I graduated from West Point in [date] and currently still serve.  I was dismayed, but honestly not very shocked, with the 40-page manifesto fired at the Academy by the disgruntled former cadets.  There has been a gradual shift at West Point in recent years to become more progressive, to include:
-In 2018, inviting Ta-Nehisi Coates to spend two days at the academy, speaking to cadets about a variety of topics, with an emphasis on race.  This is the same Ta-Nehisi Coates who wrote in regards to the police and firefighters who died on 9/11 “They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature.”
-In 2017, Spenser Rapone, an avowed communist, was allowed to graduate from West Point.  On his way out, he ensured everyone knew his world views in the form of a Che Guevara t-shirt under his uniform and a “Communism Will Win” sign in the cap he threw upon graduation.
-This year, a “coalition” of graduates fired off a letter to the Class of 2020, blasting President Trump for “politicizing” the military in response to the protests, and urging them to question any orders that don’t fit their world view.
All of this is truly dangerous, as we are creating generations of entitled, embittered junior officers who will reflect those values and spread them within the Army.  As I read this list of grievances outlined in the manifesto, I kept asking myself “And then what happened?”

Has West Point’s lurch to the cultural left resulted in the decay of its honor code?

Here is why it’s such a big deal. USA Today reported:

The scandal strikes at the heart of the academy’s reputation for rectitude, espoused by its own moral code, which is literally etched in stone:

“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Tim Bakken, a law professor at West Point, called the scandal a national security issue. West Point cadets become senior leaders the nation depends on.

“There’s no excuse for cheating when the fundamental code for cadets is that they should not lie, cheat or steal,” Bakken said. “Therefore when the military tries to downplay effects of cheating at the academy, we’re really downplaying the effects on the military as a whole. We rely on the military to tell us honestly when we should fight wars, and when we can win them.”

The reader who tipped me off to this writes:

It could very well signal the end of our military’s respect and admiration. Every student who cheated should be expelled. The honor the Army and the United States demands it. A cheater is a low and dirty creature not to be tolerated in an organization where responsibility and rank are based on merit. Cheaters threaten the success of the entire institution. If you don’t hate dishonesty and cheaters, you shouldn’t be an officer in the Army. And if our Army can’t do any better than this, may as well hand the keys off over to China and save us the future embarrassment.

He’s right about that. If — if — it turns out that Lt. Gen. Williams did alter his reaction because the honor code violation disproportionately affected black cadets, then this country ought to have an honest reckoning with Critical Race Theory and its power within institutions. If you are allowed to be a cheat and get away with it at West Point because of the color of your skin, then who can respect West Point? And if you can’t respect West Point, where the best of the best are formed… .

UPDATE: A reader writes:

You mentioned Spenser Rapone in your latest blog entry. I came across this 2017 story that reveals just how bad that entire affair was:

The Army officer who outed himself as a radical Marxist had been reported back in 2015 for publishing inappropriate and outright anti-American views online, according to a scathing report obtained by The Daily Caller.

The report gave details on 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone’s insubordination at the U.S. Military Academy and out-of-regulations online activity. Rapone graduated almost two years later in 2016.

The statement leaves readers with the idea that Rapone’s chain of command (and indeed the academy at large) was unaware of his radicalism and frequent Uniform Code of Military Justice violations. It turns out a senior officer reported Rapone to his chain of command nearly two years ago.

In a social media post that concerned retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Heffington, an Academy history professor at the time, Rapone wrote, “F*ck this country and its false freedom.”

When I first heard the story in 2017, it sounded as though Rapone’s views were mostly a secret until he graduated. As it turns out, the Army not only knew years before, but it still permitted him to remain in service and at the academy!

Not only that, the Army tolerated behavior completely unbecoming and totally unacceptable of an officer. His wokeness is just icing on the cake, it’s obvious this guy had no business wearing a uniform:

In November 2015, after being removed from his Ranger battalion for violating standards, Rapone was a cadet in his final year at the academy. According to the report obtained by TheDC, after the latest in a series of incidents involving Rapone’s penchant for insubordination, Heffington became aware of Rapone’s radical leftist activity on social media and notified the cadet’s chain of command.

And:

This reaction is merely one of many indications that Rapone’s activism, radical views and immature opposition to authority were well known around the academy — and especially obvious to his chain of command. According to a former head of the Military History and International History divisions at the U.S. Military Academy, Rapone’s plebe year history professor also reported him to the chain of command.

This is all the more infuriating by the fact that the military recognizes it has a right-wing extremist and White nationalist problem in its ranks. I can only take their word on just how bad the problem is, but their total disregard and complete tolerance of Spenser Rapone is evidence only a certain kind of extremism isn’t tolerated in the service. Mind you, I can tell you from personal experience the military is full of people who either don’t love the country all that much or define patriotism as your willingness to throw your country under the bus. The military’s just a job, a means to an end, and they know wearing a uniform gives them a level of credibility and deference in society that they can’t get elsewhere. Twitter is full of Woke SJW-types who are also veterans, along with some milder examples. Still, large numbers of veterans and civilians alike who’re employed or otherwise associated with the military are openly partisan (while also decrying partisanship on the other side) and openly ascribe to wokeness or allegiance to political movements like BLM.

What’s happening to the military’s also an example of how the supposed “moderates” are the enablers of this madness. The transition to wokeness has been, as a reader described it, gradual, driven by people who lack the militant activism of the far left, but nonetheless think along the same lines. These include those who worked in the Pentagon during the Obama administration, but it also includes the aforementioned who make up the broader national security intelligentsia. A perfect example of this was seen this past summer, when the Pentagon banned all flags not relevant to the U.S., the 50 states, and the military, to include both the Confederate flag and the LGBTI+ “Pride” flag. The banning of the latter generated a storm of protest from people who think the Pride flag should be granted an exception and permitted to be openly displayed on military installations. The invitation of people like Ta-Nehisi Coates was enabled by those who believe White supremacy is “baked in” the military and whose respond to opposition to inviting people like Coates with a simple, “What’s the harm? Aren’t you against racism?”

What you have is a military that exists to serve Woke, revolutionary causes. What you’ll end up with is a force that looks upon itself, its servicemembers, and, eventually, its own country with contempt, scorn, and self-loathing, if not outright hatred. Militaries, to a large extent, represent the sociocultural foundation of a nation. So we shouldn’t be surprised at what’s happening to the U.S. armed forces, because it’s what’s happened to the nation at-large. The military and the broader national security community, like the whole country, has become a massive university campus, except everyone gets paid and they make choices that have profound effects on the country.

This all puts what both of us have said about parallels between what’s happening in the U.S. today and what happened and continues to happen in Spain into greater perspective. The good news to all this is that neither left-wing totalitarians or right-wing authoritarians can use the military to pull off a coup d’état or wage civil war. A military subverted for revolutionary ends is one that cannot fight. The bad news is that there’s no institution out there able or willing to stop the totalitarian onslaught. Ultimately, it comes down to those outside of our institutions with little in the way of cultural power to stand up to the revolutionary forces, but that merely opens us up to malicious actors on our own side.

Of course, we all saw this coming and they told us we were angry at change or crazy. The law of “merited impossibility,” as you put it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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