Why the Military Needs Our Top Students

A recent Pew Research poll has shown the growing distance between the American public and the U.S. military in regards to civilian understanding of the armed forces. This problem is further distancing the public’s understanding of the role of the military in society, as young people have fewer personal connections (such as family members or spouses) in the military. This is especially true for younger people and has negative implications for a new generation of Americans who have grown up in the shadows of constant wars, which have had few implications for their daily lives.

In light of this data, the American military should work to specifically recruit the youth of our nation’s elite universities. Despite having a rocky relationship with top universities in the past, both the military and the educational institutions have much to gain from a partnership that sends America’s brightest into the ranks of the military. Opposition to military recruitment on these campuses should recognize the benefits of an officer corps with a liberal education that can better work to bridge the gap between the public and the military.

Since their founding, many elite American universities have had a large involvement in the military. This relationship was strained with the opposition to the Vietnam War, when many elite schools instituted a de facto ban on ROTC programs and military recruitment on campus. Many of these institutions continued to implicitly discourage military involvement, as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) became a major contention point between university anti-discrimination policies and the military’s institutionalized discrimination.

Many elite universities have recently begun to take steps to repair this relationship as the repeal of DADT has been implemented, as seen with Harvard bringing back NROTC last March and Columbia doing the same in May. The military has a unique opportunity to tap into a precious intellectual resource by increasing its recruiting activities at these universities and bringing up an officer corps that have been educated at the finest schools that this country has to offer.

Drawing students from top schools will have a variety of benefits for all parties. The military will gain officers with a firm grounding in a liberal arts education that will give them a unique background with which to understand the subtleties of modern wars that are heavily influenced by international politics and involve cross-cultural understanding. The students and institutions will have the opportunity to use their intellectual capital to influence the future of a military that is continuing to be further distanced from the average American.

Opposition to recruitment at elite schools comes from many different sources. Many LGBT groups point to the fact that while DADT was repealed, the military still does not provide homosexual couples with many of the benefits that it provides for straight couples. This point is used to continue opposition to military involvement on campus. This passion is misguided. These students should realize the benefits of having their peers, many of whom share their very same ideals, within the ranks of the military. They can serve as a source of progressive thinking within the military leadership and help to shape its future.

Some opposition comes from the military establishment itself, which feels alienated by the institutions that have lived up to a negative stereotype of the “elite” label. As top schools spurned military recruitment efforts, this was often perceived as a lack of support towards the military. In actuality, this was often a mix of discontent with the military’s discriminatory policies and a statement of protest against unpopular wars.

Even as the military becomes more disconnected from the public as a whole, it has the chance to build relationships with a valuable source of future officers. Higher recruitment from top schools will have a liberalizing effect that will promote the ideals of the educational institutions while giving the military top intellectual talent.

For the future of both, I hope they capitalize upon this opportunity.

Photo Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Dillon Cory

Dillon Cory is a student at the University of Chicago. Raised in rural Idaho, he moved to Chicago to experience all that a big city has to offer. He is currently studying Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, both building on his interest in Middle East issues. Dillon is currently in the process of becoming an officer in the United States Marine Corps and has attended Officer Candidate School. He has a passion for political biographies and is a great fan of the Colbert Report.

MORE FROM

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.