AUGUST 9, 1951
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—For the past few days the newspapers have been full of stories about the dismissal of cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Even Congress, which quite naturally takes more interest in West Point and Annapolis than they do in an ordinary college, since they have the privilege of making appointments to these institutions, has been much excited. Some members of Congress, I understand, have even suggested that these two institutions should be wiped out. This seems to be going too far, since our future Army and Navy officers require specialized basic training which would be difficult to give in any but specialized institutions.
I do not think, however, that there should be this hue and cry about our students at West Point and not the same excitement about the same conditions in other educational institutions. I think we should look into our lower-classification schools because that is where dishonesty in examinations, or in anything else, begins. We would not find it in colleges if no such thing existed in the lower schools.
It is in these same schools, too, that the craze for acquiring good athletes begins. One of the reasons for our troubles today is that athletics has become a business in high schools, and in colleges and universities. It is no longer just a pleasure and healthful exercise. Even in high school the proceeds of games support the whole athletic program. In our universities, the big games not only support the athletic program but are responsible for many of the improvements that make a variety of athletics possible.
These big games are what allowed the gamblers to see a chance to capitalize on basketball in New York City. They lie at the root of much of the cribbing in examinations. Overlooking such conduct as this type of cheating is an accepted fact in some institutions. Men who are primarily in college to play games and not because of their academic interests must get through their examinations somehow.
In talking to a young student from one of our large Southern States, I was shocked to hear that the average student was not interested in academic achievement. If he could "get by," I was told that was all that was necessary and cheating was the rule rather than the exception.
This student also told me that you rarely heard these young people voice any ideals for their own academic success or profess any idea of their obligations as a citizen of a great state and a great country.
This, I am sure, is a recent development. But it is one that we older people must accept responsibility for, since in the high school days, our children are still under the influence primarily of home and school. I am sure all of us tell our children the proper things, but perhaps our actions do not always jibe with our words. And none is quicker than the young people in discovering inconsistency between professions and actions.
Perhaps it is essential to make an example of a few young people in order to awaken the consciences of many, though frankly I am sorry for those who have to be sacrificed. I hardly think they are primarily to blame, but I hope it will make us go over the whole situation and look back at the whole picture and make some real changes in our approach to athletics and character development.