Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Training Officers to Be Gentlemen*

I found this interesting story from Time Magazine online yesterday: Becoming an Officer and a Gentleman: Air Force Academy Seeks Help to Teach Cadets Finer Points of Finer Living.

Yes, Dear Readers, although an act of Congress can make one an officer in the armed services, it requires special training to make today's officer a gentleman.

It seems that the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has issued Contract Solicitation Number: FA7000-14-T-0013, titled "Social Decorum Training Program at the US Air Force Academy." You can download and read the actual Performance Work Statement (PWS) here, in case you were considering putting in a bid. Here is the Background/Scope section from the PWS ...


Cadet Social Decorum Program. The contractor shall be responsible for administering, planning, and continued development of a comprehensive etiquette training program. The contractor shall provide areas of instruction and mentorship that include military, business, communication, dining, social and professional etiquette. The contractor shall present a syllabus and comprehensive training programs (seminars, workshops, lectures, briefings, and hands-on practical sessions) for all classes of cadets covering a broad range of topics related to etiquette and military customs and courtesies. Contractor shall support planning sessions and review meetings related to the Cadet Social Decorum Program.

SCOPE. Topics of instruction shall include but are not limited to: Social activities, event planning, personal correspondence (invitations, RSVPs, thank you notes), writing social correspondence, receiving lines and introductions, civility, behavior, basic hygiene, uniform wear and maintenance, appropriate civilian attire, posture, basic manners in a myriad of settings, common courtesies, telephone etiquette, table etiquette (settings, seating, decorum, conversation), the art of conversation (tact and diplomacy, small talk, use of proper language style, body language and non-verbal communication), social conduct in stressful situations, leadership roles outside the military structure, and ceremonies. Proper conduct and dress for functions such as USAFA Ring Dance, sponsor visits, USAFA graduation and commissioning ceremonies, dining-ins, dining-outs, events at commander’s and general officer’s quarters and formal and non-formal events in the community. The list above is not all inclusive but it does provide some examples."

I think that the fact that the Air Force sees a need to train its newest officers in ordinary social graces - including civility, basic hygiene, common courtesies, and the art of conversation is a poor comment on our society. What are parents teaching their children nowadays?

It's been widely reported that many college graduates, particularly athletes, nowadays can't read at a high school level, do basic mathematics, or write coherently. That's a failure of priorities in our system of higher education. But the fact that the specially-selected students we are training to to fly multi-million dollar aircraft and satellites, to manage contracts worth billions of dollars, and to lead others into war require supplemental training in basic social graces is pretty disheartening.

One can argue that warriors don't need to understand which fork to use with which dinner course, or the intricacies of etiquette in various social settings ... but they really ought not to need special instruction in common courtesy or how to carry on a social conversation.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* I use the term in its generic sense to include female officers, of whom there are many in today's armed services.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

This is disheartening, Bilbo; but the even Air Force Academy does have the possibility of some of their new students being rather rough and unfamiliar with the niceities of social nuance. As for the unlettered athletes, there are regular scandals of major institutions having athletes that lack basic university- or even high school-level skills. (Mostly in the ones that bring in large revenues, I might add.) Several institutions are complicit in this.

Basketball is a phenomenon in NC; and football in much of the South. There are even some institutions whose athletics cost more than bring in revenues.

Duckbutt said...

Business schools have been doing that for a long while.

Academe might need it too.

When I was working, I was astonished at the number of college professors who would wear baseball hats indoors.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I sense a lucrative government contract, and certain enumerated objectives being checked off. Is this REALLY necessary?

John Hill said...

If it works like the FAA (the government agency of my choosing), a few retired Generals or high ranking officers will get the contract. In the case of the FAA, they set those contracts up (and their companies, too) before they retire and walk right into their post-retirement windfall.
Oh crap! I am a cynical curmudgeon!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Some professions have more relaxed dress and etiquette standards. Try engineering.

KathyA said...

Marines have Lieutenant School. Always thought this was a good idea and should also be extended to high schools everywhere. Shouldn't have to be contracted out, though...