Civilians can know military stuff too

Lately there has been a heated debate in War on the Rocks about Professional Military Education. It has turned into something of a spectacle where military and civilian teachers respectively argue that their own competencies are the most important.

Tammy S. Schultz provides the sane perspective in her piece titled The Road Less Travelled: Both Sides Are Right About Professional Military Education. I would argue that both sides are probably wrong and not right, but that’s a minor issue.

The stereotypes on all sides have to stop. A Ph.D. does not mean one can teach, but neither does being a great military leader mean one is suddenly a great Socratic professor. Some individuals on both sides think people on the other are incapable of mastering both crafts (e.g., brilliant, Socratic military professors or civilian experts in joint warfare). This typecasting mistake is made by both Thornhill and Morgan-Owen — civilians only know “civilian” topics like critical thinking, whereas military officers or enlisted professionals only know military matters. Rather than entrench into military and civilian camps in our schools, we should cross-pollinate as much as possible. I mean this differently than most: A civilian may help a colonel master a particular aspect of joint warfare, or a military instructor could design a breakthrough classroom methodology his/her civilian colleagues can use.

It is remarkable how absent learning theory is from the debate. Why is it that pedagogical discussions in the military sphere can exist almost independently of knowledge about human learning?

In this light, it is refreshing to see professor Schultz introduce a more sophisticated understanding of skills and abilities into the debate.




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