What is a Military Academy?

Military academies are schools that specialize in military training. There are military academies on the elementary, junior high school, high school, junior college and university levels.

Historically, young boys often entered military training as early as age seven. However, the trend today is to begin a military specialization at the high school or college level. There are a few elementary and junior high schools for ages 6 to 14 years old that offer both boarding and day school programs. These are often designed to help students enter highly competitive, college-preparatory military academies on the high school level.

The United States has about a dozen college-preparatory military academies. Most of them date to the late 18th or early 19th Century. These are highly selective boarding schools that emphasize character development through military training. They have top-notch academics and sports programs. Some are co-ed, some are single-sex, and some offer separate programs for boys and girls on the same campus. Many students have parents and ancestors who served in the military, and thus choosing a military-style boarding school is a family tradition.

Military academies on the junior college level offer high school graduates a chance to become commissioned officers through the Early Commissioning Program begun in 1966. Students can earn the commission of Second Lieutenant in two years rather than four. There are five junior colleges in the United States that offer this program; four of them also offer military training for junior high and high school students as well.

The term "service academies" usually refers to the three academies operated by the three branches of the armed services - Annapolis, West Point and the Air Force Academy. They used to be male-only, but began admitting women in the 1970s.

These service academies offer stellar training for those who want careers as officers in the military, and today they are among the most selective colleges in the country. For example, the Naval Academy received 15,700 applications for about 1,300 places in the freshman class entering in 2007. Anyone who can gain admission to an armed service academy receives a free education from the government; however, graduates must agree to serve four to five years in the military. As the Army, Navy and Air Force have become more technology-oriented, military education in the high school academies is increasingly emphasizing mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.

Other college-level military academies are the Coast Guard Academy, under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Merchant Marine Academy under the Department of Transportation. There are several state-supported universities that offer military programs, such as Texas A&M University and the Citadel in Virginia.

Just fifty years ago, military academies on the high school level were very popular choices for American boys, especially in the southern states. Since then, over 470 American military academies have either closed or dropped the military tradition in their curriculum and style.

There is a trend to incorporate military practices as a way of instilling discipline in at-risk students, such as minority students from inner-city neighborhoods. Public school systems in Chicago and Florida, for example, have opened military-style high schools. Likewise, military schools are opening up in states that allow charter schools through public funding. The public programs are not boarding schools but offer day programs with ROTC training. Many of these programs and schools are still in the experimental stage and unproven.

Although many people believe that sending a defiant child away to military school will help him or her develop respect for authority and self-discipline, this is not always the case. The top academies have very selective admissions. They are seeking students who genuinely want a military education and who already students of high character. They are not set up for troubled teens with mental and emotional problems.

Military schools do not offer therapy or counseling to teens who may have an undiagnosed problem such as Attention Deficit Disorder or bipolar disorder, and they do not help teens who abuse drug or alcohol to learn new ways of coping with stress. The emphasis on rules, conformity and punishment can push a defiant teen into deeper alienation and crisis.

Fast Facts About Adolescents

At any given time, up to 15 percent of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression. The incidence of depressive disorders markedly increases after puberty. By 14 years of age, depressive disorders are more than twice as common in girls as in boys.

Military Academy

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