The Fulford File | Education Theorist Ted Sizer And The Myth Of The “Military Model”
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April 28, 2015, 05:00 PM
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John Derbyshire recently reviewed Raymond Wolter’s new book on educational theorists, men who thought that they could “Close The Gap.” One of them was Harvard’s Theodore Sizer, above, father of the “Essential Schools” movement. His training was not in statistics.

According to Derbyshire:

Sizer went along with his colleagues in accepting Coleman’s conclusions. Yet he found much of the scholarship “bewildering.” Since Sizer’s education had been in English and History, and his previous employment had been in the military and school teaching, he was “befogged and frequently cowed by the ferocious arguments … about what struck me as dazzling but sometimes picayune statistical acrobatics …”
Sizer was in the Army in 1953, as an artillery officer, possibly because he was drafted, or perhaps because Harvard had Artillery ROTC until 1955. (They abolished it in the 70s out of sympathy for the Viet Cong.) His New York Times obituary says
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale in 1953, the younger Mr. Sizer served as an Army artillery officer, an experience that would determine the course of his professional life.

Few of the young soldiers who served under him had completed high school, but when treated democratically, as members of a cohesive group, they learned new skills readily, he found.

“Whatever troops you got had to deliver,” Professor Sizer told Phi Delta Kappan magazine in 1996. “If one person didn’t do it, he put everybody’s life at stake. That made a deep impression. There was no tracking in the Army, just the beliefs that somehow these young men had to be trained and had to be reliable and that all soldiers can learn.”

[Theodore R. Sizer, Leading Education-Reform Advocate, Dies At 77, By Margalit Fox, NYT, October 22, 2009 (Emphasis added)]

Sizer’s attempt to convert his military experience into educational practice didn’t work. And he was wrong to think that there was “no tracking” in the Army.

He had forgotten not only that his 1953 Artillery platoon was much whiter than American society (integration was just starting) but that everyone who enters the Army has to pass an IQ test. See Race Relations: The Myth Of The Military Model, By Steve Sailer, January 26, 2003.

And Artillery soldiers have to be brighter than average, because any mistakes they make can damage their own side, so they have to pass a special aptitude test before being detailed artillery. Here’s the experience of an Army officer, writing for American Renaissance under what I assume is a false name, in the modern army:

Probably the greatest problem with blacks in the Army today is lack of ability, despite armed services qualification tests that wash out a considerably greater proportion of black applicants than white. Before my combat tour I found that blacks only slowly grasped the complex skills necessary for modern warfare. Once, as a passenger on a military bus, I overheard a group of blacks talking about something they all had in common: re-training. If a recruit fails a task, such as assembling a machine gun or operating a radio, he is culled from his squad for re-training. I never heard a knot of white soldiers discussing their common experience of re-training.

Blacks also fail the Army’s quite challenging field artillery training course at an appalling rate. Statistics aren’t public, but when I was learning the dark voodoo of artillery gunnery at Fort Sill’s Officer Basic Course I was surprised that all of the blacks in my platoon who started with me flunked out or “recycled.” Likewise, all who graduated with me were “recycles” from earlier courses. These men were not raw 18-year-olds; to get in you had to be a college graduate and get through pre-commissioning training.

[Diversity in the Army, by Duncan Hengest, American Renaissance, January 2008 (Emphasis added)]

Perhaps if Mr. Sizer had served with largely black troops, his educational theories would have been different.

In spite of the test requirement, which means that the Armed Forces get above-average blacks, and the all-volunteer army, which means that blacks are less likely to be mutinous than they were in the Vietnam era, when even whites felt the draft was a form of involuntary servitude, differential crime rates and IQ cause a host of problems.

That last item, by me, discusses the problem that occurred when the Annapolis brass “tinkered with the composition of the color guard that appeared at a World Series game last month so the group would not be exclusively white and male"—despite Sizer, there apparently is “tracking,” or at least Affirmative Action, in the military now—Zishan Hameed, who was carefully selected not as the best of the best at the Naval Academy, but because he was a non-white (Pakistani) Midshipman, was unable to present the US Flag at the World Series—because he forgot his shoes and hat.

James Fulford [Email him] is a writer and editor for