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United States Government Academy - a proposal by Drew Kopf
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United States Government Academy - a proposal by Drew Kopf

Our educational system in America has been under attack for decades; perhaps more vocally of late then ever before. Everyone seems to want to remake it from the ground up. That might be the right approach. But, to date, to our knowledge, there has been no one calling for the system to be reformed from the top down instead. This approach, which we are calling the United States Government Academy, calls for the creation of schools of higher learning; one for each of our federal government departments, that would serve as the college level training ground for those citizens interested in making a career in the service of our great nation by helping to execute the missions of the various government departments exclusive of the military and quasi-military areas.

It would be our hope that in one fell swoop with the establishment of these institutions of higher learning several things would be accomplished:

  1. The idea of federal agencies being massive bureaucratic boondoggles where people show up to work to perform do-nothing jobs because they got their positions through political cronyism or patronage would soon get replaced by a new image of highly efficient agencies run by caring and concerned people with the welfare and wellbeing of their countrymen and women is uppermost on their minds and reflected in the meaningful and caring way they perform their very necessary tasks every day of the year.
  2. Careers in government service would become respectable goals of their own rather than being thought of as a last resort for those who are not cut out to take their chances in the real world arena. 
  3. New federal government agency leaders would arrive on the job ready to work. Their training would have prepared them properly for the jobs they would be doing. They would not have to be “un-trained” and “retrained” as is currently the case when those schooled in private or state schools of higher learning accept positions in federal government agencies.
  4. The massive numbers of people who do end up working in federal government agencies need not be forced into taking traditional college track courses of study when all they really want is just a certain amount of that with a greater emphasis on skills and training in technologies and job related skills and knowledge that would enhance their job performance potential and career progress.
  5. This, would allow the more traditional schools of higher learning in our country to get back to what they had done before they were seduced into changing their focus from the “higher” in higher learning to the “hire” part of a student’s education; i.e. colleges remade themselves into vocational schools to stay alive. To a greater extent, by having students who just want to go to school to get a job studying in a federal government academy, the classical colleges could get back on track to educating the intelligentsia of our nation. Both the private and the state or local public colleges, which, dating back to the beginning of our country, had served as the educational standard by which all things of cultural importance were judged and where one went to become truly educated; and not merely trained, would go.    

Steve Greenberg, on WCBS Radio in New York City, recently gave his “Your Next Job” report which focused on the largest employer of all in this country, which is the Federal Government. He told of the wide variety of jobs there are in the Government, the great benefits, where you can end up living and working and how 4 out of every 10 Federal employees today will be leaving the work force in the next several years. Those are mostly members of the “Baby Boomer” generation who will be retiring.

What came to mind, were how few institutions of higher learning that the US Government sponsors and maintains and that most of them, if not all of them, are our military related; i.e. academies; the US Military Academy; the US Naval Academy, the US Sir Force Academy and the US Coast Guard Academy, and the medical schools connected to the Walter Reed and F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, which refers to itself as “America’s Medical School” - Uniformed Services University -- the nation's only federal health sciences university -- is an academic health center with a unique focus.”

There are also the United States Army War College and the United States Navy War College, which give graduate level instruction to senior military officers and civilians to prepare them for senior leadership assignments and responsibilities. We understand from a dictionary site on the Internet that, “Although the federal government operates several institutions of higher learning, such as the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy, it is prohibited by statute from exercising direct control over other educational institutions.”

But, site unseen, it seems that there may well be a difference between what is referred to as “education’ and what is referred to as “training” when talking about getting ready or preparing for a certain type of work that needs to be done when employed by the Federal Government. It seems that what has happened is that the educational system, which is primarily run by the individual states, has evolved into more of a training system to help prepare people for work; i.e. to make them more employable; rather than to prepare them to get what they can from life in general by being well rounded, well read and “educated’ individuals.

Once a person gets hired by the Federal Government, there is training that needs to take place so that they will perform their tasks in the manner that is expected and will impart the appropriate answers and responses to the various questions and situations that may present themselves while they are “on the job.”

Since the college “education” offered by both public (read: state) and private institutions have devolved into glorified job and career readiness institutions for the most part, and since the largest employer in the country; i.e. the Federal Government, will have to retrain or “un-train” (to coin a phrase) workers who come to their new positions with the antiquated, incorrect or insufficient training, it would make sense to have the Federal Government do what it already does so well in preparing and training our military leaders for service, by establishing training institutions which could be called colleges or universities since what those terms currently mean would fit right into what would be being done in them; job training, to properly prepare potential employees for Government service positions and, thereby saving the effort needed to redo what was done but wrongly in the state and private institutions.

There are many youngster who, when thinking of their college years lean towards schools that offer a lot of “Rah Rah.” That maybe something that people will want from their “college” years but, at the same time, it may not be that big a deal either. There are many students who commute rather than dorm during their college years. Their experience will be different that those who dorm. That’s not to say that companies can not still have company bowling leagues where those in the frame (sorry) of mind to join a team and compete could not start one or join one and take it to whatever level they like; local, regional national; the works.

Our initial feeling is that the current “training programs” for new employees could be expanded vertically and horizontally using the military academy models. In fact, the importance of the work done by other parts of the Federal Government can be brought into sharper focus and given a greater degree of appreciation by using an “appointment” process for entrance into the “academies” similar to the way candidates to the military academies are made. Appointments to the military academies can be made by:

There are also several service related nominations that can be made such as:

The United States Federal Academy System could have academies for each major area that might correspond to the cabinet posts such as one for the Department of the Interior, which already has in place a “lifelong learning” as noted on the Department website:

“At Interior, we engage and educate lifelong learners through an array of learning opportunities in support of our science and stewardship mission. From programs for children that nurture a “sense of wonder” about the natural world, to place-based experiential learning and professional development for students and educators, to internships that provide career training on public lands, in various offices, and in world-class laboratories, we believe we must inspire people today and empower public service leaders of tomorrow.”

Such an educational program or programs could be ramped up into a fully configured academy that can serve as both a magnet for those who see early on in life that Government Service is the kind of life that they want to pursue and that from such a program of education and training they would be committed to entering a departmental pathway towards, hopefully, a lifelong career that is rewarding and enriching in ways far beyond the normal monetary expectations.

Should, for some reason, a graduate of one of these Federal Academies not find work in the Pubic sector just right or as rewarding as he or she had hoped it would be, it would not be as if that person was not prepared for the work world outside the Government arena. Though their training would be geared at readying them for success in Government posts, their course of study would also include elements that would allow them to “land on their feet” in any work environment and be successful.

There might be those who will see such a system as we are proposing here as unfair competition to private and even to public educational institutions, which we can appreciate perhaps at first glance. But, when we take into consideration the vast number of college trained people who enter school wanting to be one thing and end up selling insurance, or who pile up a quarter of a million dollars worth of Federally Guaranteed loans only to find there are no jobs in their chosen fields or that the economy has gone into a nose dive again and what had looked like such a great deal back then is now a complete dead end.

Then, there are the non-college bound who get taken in by private vocational schools that sell them a grand idea for success in radio or aircraft mechanic work or the like while getting them to take on a mountain of financial debt with just a certificate and no career to show for it at the end of the road. Such well intentioned citizens deserve more than that type of sadness.

Perhaps what our country needs at this juncture is a kind of leveling or balancing mechanism that will allow the education sector to get back to its roots and, by elevating its goals and objectives to where they used to be back some fifty or more years ago, get away from having to spend all sorts of money on advertizing and marketing just to get any old warm body in a seat so their quotas get met. If that sounds familiar, then this may be just what the doctor; or is it doctorate; ordered.

Right about now you might be asking, “But, who is going to pay for all these free university level educations?” It all comes down to values. World War II proved to us that our military needs to be ever ready to be able to move at a moment’s notice to protect and defend. What is that worth? It is hard to put a number on it because it if it is under valued it could mean a negative result, which would mean all the worst that could be realized would be realized.

The same might not be the case with regard to the Department of the Interior unless you can imagine a world without the Grand Canyon. We could easily make a case for each of the areas covered by the Federal Government and along with doing so might be an array of jokes dealing with wasteful, purposeless and even corrupt government spending, like the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. But, it seems to us that the way to insure against that type of thing happening is to attract the best and brightest and to start to lean away, as much as possible, from the well known snafus and boondoggles that come about from too much politicking. It might not be something we can rid ourselves of completely, but with better trained and less politically dependant employees in our vast government infrastructure, things ought to improve over time.
Where do we start? Right here with what he have and right now. Will we need accreditation for these institutions? The various departments will run them to the standards they use now only more so. So, probably not. Will the degrees one gets from such institutions be honored beyond the Government itself? That all depends. But, someone going into this field would be well aware of this and have weighed those elements before they made their choice.

For some reason, the situation reminds us of the story about the fellow who comes back to his little town after WWII having retired from the military after a thirty year career and he is having a devil of a time finding a job. He has no civilian skills really having been a warrior for so long but he finally gets a job packing groceries in the local grocery store and he is doing quite well. Except for one thing; he comes in late every day; five minutes, eight minutes, fifteen minutes, but late every day. Of course, it gets back to the manager who brings him into his office and says, “You know Bill you really are doing so well here. Your co-workers look up to you. The customers love the way you pack for them and how you carry their bags out to their cars. But, I’m really surprised that you were in the Army for thirty years where they are known for punctuality and yet you come into work late every day. I mean, what would they say to you when you would come in late like this?” And, Bill replies, “They would usually say, ‘Good morning General; coffee or tea?"

We hope this idea resonates with you. We realize this is asking a lot of the nation to make such a drastic change in the way things are done. But, in a way, it would be doing what is already being done only in a more streamlined and resolute fashion, with, hopefully, better results all around for everyone. An old High School chum of ours suggested that a book would be a good way to put this idea on its feet in an effort to start the campaign to get it accepted and implemented. If we had perhaps a dozen or more professionals in the field of education and training who would share their thoughts, pro or con, about the idea of a United States Government Academy System, we might be able to weave them all together and present a cogent platform for at least considering the idea.  Thank you for having taken the time to consider it. Your thoughts and suggestions would be most welcome. We sincerely look forward to hearing from you.

Drew Kopf