In 1778 George Washington, for whom West Point was always a crucial strategic position in the United States, appointed Kosciuszko as a chief designer of its first fundamental fortifications to which he moved his headquarters the following year. In 1802, President Jefferson officially opened the United States Military Academy at West Point. Under the superintendence of Colonel Thayer (1817-1833) who was also called the “father of the Military Academy”, higher academic standards were set and a great emphasis was put on military discipline and code of conduct.
Civil engineering became the fundamental subject on the curriculum at West Point and for many years its graduates were the nation’s major constructors of the first bridges, roads, railway lines, etc in the USA (A Brief History of the Academy). During the American Civil War, both warring sides, the South and the North, were headed mainly by West Pointers, such as Grant, Sherman, Jackson, Lee, Sheridan, and others. West Point graduates also distinguished themselves in Europe during World War I.
After the war, the academic curriculum at West Point was gradually diversified and enormous efforts were made to improve various physical fitness programs (A Brief History of the Academy). Among the most prominent West Pointers that distinguished themselves in World War II were military leaders such as Eisenhower, Bradley, MacArthur, Wainwright, Patton, Clark, Stilwell, and others. In the postwar period, the curriculum at West Point was broadened again and included science and technology. In 1964, the Corps of Cadets was increased from 2,529 to 4,417 resulting in the appearance of new facilities.
The enrollment of women at West Point began in 1976 and each class now has approximately fifteen percent of female cadets. At present, the West Point Military Academy comprises over 4,000 cadets and every year it graduates over 900 officers (A Brief History of the Academy). “Page # 2” Code of conduct at West Point At West Point every cadet adheres to an ethical code of conduct called the Cadet Honor Code whose golden rule states: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do”.
The Honor Code is a vital and important tradition that was initially formalized in 1922 by Superintendent MacArthur who also established the Cadet Honor Committee. The last part of the golden rule, however, was not included in its original version. In 1970, the code of conduct was revised resulting in the introduction of the “non-toleration” clause (Jones). The Cadet Honor Code in its present form has no boundaries and sets high standards of ethical behavior not only when cadets are at West Point, but also when they are at home or with friends.
Living by the code means that cadets must strive for moral and ethical perfection and must never lie, cheat, steal, nor can they tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing by others. Cadets must be truthful, fair, and respect the rights and property of other people, and also assume responsibility for their actions. These principles constitute the Spirit of the Code whose goal is the development of leaders of characters. These high standards distinguish the Military Academy at West Point as well as its graduates from any other institution and students.
For Cadets, they are fundamental principles of life, not just prohibitions (Jones). At the Academy, there is a democratic system of responding to any violation of the Cadet Honor Code. West Pointers are responsible for running the Honor System, convening Honor Investigations and Hearings of particular cases. The Cadet Honor Board consisting of six members gathers and evaluates the evidence to decide whether a Cadet is guilty of violation of the Honor Code. In case a cadet is found guilty of violation of any aspect of the code, Board members inform the Superintendent of his status who then decides what will happen to that cadet.
In most cases, “dismissal” is the standard verdict but the cadet may also be given another chance to live honorably in the future (Jones). “Page # 3” Cadet life and religion at West Point A cadet’s life at West Point is very busy. A cadet’s daily schedule includes classes, study, physical education, athletics, military duties, and over hundred extracurricular activities coordinated by the Cadet Activities Office. Many instructors and officers reside at West Point and provide additional help and instruction to the cadets who need it, and also guide many extracurricular activities in which cadets are involved in their free time.
These activities include language, aeronautics, astronautics, computer, engineering, athletic, and many other clubs (The West Point Experience). Sports play a very important role in the life of West Pointers developing self-confidence, competitiveness, and self-discipline in cadets. The Academy’s intercollegiate program includes twenty-four sports. In addition, cadets also publish publications such as “Howitzer”, “The Pointer”, or “Bugle Notes”; run the WKDT radio station; and write, produce, and perform plays and music.
Extracurricular activities at West Point are viewed as an important aspect of a college community life (The West Point Experience). Religion is another important aspect of community life at West Point. The religious ministry comprising all major faith groups is provided not only for the Corps of Cadets, but also for the West Point staff. While performing the ministry, chaplains in religious communities are often assisted by councils consisting of cadets (Nonstandard Activities of the United States Military Academy). West Point cadets have the opportunity to attend chapel services and practice various religious observances.
Cadets can join and regularly participate in chapel choirs, ceremonial rites, discussion groups, Sunday religious school classes run by various religious affiliations whose mission is to contribute to the spiritual and moral development of the West Point community (The West Point Experience).
REFERENCES: 1. A Brief History of the Academy. Retrieved May 6, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. usma. edu/history. asp 2. Jones, D. United States Military Academy’s Honor Code and System. Retrieved May 6, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www. usma. edu/Cpme/HS_Outreach/HS_Outreach. htm