Service Academies: First-Class First Classmen

Asked to name a Great Idea, Annapolis' middies are wont to say "Beat Army." But the academy has lately undergone a bit of brainlifting. Courses have been tripled to catch up with missile-age gear and theory; the 4,100 midshipmen can major in twelve fields; the new academic dean and almost half the faculty are civilians. Middies no longer even march to class in formation.

This fall came another innovation: the idea—patterned frankly and gratefully on Yale's "Scholars of the House"—that a few bright first classmen (seniors) should be freed to study largely...

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