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OPINION

Dumbing-Down the U.S. Navy

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"Naval Academy Professor Challenges Rising Diversity," ran the headline in The Washington Post.

The impression left was that some sorehead was griping because black and Hispanic kids were finally being admitted.

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The Post's opening paragraphs reinforced the impression.

"Of the 1,230 plebes who took the oath of office at the Naval Academy in Annapolis this week, 435 were members of minority groups. It's the most racially diverse class in the nation's 164-year history. Academy leaders say it's a top priority to build a student body that reflects the racial makeup of the Navy and the nation."

Who can be against diversity?

What the Post gets around to is that 22-year English professor Bruce Fleming objects to a race-based admissions program that was apparently used to create a class that is 35 percent minority.

According to Fleming, who once sat on the board of admissions, white applicants must have all As and Bs and test scores of at least 600 on the English and math parts of the SAT even to qualify for a "slate" of 10 applicants, from which only one will be chosen.

However, if you check a box indicating you are African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian, writes Fleming, "SAT scores to the mid 500s with quite a few Cs in classes ... typically produces a vote of 'qualified' ... with direct admission to Annapolis. They're in and given a pro forma nomination to make it legit."

If true, the U.S. Naval Academy is running a two-tier admissions system of the kind that kept Jennifer Gratz out of the University of Michigan and was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

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"Minority applicants with scores and grades down to the 300s and Cs and Ds also come, though after a year at our taxpayer-supported remedial school, the Naval Academy Preparatory School."

If true, this is a national disgrace. It would represent a U.S. Naval Academy policy of systematic race discrimination, every year, against hundreds of white kids who worked and studied their entire lives for the honor of being appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy and becoming career officers in the Navy or Marine Corps.

If true, what Annapolis has done and is doing is worse -- because it is premeditated and programmed racism -- than the cowardly act of the New Haven city government in denying Frank Ricci and the white firefighters the promotions they had won in a competitive exam. At least New Haven could say it acted out of fear of being sued.

Yet, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and the Superintendent of the Naval Academy Vice Adm. Jerry Fowler seem quite proud of what they are doing.

Fleming quotes the CNO as saying that "diversity is the number one priority" at the academy. Fowler says he wants Annapolis graduates who "looked like" the fleet, where 42 percent of enlisted personnel are nonwhite.

The diversity midshipmen, says Fleming, who teaches them, are over-represented in "pre-college lower track courses, mandatory tutoring programs and less-challenging majors. Many struggle to master basic concepts."

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Thus, though unqualified for college work, these students will be operating the most sophisticated and complex weapons systems ever built -- aircraft carriers, Aegis cruisers, nuclear submarines.

"First of all, we're dumbing-down the Naval Academy," charges Fleming. "Second of all, we're dumbing-down the officers corps."

Supporting Fleming's claim, 22 percent of incoming plebes in 2009 had SAT scores in math below 600, compared to 12 percent in 2008.

If the facts are as Fleming states -- the academy is accepting dumber and dumber students to get its racial composition right -- who can deny that the price of diversity is deliberate acceptance of a less able and competent United States Navy?

"Diversity is our number one priority," Roughhead is quoted. Can one imagine Adm. Chester Nimitz or "Bull" Halsey making an insipid statement like that? Can one imagine what Adm. David "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" Farragut would have thought of such a policy?

Whatever happened to the Hyman Rickover-Jimmy Carter motto for the Naval Academy and U.S. Navy: "Why Not the Best?"

Consider. If hundreds of black and Hispanic kids who applied to the academy had been rejected though they had higher grades and SAT scores than those admitted, this story would not have been in the Metro section of the Post. It would have been bannered on page one. And Roughead and Fowler would be explaining to a congressional committee why they should not be relieved of their commands.

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Fleming, who still teaches at Annapolis, and has likely had some unpleasant moments since he blew the whistle on his superiors, has shown considerable moral courage.

Hopefully, Congress will show the same moxy and investigate this outage. Hopefully, some of those white kids, cheated out of their life's dream of attending the Naval Academy -- while less qualified kids were admitted -- will sue the academy, just like Frank Ricci and those gutsy firefighters sued the city of New Haven.

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