This page was originally developed for an Index explanation but is now also linked to "Topics of Interest" and "Issues of Concern."
We often hear from parents something like, "If my kid does not straighten out, I'm going to pack him off to a military school." That kind of thinking is based upon a gross misunderstanding of what military schools do well. We usually support enrollment in military schools and academies only for students who have responded well to and preferably enjoy military surroundings. We sometimes recommend a school that happens to be military because of a special offering of value to a specific special need. But the fact that a school is military does not make it an appropriate setting to correct the behavior of a child or teenager getting out of control.
The reality is that military academies are more disciplined in some focused activities than other venues for teens, but may be far less disciplined than other venues in some other activities. Much of the discipline is often student on student. Positive and genuine behavioral change change almost always involves close relationships between the candidate for change and a more mature person. military academies (in general) are less likely than more conventional boarding schools to offer that opportunity, although some military schools may be exceptions.
We are not stating that military academies never produce positive behavioral change. Sometimes we just get lucky. A young man or woman who is already functioning well within normal limits may make great strides in maturity in a military school environment. Some military schools, in addition to the fact that they are military, also bring resources that are well suited to addressing certain kinds of special needs. In some of those schools, special resources that are not characteristic of military schools are being applied to promote behavioral change. We applaud that when it happens. But military schools for students who present behavioral challenges should be chosen for what they offer that is an exception to or in addition to the norm of military schools. No parent should ever assume that when a son or daughter is presenting significant behavioral challenges a military environment is a proper remedy just because it is military.
We are especially dismayed by some of the military schools deliberately misrepresenting themselves as behavior change agents and overtly playing on the parental misconception of cited at the top of this page, filling their coffers based upon their ability to attract students who would be better served in a therapeutic school.
For that reason we will list in our index military schools that we have heard of being thought of as schools for major behavioral correction, but link them to this page rather than including them in our search, review, and rate system. We are not suggesting that in all or even most cases the source of the attribution of behavior change capabilities is the school's self promotion (although in a few cases that might be true). We do not suggest that a school is ineligible for consideration as appropriate for inclusion in our special needs search, review, and rate system just because it is military, but if we are to include it we must see reason to believe that they have something to offer special needs children and teens other than the false supposition that the mere fact that they are military makes them effective agents of behavioral correction.
Military Schools believing that they have something to offer special needs students, especially if listed here, are invited to contact us and make the case for full inclusion in our search, review and rate system.
The inclusion of a particular Military Academy on this page does not imply that particular institution has falsely represented itself as having special ability in addressing behavior problems.
- Gateway Military Academy -- We note that this military academy claims a Christian healing approach that means that it is not merely a military school. We reassert that a school or academy having military structure does not by itself justify a claim that it is an effective instrument of behavioral change for young people out of control. This school clearly asserts the claim that they are such an instrument, citing also their methods of Christian intervention. So their claims of success in behavioral intervention are not solely based on being a military school. They are part of the Teen Challenge USA network, which we believe to be highly variable in quality. We mean that quality from one Teen Challenge program to another is highly variable; we are not excluding the possibility that one or another Teen Challenge facility -- including this one -- might maintain consistently high quality standards. Worse, for a Christian organization, they (the larger network of Teen Challenge programs, not this particular one) disappoint us regarding veracity. (See our notes on Teen Challenge USA As of this date -- June 2014 -- we have not yet investigated Gateway). We remain hesitant about the extreme claims this program makes about turning kids around who are completely out of control. We intend to include Gateway and some other Teen Challenge affiliated programs in our search, review and rate system. We would like to be supportive of faith based programming. We hope to be able to give very strong support to some Teen Challenge affiliates, but caution that we do not see high quality standards being observed consistently in Teen Challenge affiliated schools and programs.
- New York Military Academy
- St. John's Military School's website promotes the school exactly as we would hope to see from a high quality, ethically operated military school. It makes no spurious claims about correcting out-of-control teenagers. It came to our attention because the website of Abundant Life Academy gives a list of “Kansas Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens” and includes St. John's on that list. We know of no reason to believe that the school asked to be included on that list or approved its inclusion. We have not assessed the school but have only a positive impression from reading its promotional material.
- Valley Forge Military Academy and College
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Last Updated November 23, 2015