The US Naval Academy Cancel Culture Is Far Worse Than You Think

(AP Photo/Kathleen Lange, File)

The US Naval Academy is steeped in the cancel culture, providing one-sided “training” to all midshipmen that is straight out of the cultural Marxist rot that is infecting civilian colleges and universities across the land. The Marxists behind the cancel culture are scalp-hunters, too, and woe unto anyone who has differing views than these leftists do about critical racial theory [sic] and their definition of “white nationalism.” As the linked article above points out:

The victims of cancel culture are generally not powerful people. They are often vulnerable people who suffer devastating harm.

One of those intended victims is Midshipman First Class Chase Standage, about whose travails I have written here, here, here, and here in the cancel culture’s attempts to disgracefully dismiss a senior midshipman from the US Naval Academy and separate him from the Navy for tweets from an anonymous Twitter account. MIDN 1/C Standage has become a poster child for cancel culture head-hunting by those who practice viewpoint discrimination and trampling on constitutional rights of Americans without fear of accountability for their actions.

But MIDN Standage’s case is just a microcosm of the deep-seated travesty manifested by the cancel culture at USNA. Many alumni are aghast at what has evolved there in recent years, especially under the current Superintendent. As the cancel culture is centered around the football team, donations to the USNA Alumni Association and Foundation have taken a significant hit. One of those alumni and a personal friend – a retired Navy judge advocate general corps officer (a lawyer, for you civilians) – relates a critical race theory horror story uncovered by his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Here is his commentary:

My name is Ed Cotter. As a bit of background, I graduated with distinction from the US Naval Academy in 1973. During my senior year, I served as a Plebe Detailer where we facilitated the transition of the new midshipmen from their civilian lives to a life dedicated to service in the Navy or Marine Corps. At the time, the Academy was all male. It was a certainty that some select few members of the newly inducted Plebe Class of 1976 would, in due course, rise to the highest levels of Navy and Marine Corps leadership. In addition to serving as a detailer (we were not called that at the time, but this is the current terminology), I served on the Honor Committee and earned a varsity letter in intercollegiate Dinghy sailing competing in the collegiate national championships just after graduation. After graduation, I served on active duty for 20 years, first as a Naval Flight Officer and then as a Navy JAG Corps officer, retiring as a commander before entering private practice. I have been a regular donor to the Foundation for years.

Fast forward to last year. The perceived negative influence of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) recently rose to national attention and debate to the point where President Trump issued an executive order in the fall of 2020 directing all federal agencies to cease and desist providing any training inspired by CRT to any federal employees, including all branches of the military. The Superintendent of the Academy, VADM Sean Buck, made a number of public statements in response to this national controversy assuring USNA graduates that CRT was not being used to train Midshipmen.

I was skeptical of his statements so I decided to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any training materials used to train Midshipmen. My request was for any materials in any media that contained key words such as “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” “privilege,” or “implicit bias” or other CRT jargon. I filed my request on November 29, 2020 and received a response on February 3, 2021. The response provided a lightly redacted version of a PowerPoint presentation (accessible here) that was being used to train current Plebe Detailers (senior Midshipmen). The apparent intent of the training deck was to sensitize the detailers so that they could carry out their assigned mission while addressing various situations that might come up in the course of Plebe Summer.

The deck contains 31 slides addressing various scenarios/situations that might come up and provides suggested ways for the trainees to handle the issues.

Directly below is my analysis of the deck.

  1. The deck contained 5 obvious grammatical errors, 3 on slide 5 alone.
  2. The deck appears to include a pause in the training for the trainees to go online and take an online “Implicit Attitudes Test.” It is unclear whether the test is required or optional. Oddly, the next slide acknowledges that the test has the following problems: Low test reliability, Stability of results, and Unintended effects. A current Wikipedia entry on the IAT lists many more criticisms of the test which is apparently widely used by government, industry and academia. The purpose of the test is to uncover implicit (hidden) biases in the test takers. In this instance, it appears that the test takers then discussed their “findings” with a completely unqualified senior Midshipman or junior Officer who was the training presenter.
  3. Many of the slides were completely unclear as to the guidance intended. For example, slide 8 posed a scenario where a black female Plebe was being questioned by a third year Midshipman about why she showed up on Induction Day (I Day) wearing a “fro” but was now wearing her hair in corn rows. The slide asserts that “During Plebe Summer African American women are frequently targeted due to their hair.” Comment- a question of whether any hairstyle is allowed is a question of military regulations. From my own experience as a young officer in the 1970s questions of hair length and styling are contentious and can only be resolved with reference to clear objective regulations that detail what is and is not allowed. It is not up to the discretion of senior officers making ad hoc decisions on these matters. The slide ends with the open-ended question, “What would you do?” This guidance is useless.
  4. The slide deck contains a number of scenarios/situations for discussion. The chart below summarizes the issue involved and the data by race and gender of the “problematic actor” and the race and gender of the “aggrieved actor.”
Scenario/Situation # Issue Slide # Problematic Actor Aggrieved Actor
1 Politics 2 Unknown (UNK) UNK
2 Racial Bias 4 UNK UNK
3 Attitude 5 W/M B/F
4 Religion- “Towel Heads” 7 UNK Muslims/M
5 Hair Styles 8 UNK B/F
6 Race/Punishment 9 UNK UNK
7 Race 10 UNK/F B/M
8 Religion-Christian 11 UNK UNK
9 Race 12 UNK B/ UNK
10 Implicit Bias (Us v Them) 20 UNK UNK
  1. In the 10 scenarios/examples, 8 of 10 problematic actors are of unknown race or gender. One of 10 problematic actors is a white male; one of the other nine is a female of unknown race. Of the 10 aggrieved actors, 4 are black (2 females, 1 male, and 1 of unknown gender), and one group seems to be Muslim males. Five are unknown. There are no actors either problematic or aggrieved who are: Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Subcontinent Indian, Pacific Islander or Foreign exchange students. THERE ARE ONLY BLACK AND WHITE ACTORS (with the exception of presumed Muslims in one case).

My reaction from the analysis:

This training is a shoddy abomination. This is the worst slide deck I ever have seen in 48 years of military service and civilian employment. I have written and given more than 50 presentations myself (and been the audience for hundreds more) and would be horrified to have a single grammatical error in my work. This deck has 5 grammatical errors! 3 on a single slide! Many of the slides are completely unintelligible with uncertain intended teaching points.

To make things worse, it is slanted against white midshipmen. The aggrieved actors, when race is identified, are 4 black actors and 1 group of presumed Muslim actors (“Towel Heads”). This training is clearly inspired by Critical Race Theory and uses CRT jargon such as “microaggressions” and “implicit bias.”

The top military leader at the Academy has stated in many different settings (when CRT was banned by President Trump in an Executive Order) that Critical Race Theory was not being used to train Midshipmen. This is only narrowly technically correct, but misleading, His statements are true only in the sense that the words “Critical Race Theory” are not in the training deck. It would be like training a group on all the wonderful benefits of Marxism without using the word “Marx” and at the same time claiming you were not promoting Marxism. The long and short of it is this training material is unprofessional, irresponsible and racially biased. It should not be used to train any military personnel, especially those who are destined to lead our military in the future.

The above isn’t “selective targeting” as in the MIDN Standage case; this is general scatter-shot aimed at inflicting as many midshipmen as possible with the Marxist wounds associated with critical race theory. What is a person of goodwill to do when he/she attends a mandatory CRT training class that includes an “Implicit Attitudes Test” and is arbitrarily accused of being a “white nationalist” and supporting “systemic racism” by superiors or peers? CRT programs encourage hostility and distrust – the opposite of the unity, cohesion and mutual trust needed for survival in life-or-death combat situations. CRT engenders attitudes that are poisonous when personal trust and reliability among all team members must be both implicit and explicit.

The commander of US Strategic Command, ADM Charles Richard, USN, warns of the increasing possibility of nuclear confrontation with China and/or Russia in this shocking article, and the US Naval Academy is worried about “microaggressions”? Talk about misplaced priorities!

Bottom line? Critical race theory training – and all its variants – must be ripped out by the roots from USNA. Time to end the factory-like production of woke social engineers and return to developing Navy and Marine Corps warfighters ready, willing, and able to defend the country against our potential adversaries. That used to be Job Number One!

The end.