a graduate of La Salle Institute (1970), it was with mixed
feelings I read your article on JROTC [“Corps Values,” May
I believe the education I received at La Salle was of the
highest caliber. My parents viewed the college preparatory
school for young men for what it claimed to be: A means to
exact a disciplined approach to academics. Combined with learning
valuable lessons of life, this course would eventually lead
one on a path to a college degree, a substantive career and
a meaningful existence.
The Christian Brothers were our surrogate masters and commanders,
meting out scholastics with corporal punishment when milder
methods failed. It was their earnest attempt at schooling
a sometimes unruly group of teenage boys, molding them into
future leaders of their communities.
Some brothers used unique methods in getting their points
across to us. I remember one brother in my junior year of
theology (a required course for Catholics) metaphorically
describing Heaven as “one eternal orgasm.” That symbolism
has remained embedded with me still. And, I should add, kept
me on my best behavior.
On the other hand, these were the ’60s. We at La Salle stuck
out in the milieu. As the atrocities of Vietnam were broadcast
via the nightly news, Walter Cronkite pronounced the war a
quagmire and unwinnable. A generational gap and cultural divide
had reached critical mass.
During these tumultuous times I began to reassess the meaning
of a military- fueled education. We weren’t immune in our
ivory towers to the changing world around us. Hell, some of
my classmates even had the gall to start an underground newspaper,
The Silver Hammer, to address grievances they had over
the war, the military and La Salle’s role in a system of indoctrinating
its students with a military mindset.
This schism at La Salle led in 1969 to an assembly of the
incoming senior class. Vice Principal Brother Brice Patrick
(affectionately aka “Doomer”) had a radical proposition to
present. La Salle would retain its high academic standards,
but the military would be optional or abolished. There was
even a notion that La Salle could become coed. As the incoming
senior class, Brother Patrick asked for our input.
The stunned but overwhelming majority of us assembled cheered
In 1969 many felt that a well-rounded education need not rely
on a strict military environment to attain it.
The board of trustees, however, thought otherwise. Those wise
old men, former alumni, and financiers of La Salle, liked
tradition. They did not cotton to change. They saw this rebellious
behavior as somewhat mutinous and indicative of the battle
outside raging. Their philosophy seemed to suggest the significance
in preserving the status quo: “It was good enough for me.
. . . It makes you a man. . . . I was spanked and turned out
A time warp has seen the antiwar and hippie movements evolve
into baby-boomer yuppies. We’ve witnessed Nixon’s secret peace
plan (bombing Cambodia and Laos); Kissinger’s not-so secret
peace plan (more bombing); Kent State; Watergate; Carter’s
“appeasement” in Iran; Reagan’s Iran-contra forgetfulness;
born-again patriotism; Stars Wars (SDI); Gulf War I; Clinton’s
draft-dodging, anti-military, Oxford past; compassionate conservatism;
the 2000 election; Sept. 11, 2001; the War on Terror; Osama;
Saddam; the Axis of Evil; Afghanistan; Guantanamo; Iraq; and
now Abu Ghraib.
Once again I find myself reexamining the role of the military,
especially on the impressionable young. Will our future leaders
make logical, thoughtful decisions about war and peace, or
will they demand blind allegiance to superiors who order them
to humiliate fellow human beings?
Long before the revered-by-some Colin Powell lied to the world
about Iraq, he was an officer in Vietnam and part of the investigation
team of the My Lai Massacre. When questioned about alleged
atrocities committed by Lt. Calley, Powell found the charges
to be “not of much substance.” Powell was a good soldier then,
just following orders, who lied to protect his commanders
up the chain of command. Apparently he has not changed his
stripes. A good soldier he remains.
It has been nearly four decades since my days at La Salle.
They decided after I left to upgrade its training to JROTC.
Instead of imparting a world view of emerging multiculturalism
which will envelope the United States, La Salle, CBA, and
the Bush administration have concluded the military still
should be a major force in determining this nation’s interaction
with the world.
Problems with that philosophy seem as evident as they did
in the ’60s. When will we ever learn from past mistakes?
We Weren’t Kidding
cousin, who lives in Colonie, sent me the recent article about
Schuylerville that appeared in your paper [“Bootstraps to
Boomtown,” May 6]. I was so happy to read about the “rejuvenation”
of this special village. My father was a doctor there for
many years and was instrumental in the building of the beach,
which unfortunately has been closed for some time. In fact,
the project was often called “Callahan’s Mudhole” or “Falvey’s
Folly” after Dad and his friend Dan Falvey, postmaster at
the time. My brother and I spent a whole lot of outrageously
happy years in Schuylerville and I am tickled to learn of
these enthusiastic people who know a good thing when they
see it. We try to visit there at least once a year, and I
almost wish I could live there again and be part of it.
you for the terrific column on the Brahms Requiem on
the front of a recent “Night & Day” [May 6]. The column
captured the essence of the composer and the work in one ’graph.
Great visual, too. Thank you.
Hills Oratorio Society
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