Friday, June 25, 2010
Metacognition and the US Marine Corps: The Quantico Diaries - Part III
Our last day at Quantico for the Educators' Workshop was full and instructive. I am processing a lot of information and impressions, which I am pleased to share with readers of The White Rhino Report.
Our day began at the Marine Corps University, which was formed in 1989 to consolidate several elements of Marine Corp Professional Military Education (PME) - the USMC's professional development arm. We toured the impressive Gray Research Center, which houses the MCU library and Marines Corps archives. While we were in the archives, we observed USMC archivists cataloging and preserving original photos taken by a Marine during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. We spent the rest of the morning with the Deans and Leaders of four elements of the Marine Corps University - The Command and Staff college (CSC), The Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS), the Marine War College (MCWAR), as well as the Director of the USMC Distance Learning and Training initiatives.
Dr. Charles McKenna, Dean of Academics for the Command and Staff College, cited Sir Francis Bacon as a source for the educational philosophy that they employ throughout the Marine Corps University. He quoted Bacon as saying that effective learning takes place with the proper balance among four elements and activities on the part of the learner: "Read, Write, Reflect, Discuss." As would be appropriate for an educator addressing a group of fellow educators, Dr. McKenna gave us a thorough understanding of the deep thought that has gone into creating a comprehensive learning environment that offers development for Marine officers from company grade officers (Lieutenants and Captains), field grade officers (Majors and Colonels) and General officers. He cited issues of metacognition and Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. As soon as I heard Dr. McKenna, a West Point graduate, employ the term "metacognition," I said to myself, "This is not your grandfather's Marine Corps!"
Each of the leaders who addressed our group spoke with passion and deep understanding of the need for the USMC to be able to demonstrate the kind of agility and adaptability that I wrote about in my most recent Blog posting. The lessons being learned in Afghanistan and Iraq are being integrated immediately into the ever-evolving curricula at every level of enlisted and officer education and training.
Our next stop was for lunch in the gorgeous new National Museum of the Marine Corps. We were greeted by the Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Major General Robert E. Milstead. General Milstead was effusive in thanking the members of our group for having invested time to travel to Quantico and to observe the making of a Marine officer. The general has a personal presence that combines the seriousness that one would expect of a leader of warriors with a warmth and welcoming element befitting a gracious host. In his remarks about the state of the Marine Corps, he emphasized that he is convinced that the Corps has never been healthier or more prepared to executive its mission. It is clear that he is deeply proud of the men and women who serve as Marines. He described the intangibles that the Corps seeks to instill in each of its warriors to act ethically even in the most trying of situations and circumstances - even when "dancing with the dragon."
To meet the growing demands of keeping up operational tempo simultaneously in two war zones, the size of the USMC has grown from 175,000 Marines to 202,000. Recruitment was so successful that this augmentation of forces that was expected to take up to five years was executed in two and a half years. This expansion was accomplished without compromising standards - physical, academic or moral. As the general described what his Marines are accomplishing around the globe, it felt like a proud father bragging on his gifted children. And why not?
Following our lunch with General Milstead, we toured the museum, pictured at the top of this article. The architecture is stunning and inspiring, with a stylized spire representing the flag pole raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jimo - the proudest moment in the long history of the Corps, which was founded in 1775. The museum is laid out beautifully and honors those who have fought as Marines for parts of four centuries. This museum is worthy of a separate trip to Virginia.
Following some group photos and good-byes to some of our host Marines, we boarded the buses to return to our hotel.
The USMA invested considerable staff time and financial resources to bring our group of educators and opinion-makers to Quantico this week. Conversely, the members of our group invested a great deal of time and energy in observing, and asking questions and making evaluations and judgments about what we were seeing. I think the expenditures on both ends were warranted. I feel that most of the members of our Educators' Workshop are now in a far better position than before our trip to Quantico to advise any man or woman who may be considering a career as a Marine officer. We have a better understanding of the kind of candidate who can succeed, and a deeper appreciation of what the final product looks like - a Marine officer capable of leading other Marines in battle.
There are many good reasons why they are called "The few - the proud - the Marines."
Our country is well served with them defending our shores.
God bless the U.S. Marine Corps and its sons and daughters. They wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor with justifiable pride.