Teaching and Talking About Soldiers and Civilization: the Discussion Questions

Teaching Guide for SAC

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a teaching guide for SAC. With this posting, I attach above a somewhat revised version of the guide and start to answer some of my own questions, addressing the discussion questions that I wrote for each chapter.

I write three types of discussion questions: those to which I think I have the answer (these are generally firmly rooted in the text), those that I have handle on, but think I might be missing part of the complete answer, and those that address matters that have me sincerely puzzled or that just run past what I consider to be my own knowledge of the subject.  I tend to ask more of the first two types when talking to undergrads, the latter categories with older students, like the field grade officers of my Command and Staff seminars. I must say that even some of the first order questions turn out to be not so simple.  Still, the third order questions tend to be the most interesting and productive.

Among the  discussion questions for the introductory chapter of SAC, I would count question 2 (“For what kind of audience do you think this book was written?”) as a third order question. When I started writing SAC, I definitely was thinking of an audience of officers and future officers, people who looked like Kings Point midshipmen or my Command and Staff students.  As I continued writing, however, I realized that one of the main ideas running through the book was the inter-dependency of civil and military society.  Even significant military reform, I concluded, was difficult and limited if it did not involve civil society in some way.  The military reforms envisioned by French enlightenment thinkers, for example, could not happen until after the Revolution.  On the other hand, civil-military relations is a day to day concern of military members much more than of civil society.  Few civilians wake up in the morning wondering how well they support or understand the military, but many officers are routinely concerned, and even worried, about their relations with civil society.

The ideal class or discussion group for SAC might be a mix of civilian and military.  Their interests might be somewhat different, with the civilians more interested in historic and literary aspects of the book, and the military types looking for ideas about leadership and warfighting.  Another theme of the book, however, is the role of the humanities in military education. In fact, I make the claim that the profession of arms is an interdisciplinary branch of the humanities, so the study of leadership and literature, for example, might not be so far removed from one another.  In a way, how the question of an audience is answered is a test of some of the important claims made by SAC.

I’d be very interested to hear how a class of officers, civilians, or a mix of the two might respond to this discussion question.  Does this book feel like it is speaking to you? As the forgoing discussion will indicate, I’m really not sure how they would answer.





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