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I was very disappointed to read the recent column in which Gen. William R. Looney III (retired) promoted the interests of for-profit universities, which take advantage of military servicemembers (“Private-sector schools work with, and for, GIs,” Oct. 15). For-profit universities have an established record of poor academic performance, low graduation rates and exorbitant costs, and of misleading students. Gen. Looney creates a false choice between “traditional in-residence classroom” and the more “military-friendly” for-profit colleges and universities. In fact, hundreds of traditional education institutions offer high-quality distance education programs that would be ideally suited to the needs of military members. Unfortunately, because these institutions invest in quality education rather than aggressive marketing campaigns, many naive servicemembers use their hard-earned benefits under the GI Bill to receive an inferior education from a for-profit school.

Because Gen. Looney has compromised his credibility by receiving money from these educational institutions, Starts and Stripes should not have published his column without a response addressing the problems with allowing for-profit institutions to exploit our nation’s servicemembers.

Blake Doughty

Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan

Firing is a teachable moment

The firing of Shirley Miles [as head of Department of Defense Education Activity] provides several lessons for current and aspiring leaders throughout the Department of Defense (“Miles fired for abusing authority,” article, Oct. 12). First is the common-sense lesson to follow the rules and regulations related to one’s job.

A second lesson comes out of an underlying issue that, although not directly related to the facts of the Miles investigation, was no doubt an important factor. That issue was an unsustainable leadership style. Coaches, teachers, parents or animal trainers understand the principles of positive reinforcement and demonstrating loyalty and faith with those you are teaching or leading. Application of these principles increases performance for individuals and whole organizations. Autocratic style and policies, and calculating hiring practices, connote a lack of respect and trust and cause resentment, demoralization and lower performance. A leader who displays a habitual contempt runs the risk of alienating subordinates even if the subject of the contempt is ostensibly “system” inefficiencies or shortfalls.

A final lesson of this firing is the efficiency of having a conduit of bottom-to-top communication and feedback. DODEA is fortunate to have an employee union that is vitally concerned with the health of our organization. A union can be a source of critical feedback on the effectiveness and soundness of leadership’s initiatives, policies and actions.

Andrew Mako

Teacher

Landstuhl, Germany


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