Archived Opinion

Cawthorn’s integrity 
is a problem

Cawthorn’s integrity 
is a problem

To the Editor:

Whatever categories are on a home-schooled student’s report card, “works well with others” is probably not one of them.

That’s something for families to consider if a long-range goal is to be admitted to one of the nation’s armed services academies. Leadership potential is their most important criterion. 

Madison Cawthorn’s experience is a cautionary tale. 

Until he was called on it, Cawthorn, the Republican nominee for Congress in District 11, had voters believe he was bound for the U.S. Naval Academy before an automobile accident, in which he was a passenger, disabled him.

In fact, the Academy had already rejected his application. Cawthorn admitted that under oath in 2017 during unsuccessful litigation against the driver’s insurance company. His failure to be as candid with voters three years later raises a question about his integrity.

Cawthorn had no explanation when the Asheville Watchdog, an on-line news site, first asked about it.

But he says now that then-Rep. Mark Meadows, who was sponsoring him for the Academy, told him that “there must have been something wrong with my nomination and he would work on it.”

“So I was still awaiting my acceptance at the time of my accident.”

Meadows probably did say that. It’s what many a congressman might do if he wanted to let a disappointed constituent down lightly. But the problem was not likely the nomination itself. After all, the Academy would hesitate to cross a congressman over some technicality.

However, Meadows knew, or should have known, that Annapolis is highly selective. Barely 8 of every 100 applicants were offered admission this year. Home-schooled applicants like Cawthorn have it harder no matter who nominates them, even if their SAT scores are better than his were. 

According to data provided by the Naval Academy’s Public Affairs office, only 12 of the 269 home-schooled students who applied for the present plebe class of 2023 received letters of acceptance. Three of them were to the Academy’s prep school rather than to Annapolis itself.

That’s an admission rate of 4 percent, less than half the 8.3 percent of applicants who were offered admission overall. 

“Although many home-schoolers are able to qualify academically for admission, many find their overall records relatively weak in the area of extracurricular activities,” the Annapolis web site explains. “This is the portion of the application process we use to predict leadership potential.”

The Academy’ Class of 2023 “snapshot” shows that 92 percent of the new midshipmen were varsity athletes. 72 percent were captains or co-captains of their teams, 67 percent were student body leaders, 66 percent took part in dramatics, public speaking or debating, 65 percent were in the National Honor Society, and 48 percent reported church group activities. Those statistics obviously overlap.

The site lists various ways for home schoolers to get equivalent experience. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and local club sports are among them. 

“There are no additional requirements for home schoolers,” the Academy explains, but goes on to note that “it is sometimes more challenging to review non-traditional records.” 

The site details basic requirements for admission, among them “four years of math courses, including a strong foundation in geometry, algebra, and trigonometry.” It adds that “experience in pre-calculus is also very valuable, if it does not interfere with the aforementioned courses.” It goes on to stipulate “one year of chemistry, with lab if possible, and four years of course work in English “with special attention to the study and practice of effective writing.”

To “further enhance” the home schooler’s chances for admission, the Academy also recommends “at least two years” of foreign language including “regular use of the spoken language” and a one-year course in physics, “with lab if possible.”

Those are exacting standards but most public schools are able to meet them because their faculties comprise multiple talents. On the other hand, there can’t be many home schools where a parent is so versatile.

Considering how few are admitted, it’s no disgrace to be rejected by the Naval Academy. Cawthorn should stop implying that it was Meadows’s fault. 

Martin Dyckman



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