I wonder how many graduates of high school military academies have gone on to have actual military careers.
Somehow I don’t think training future generals is what schools like this are for.
Trump, Gotti, Sondheim all went there
The New York Military Academy's board of trustees confirmed in a statement Thursday that the 121-year-old school "will be suspending operations at the conclusion of this academic year, and has no plans to reopen in the fall at this time."
For the past two years, school officials have been wrestling with continuing financial difficulties. Though the wording of the statement released by the trustees seems to offer a slight glimmer of hope, it differs from previous reactions when reports surfaced that the school would close.
On those occasions, the trustees were able to find a way to keep the school going. Tycoon Donald Trump is perhaps the school's most high-profile alumnus.
Last year, alumni ponied up hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few days to save the school after a $5 million financing plan to pay off a loan and cover other expenses fell through.
At that time, the board said it was developing a five-year plan to put the school in the black for good and boost enrollment from about 187 to 300.
But the board said this week it could not raise enough capital to restructure NYMA's debts.
Story doesn’t say this was the history and mission of the school, but I’ve always thought that high schools like the New York Military Academy were places where the rich sent rebellious sons who had used up their last chance at regular prep schools and public highs.
And I can imagine that former students there like the Donald and even Francis Ford Coppola might have been troubled and troublemaking teenagers and how there probably weren’t a lot of regular schools willing to deal with Junior Gotti.
But Stephen Sondheim?
Although…anybody know his biography? Any scenes like this in his youth?
Father Sondheim: I don’t know what to do with you, Stevie. You don’t play baseball with your friends. You don’t chase girls. We bought you a car but you never work on it and hardly seem to know where the gas tank is. All you do is fool around at the piano and sit up in your room listening to show tunes. I’ve decided to send you to military school. Make a man of you."
Except that Father Sondheim ran out on his family when Stephen was ten. Maybe going there was his own idea. Maybe he won a scholarship. He graduated when he was 16. Graduated from Williams College when he was 20. Magna cum laude. Smart and ambitious kid.
If it wasn’t a scene from Sondheim’s past, though, it was probably a scene from plenty of other less than macho boys who wound up in military school.
But I don’t know about NYMA.
What I do know is that the ways parents and teachers and school administrators deal with troubled kids has changed a lot over the last generation. Part of the change has to do with the recognition that much of what was thought of as laziness or rebelliousness is actually a cry for help from a kid with a learning disability or a mental illness. For kids like that military school has been replaced by such innovations as Ritalin, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, counseling, tutoring, special software, and the dawning realization that all kids don’t learn the same way at the same rate. Thank God, and that’s a personal note.
And there’s a growing tolerance and understanding and even love and appreciation for boys---and girls---like the imaginary not-necessarily Stephen Sondheim I described above.
Here in the Northeast anyway. Down South? Not so much.
Send in the updates, there ought to be updates: Commenter muddy heard an interview on NPR with Stephen Sondheim in which he talked about his time at NYMA, among other things. It’s 46 minutes long. (You can read the accompanying story on NPR’s webpage in a minute or two.) Terry Gross asks Sondheim about his time at NYMA at about 26:50. Sondheim says he was only there for two years, too, when he was 10 and 11, which would have been in 1930 and ‘31. Newspaper appears to have gotten it wrong, but my sources there say NYMA lists him as a graduate of the Class of' 1946. Wikipedia has the same thing.