Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't call me stupid!

John Kerry, which I admittedly have voted for in both senatorial and presidential elections, showed his lack of political astuteness when he earlier this year encouraged students to work hard so they wouldn't "get stuck in Iraq".

His remark was, in my opinion, clearly not about the lack of education or intelligence of military personnel. Rather he meant to emphasise the importance of preparing and working hard, contrasting it to the Bush administration who rushed to war without any fig leaf of thinking to cover its nakedness of ill-preparation.

His remark was stupid nonetheless because it could, and was, so easily spinned negatively by the Republicans. Seemingly belittling "the troops" is not a smart move by a politician in a country that worships and idolizes its military. The reality is, however, that the US military does not attract the cream of society to its ranks, especially not as enlisted personnel.

When I joined the US Navy as Seaman Recruit I had the third highest ASVAB (entrance test to the military) of my recruit company of 90 men. I say this not to put down my shipmates, who where great guys and served with much more distinction than I, but as an illustration of the level of recruitment to the armed forces. I, who in my early twenties only scraped through college and am presently on course for either third or lower second class law degree, should not be in the top 4 percentile of any group of people. Especially not since the ASVAB does not just test skills in math, science and language, but also "auto & shop" and "mechanical comprehension," which in my case I have not got.

Having a big heart is, in my opinion, much more important than high scores in ASVAB, IQ, SAT, GMAT, LSAT or GPA or whatever, but who are we kidding if we claim that the military doesn't mainly attract the ones with the lowest scores?


At 17 December, 2006 04:59, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't this line:

who are we kidding if we claim that the military doesn't mainly attract the ones with the lowest scores?

mean that you are agreeing with Kerry?

You're threading a minefield and you can't win this one...

Statistically, the US military takes those from all walks of life and levels of intelligence, not just those with low IQs. (Those, they reserve for OCS! - just kidding.)

Many people who join the military are below average IQ - about half of them. The other half are above average. So it comes out pretty even. The great thing about military training is that it gives people confidence that they can learn things - often missing from those who graduate high school. And after serving their terms, they often head off to school they could not otherwise afford - so again, it averages out.

At 08 January, 2007 22:11, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Hi Charles, all I was saying was:

1) Kerry's remark was stupid.
2) Kerry did not intent to call the military personal stupid.
3) If Kerry had intended to put down the educational skills of military recruits he would, according to my personal experience, be right.

I have now read the Fox News link you referred to (and have also done some independent internet research), and I accept that military recruits are above average in terms of high school graduation rates.

However, the military does not allow recruits to have lower percentile test scores than 31, thereby excluding individuals with the lowest cognitive test scores.

My personal experience in the US Navy was that the majority were not academically strong. There is no way that I come third in the ASVAB test in a representative sample of 85 people. I'm not arguing that my shipmates were had below average IQ. On the contravy, the ASVAB test measures mainly academic and mechanical skills.

My shipmates were great guys and performed much better in the Navy than I,

Finally, I don't think the military teaches its recruits positive personal skills. But that point is a very subjective personal viewpoint.


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