One of the nice things about guest authors is that they find good stuff for me to write about. Craig tipped me to this article about the difficulty some folks have passing the ASVAB test.
Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the military fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions.
The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don’t get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. The study, released exclusively to The Associated Press on Tuesday, comes on top of Pentagon data that shows 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don’t qualify for the military because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn’t graduate high school.
The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is not an IQ test. It is a practical test to give an indication of how trainable someone is. Reading comprehension and other basic skills are needed to pass the test. Obviously, the test is harder for stupid people than smart. But there are also a lot of smart people that have terrible educations that just cannot understand what it is the test is asking of them in the limited time available. And if they can’t do that, they would also be a drag on the training process if they were permitted to enlist.
There’s what? Roughly a half a million people on active duty in the Army. Call it roughly a million and a half for all the services. That’s about one half of one percent of the US population. That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But the fact is, the market the services recruit from is incredibly tight. First, the target market is roughly from 18-22 years old. That’s a very small slice of the US demographic pie. And then you add in those qualifications that the snippet above mentions. The vast majority of enlistees must have a high school diploma. When you talk about recruiting in heavily African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, that is something of a challenge. The lower rates of graduation in those communities, hand in hand with the heavy recruitment of the graduates there, means that for the smaller number of qualified people , military service is a less attractive option than it may have been in the past. That issue also applies to some extent to the non-minority community.
The Army needs to recruit about a fifth of its total strength, each and every year. Call it about 100,000 people. There are any number of reasons for a young person to not enlist. There are only really a handful of reasons to enlist. And shrinking the pool of qualified applicants means that the recruiting job gets harder and harder. The Army is faced with two options. Offer more and better benefits (which tends to have very expensive consequences downstream) or accept lower quality recruits (which almost certainly has nearly immediate negative effects such as greater disciplinary problems and higher rates of failure to complete an enlistment, and worse, people dying of stupidity). Neither option is very attractive. I won’t be surprised if the Army finds Option Three the most attractive- work the recruiters harder.