Monday, November 06, 2006

Is our military smart or dumb?

I actually find this question to be kind of a pointless question as there is no set ruler for what denotes smart or dumb. But what we can look at is the educational level of the military versus citizens. I want to preface this with: ALL STATISTICS ARE BULLSHIT! Numbers can be manipulated to say whatever you want. I started analyzing the numbers due to this article:

John Kerry: U.S. Soldiers Not 'Smart'

Furthermore, there is a reference to another study that claimed that the US military is more educated the general public (this I found hard to believe). The referenced study is linked here:

Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11

What is interesting about this study is that it doesn't reference any recent data (2004 or 2005), yet this is the study that was being utilized to make a claim that our military was educated better than our citizens. So I decided to do some research.

ALL MY DATA CAME FROM THE US MILITARY AND THE CENSUS!!! I did this purposely as I figured it was the most forgiving source for analyzing the data. For education levels of the military, I took the data from and utilized 2005 and 2004 datasets:

Army G-1 Human Resources

To compare the data to the citizens, I took the general population data from the US Census located here:

Educational Attainment 2005

We could argue the validity of the numbers, how the data was attained, but the fact is simple: this data came from the government that is attempting to sell the public how educated and "of the people" our military is. So their data should support this claim. Does it?

Here are the results of the data that I came up with:

Military Overview

* Total % with HS/GED: 95%
* Total % with Some College or AA: 24%

Citizens 18-24 (numbers in thouands)

* Total % with HS/GED: 78%
* Total % with Some College or AA: 48%

Citizens All Ages (numbers in thousands)

* Total % with HS/GED: 88%
* Total % with Some College or AA: 58%

No matter how you interpret these numbers, there is no way to make a case that the military is more educated than the general public. A couple key things to denote:

1) Comparing 18-24 year olds to military seems most compatible, but military includes officers in that comparison which skews the comparison.

2) The military does seem to have a higher percentage of high school diplomas than the general public (this was the claim made to prove more education in the Heritage report), but what becomes quickly apparent is the quick drop off of education above the high school and/or GED level.

3) The education of the military is generally decreasing as we are longer in Iraq (this should not be a shocker).

In the end, if you want to make a straight up comparison of education levels, the military is not as well educated. It would be more accurate to say that the military is more minimally educated than the general public.

I would be fascinated to compare the education level of the average soldier to the average Senator and determine what the differential is there.

All these stats do not say nearly as much as the simple quote by Sartre:

"When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am really tired of people going out of their way to "prove" our soldiers are "dumb." First of all, as you stated at the very beginning of your piece, education level is not a qualifier of how smart someone is. I am still working on my masters at the age of 47 but took, passed and was asked to join MENSA. Does this really mean anything? Not really, it was just a challenge someone gave me. Anyway, one thing you stated that I find interesting: But military includes officers in that comparison which skews the comparison. What? Do you not consider officers to be soldiers? In that case, you should not include executives in your civilian numbers. Also, I noticed that you did not mention the 10 percent of soldeirs with a BA compared to the 8 percent of civilians and the 4 percent of soldiers with an MA/PhD compared to 0 percent of civilians.

Just thought I would add my "uneducated, dumb" retired soldier's two cents.

SFC(ret), U.S. Army