Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Looming National Security Crisis In Education

Regular readers of my blog will know that I support the No Child Left Behind Act. Sure, it has what I consider to be some (fixable) problems with it, but overall it's a good accountability tool. One of the problems with it, though, is that it places the responsibility for student achievement solely on the shoulders of the school system. Where are the responsibilities for the student, and the parents? Fixable, but still a problem.

In my experience, gone are the days when a phone call home from school meant twice as much trouble at home as the punishment from school. Today, unfortunately, many parents are as likely to blame the teacher or school for a student's misbehavior. Operating in such an environment, where the school and parent are no longer in sync, how much responsibility does a school have for student achievement?

I'd say, more than we accept. We want to do all sorts of other things for children (including, in California, letting them leave campus for an abortion without notifying their parents)--we feed them breakfast, teach them about condom use, provide mental health services--but scream when the government that pays us wants to find out if the children are learning anything. Amazes me. I'm not saying those things are bad, but academics should be our primary focus.

What prompted this little venting was a newsletter I received from an organization of which I am a member. It contained the following tidbit:

[I]n our nation today, 58% of all high school students are not qualified (because of medical conditions, or poor academics, etc.) for service in the military. Not for admittance to [West Point] but for service in the military in general.

Ponder that statistic, provided by the West Point Director of Admissions. Almost three in five students aren't qualified to be in the military. I guess that of all those parents who cry about the NCLB requirement that military recruiters be given the same information about students that colleges and businesses are given, three in five have nothing to worry about.

I'd like to know the reasons and percentages for disqualification from military service in order to try to ascertain how much of the issue can be resolved by a greater emphasis on academics in the public schools. But three in five are unqualified? That sounds like a looming national security crisis to me.

How many teachers want to help resolve *this* crisis? Can I expect the NEA to step up to the plate on this issue, and soon?

I'm not holding my breath.


Anonymous said...

"Ponder that statistic, provided by the West Point Director of Admissions. Almost three in five students aren't qualified to be in the military."

That is both somewhat true and misleading.

The current High School crop is one of the largest, in terms of size, that our country has ever seen.

Do some research on "echo boomers."

Based on this spike in the population, there should be no shortage of available manpower for military recruiters.

Darren said...

We're doing great with reenlistment rates in Iraq and Afghanistan, but are not doing so well with recruiting. I attribute that to biased reporting my the mainstream media.

When almost 60% of our available manpower is unqualified, and when we're already having trouble recruiting because of our "patriotic" friends on the left, I'd say that leads to trouble.

TangoMan said...


It is a long standing military practice to administer IQ tests on recruits. The military has learned from the enormous sample sizes involved that low IQ recruits are not worth the bother. So the ironic point is that the high schools graduate students who the military thinks are untrainable, and the military knows this because it tried with millions of recruits and determined it was a headache best avoided.

Here's an overview article on http://www.psychologyinspain.com/content/full/2000/13.htm Intelligence Testing published in 2000 that mentions the military testing of recruits.

Here's http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/~reingold/courses/intelligence/cache/1198gottfred.html more from Scientific American:

For example, a 1969 study done for the U.S. Army by the Human Resources Research Office found that enlistees in the bottom fifth of the ability distribution required two to six times as many teaching trials and prompts as did their higher-ability peers to attain minimal proficiency in rifle assembly, monitoring signals, combat plotting and other basic military tasks. Similarly, in school settings the ratio of learning rates between "fast" and "slow" students is typically five to one.

Look in the comments to http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/000382.html this post and you can find more data.

Darren said...

tangoman, I don't deny what you're saying at all. My point with this post was to question how much of this problem lies with the schools, and to ask what the schools might consider doing when a major employer considers their students unemployable.

TangoMan said...

I don't think that the primary blame lays with the schools or teachers. Sure, the hokey theories cascading out of education faculties dulls the blade a bit, but I don't think that they're the primary factor.

The primary cause is the students themselves. On side side of the equation, paying heed to Multiculturalism in schools robs time from more productive studies. Outside of school, the students who are steeped in their native culture have a harder time assimilating into the larger culture. The importation of a huge Hispanic underclass when mapped against a time series of TIMSS scores, and Army recruiting information will likely show a strong correlation.

On the other side of the equation, keep an eye out for some shocking science news coming out this Friday.

TangoMan said...

Just to nitpick a bit, keep in mind that the newletter you quote references high school students, not high school graduates.

I'm certain that high school drop-outs are included in that figure, for if it is solely high school graduates then it seems quite high and out of historic range.

Darren said...

Good point about the nitpick. Thanks for correcting me.

And what type of big science news should I expect Friday? Will it be all over the news? And if so, how are you privy to it now?

Come on, you've teased. I'm biting.

TangoMan said...

Let me just say that it has the potential to make many people very uncomfortable. It's the prinicple underlying the findings, rather than their effects, that will overturn some applecarts.

While the recent report on Ashkenazi Intelligence


was of a theoretical orientation and presented testable hypothesis, what's coming out on Friday is from genetic investigations.

At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, Stephen Jay Gould is likely spinning in his grave as more of his polemics are shown to be false.

Sorry that I can't be more direct than that but I'd be surprised if Micholas Wade of the NYT didn't cover this news in the days after its release.

Anonymous said...

"I attribute that to biased reporting my the mainstream media."

Dude, you sound like such a parrot when you say that.

That phrase is so oft repeated, that it has lost it's meaning.

Say something original, please.

Darren said...

Truth hurts, huh, anonymous?

You're going to have to do better than that. Please feel free to scour my archives to see plenty of references to what I'm talking about.


TangoMan said...

The story broke early.