Officer Corps Swims in the Shallow End of the (Intellectual) Gene Pool?

DaveO, please have at this.

And the rest of you too, you dullards.

Ubiquitous college attendance likely contributed to the decline in officer intelligence, according to Cancian. Each service requires a four-year degree as a baseline requirement for commissioning; the pool of potential candidates expanded dramatically in the decades since 1980. No longer must one be of unusually high intelligence to graduate from college, nor does college graduation indicate high intelligence.

Ouch.

Or, rather, sheee-it.

About vmijpp

VMIJPP hails from the star city of the south, Roanoke, Virginia. A 1989 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he is a retired artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps, with time in both the active and reserve sides. He served in Iraq in 2004, and in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. He joined the magnificent OPFOR.com as a guest blogger from the now defunct but never uninteresting Rule 308, where he denounced gun control and other aspects of tyranny, and proclaimed the greatness of the United States. When the sun set on OPFOR.com, he migrated here with Keydet1976 and the others.
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5 Responses to Officer Corps Swims in the Shallow End of the (Intellectual) Gene Pool?

  1. burkemblog says:

    Those of us who joined the Army before 1980 (I was commissioned in 1973, and was most definitely one of those volunteers we used to call “draft-induced.”) used to bemoan the fact that President Reagan made military service respectable and thus attracted all sorts of riff-raff. Good to see our biases confirmed!

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  2. DaveO says:

    This looks, on its face, like a corollary to Reynold’s Law: a college degree substitutes for intelligence when the requirement is for possessing the abilities of leadership and managership.

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  3. slater says:

    So the reality is that our officers are more intelligent than they used to be. When I went through AOBC it was pretty ridiculous academically, and then all of a sudden it got dumbed down, but then MCCC is crazy hard academically. I’m more worried that our officer corps is not nearly as hard physically, just as our enlisted force isn’t nearly as hard. This is mostly through the fact that our culture is soft. You Marines have done well to harden your force, but the cracks are showing sadly.

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  4. burkemblog says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but Cancian’s argument, at least as represented by Waggy, is that the average intelligence scores of college graduates are going down; ergo, the scores of officers are also going down. More people go to college now–about 70% of HS grads these days, as opposed to the less than 50% of my day (I graduated in 1973). About 50% of college students graduate. The pool is larger. IQ scores are normed or adjusted over time in order to make them relevant to the population now. As Steven Johnson and many others have pointed out, an IQ score of, say 120, in 1950 would be much lower now–so comparing them over time without making adjustments really is comparing apples and oranges.

    Before WWII, college graduates were fairly rare–less than 20% of HS grads went to college, and much fewer people then than now completed HS. In those days, a college degree was more likely to be a marker of class rather than intellect–much as it is now–the poor, the minority HS grads are far less likely than their white contemporaries to attend and complete. Officers have always had a whiff of class system about them–the gold braid, the stripe on the trousers (Army)–what Sam Damon in Once an Eage called “ridiculous symbols of caste”–and a college degree is simply a convenient class marker in many ways. We could even parse this further by degree source–Harvard (my dad’s alma mater, courtesy of the Navy in WWII), the other Ivies, the service academies, the selective liberal arts colleges and so on, down to the cardinal direction colleges (Southern illinois University, for example). But this is hard when you look at all the schools with ROTC.

    That said, a college-educated person should have the ability to write and think and learn on his or her own–while we all know exceptions to this rule, it is still largely true. College grads form a minority among adults–about 25% of the US has one (the militay is roughly 80% enisted and 20% officer overall). So while we may snigger over this (exempting ourselves from the general downward trend, of course), it may well be the case that the original author has simply gotten the data wrong. It may also be the case that generals are not very smart because the system runs out the mavericks and independent thinkers, or pushes the smart guys into scientific and technical duties where they will never be chief of staff. Remember, the only physician to ever become chief of staff of the Army was Leonard Wood.

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  5. Pingback: Are America’s Officers “Stoopid?” | In The Old Corps

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