A Political Science Prof Disputes Me Re: Military and Education

Mike Desch, a political scientist at Texas A&M’s George [H.W.] Bush School, says I’m wrong about the military being less educated than American society as a whole:

Indeed, it is more so. Take a look at the attached: http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2002/contents/contents.htm. The key figures for enlisted are “reading ability” and for officers “education.” In both cases, the military is above the norm. These figures are for 2002 and may have dropped a little bit since then, but I very much doubt. If you look at FY 2004, the enlisted reading ability is still above the norm. Officer’s education is still high but for some reason they did not report civilian levels. http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2004/contents/contents.html. But if you compare 2004 to census data, the military still looks very good on education http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/education/cps2005/tab05a-01.xls.

I looked up Desch’s references and told him I wasn’t convinced. They show that the average American youth in 1980 had a reading ability of grade 10.3; and in 1984, the average Army enlistee was behind that, at 10. The Navy average was higher than the national average, at about 11 in 1984. And the Army number got to 11 by 2000 or so. But as I responded to Desch, the average American youth has surely gone up too.

He responded:

The 1980 figure comes from a Department of Labor study which is
the only benchmark out there because the armed forces reading exam is
based on the DOL metric. Your points are fair, but for this to be a
problem you have to assume that general reading ability in the
population has increased at a faster rate than that in the armed
services. This DOE graph tells me that is has not
(http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/ltt/results2004/nat-reading-scales
core.asp) It’s pretty generally agreed that the quality of AVF
accessions rose significantly in the 1980s and 1990s.
Let’s look at the officer corps: The median age in 2004 is 27.
For that year 7.9% of officers had less than college, 76.8% had college
degrees, and 15.3% had advanced degrees. According to the census data
for 2005, the figures (if I have calculated them correctly for the
general population [all races and both sexes, 25-29 years]) are 68%
with less than college, 25% with college degrees, and 7% with advanced
degrees. That strikes me as a huge difference in favor of the military
compared to the general population!
Bottom-line: it is hard to defend with data what Kerry said, as
opposed to what he wanted to say, unless things have changed
dramatically since 2004.

Desch wins the point re officers. I’m not giving in yet on enlistees and the economic draft. Where’s Charlie Rangel?

A Political Science Prof Disputes Me Re: Military and Education