Almost a quarter of young people who tried to join the military during the last five years did not pass the entrance exam, which is called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test. The is even more disturbing because the exam is only given to people who meet other requirements. The Pentagon reports that three-fourths of 17- to 24-year olds don't even qualify to take the exam because they have a criminal record, didn't graduate from high school, or are physically unfit. About one-fourth are obese, making them medically ineligible. Furthermore, a passing score isn't even particularly difficult. Applicants only need to score 31 out of 99 on the first portion of a three-hour test. Many of the test questions are very basic, such as, "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?" The study found disparities between whites and minorities similar to those on other standardized tests. The average score for whites is 55, as compared to 44 for Hispanics and 38 for blacks.
Another problem is what military recruits need to know in order to successfully serve in the armed forces today. The military is a lot more high-tech than in the past. Many of the things we expect of our military today require a well educated force.
These test results are a terrible reflection on the failure of our public schools to provide a basic education. Any kid who has spent 12 years in public schools and given a high school diploma should be able to pass a military test to serve in our armed forces.
This dismal pass rate is naturally causing concern among military leaders about national security. The Department of Defense is currently meeting recruiting goals, but that could change and become a real problem when the economy improves and more work alternatives become available.
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