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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Overweight and Not Too Smart

     As mentioned in the previous post, it’s estimated that 8 out of 10 young people aged 17 to 24 fail to qualify for military service due to obesity, educational deficits, or behavioral health issues or criminal history and oral health problems. 
     America’s young people, as a group, are not only becoming more out of shape with every passing year, but dumber according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
     The finding raises questions about their future health and longevity. For the past few decades they are becoming more sedentary. Less than a third of young people ages 12 to 18 achieve the recommended levels of physical activity for their age group. 
     Studies suggest their physical activity peaks before age 10, and perhaps as early as 2 until by some reports, children typically spend eight to 10 hours a day in front of a television or computer screen, with that time rising in summer, when school doesn’t interfere. 
     In a recent study researchers had their subjects jog on a treadmill to determine cardio-respiratory fitness and compared their fitness to what it should be. Few were where they should be. Less than 34 percent of the girls had fitness levels that would set them within the healthy fitness zone compared with about 50 percent of the boys. 
     Ethnicity and family income played no discernible role in the volunteers’ fitness, according to the data. Those from affluent families were as likely to be out of shape as those from families below the poverty line. 
     The potential long-term health implications for the country’s young people are disquieting because kids who are less fit when they’re young are likely to be less healthy when they’re adults. 
     In October of last year an organization comprised of hundreds of retired military generals and admirals sounded the alarm under the headline Generals Again Warn That America’s Youth Are Getting Too Fat Or Dumb To Join The Military. Mission: Readiness, a bipartisan organization of 750 retired generals and admirals released the report that detailed the dire straits facing military recruiters. 

     According to the report, titled “Unhealthy and Unprepared,” an estimated 71 percent of all young people between the ages of 17 and 24 do not qualify for military service due to being overweight, lacking adequate education or having a history of crime or drug use. 
     According to the report children as young as 2 are experiencing rising obesity rates, and these rates increase with age. The report notes that of the remaining 29 percent of eligible youth, only 17 percent would qualify for active duty. 
     Only 13 percent would achieve a satisfactory score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. And, while those eligible decline, so does interest in military service. Just 11 percent of 16- to 24-year olds said they would definitely or probably serve in the military in the coming years, down from 13 percent in the previous two years. 
     In a 2018 news story Gregory Salcido, who works at a high school in California and served on the city council, referred to military members as "the lowest of our low." Presumably he was referring to education, intelligence, and perhaps socioeconomic status. 
     Are members of the military really uneducated? Leaving aside officers who are required to earn a college degree before joining most people typically join right after high school. 
     A Pew research report found that 98 percent of the enlisted force has at least a high school diploma compared to 86.7 percent of the civilian population aged 25 or older. 
     With rare exceptions, the military typically requires a high school diploma to join and the rule is recruits cannot consist of more than 10 percent of individuals who have a GED (high school equivalency exam). Each branch sets their own limits, which is often less than 10 percent. 
     Research has found that high school drop outs also fail to make it in the military at a higher rate than high school graduates. The military spends a lot of money on recruits because they want them to serve the duration of their enlistment contract. It is in the military's best interest to identify characteristics that predict success and one marker is education. 
     Another way to measure the potential for success is cognitive ability, or IQ. How do military members stack up against their non-military peers? All military recruits must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to qualify for enlistment. The test is essentially an IQ test (correlation = 0.8). The test also predicts SAT scores (correlation = .82) and it correlates with ACT scores (0.77).
     To qualify, recruits must score in the top third of everybody who takes the ASVAB test. That’s give or take a few pints depending on the branch of the service. That means a person with the lowest score on the ASVAB test and who makes it into the military scores higher than one-third of his peers. The military intentionally eliminates the bottom third of test takers, not allowing them to join. That means that the military selects for the upper two-thirds of ASVAB test takers. 
     Another study found that among those who finish high school, about 1 in 4 graduates do not attain the minimum ASVAB score to join any branch of the military. 
     In one study, researchers found that a person’s score on an intelligence test, along with his 2-mile run time, were the best predictors of success in infantry training. An interesting example was a study on tank gunners who you might not think a standardized intelligence test would have much effect on their ability to shoot a tank gun. But, the data showed it does. 
     Is the modern military full of men and women from low-income backgrounds who only join because their options are limited? Generally, it’s a misconception.
     The Demographics of Enlisted Troops and Officers from the Heritage Foundation they found that enlisted military troops disproportionately come from middle class and upper middle class families. In fact, 50 percent of the enlisted recruits come from families in the top 40 percent of the income distribution, while only 10 percent come from the bottom 20 percent. 
     So, Mr. Salcido did not know what he was talking about when he claimed military members were the lowest of our low. Perhaps it’s Mr. Salcido himself who belongs in that group because the statistics show enlisted military members are better educated, get higher test scores and come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds than their similarly aged peers in society. Military recruits are particularly bright and fit and they tend to perform better. 
     Here’s another finding by the Pew Foundation: Americans view service members as more trustworthy than scientists, elected officials and the news media. 

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