A Science for Everyone, Demography

An IQ Too Low for the Military

Jordan Peterson has a brief video on youtube describing the IQ cutoff the US military uses in recruitment. (Jordan Peterson | The Most Terrifying IQ Statistic)  He explains that the army doesn’t recruit for people who score below 83 because they can’t be trained. 

I think he has simplified the explanation – the ASVAB is the military test.  While it is not technically an IQ test, it correlates closely.  I’m not about to fact-check Jordan Peterson on a technicality.  He explains that 10% of the population have an IQ below 83, and the chart shows that 11.5% of the population score 82 or below.  Definitely close enough for a short lecture.

I think back among my students, and recall asking the slowest veteran I ever had in a class what he did in the army.  He replied he had been a gama goat driver.  The photo suggests that he probably had skills that would transfer to operating a rubber tired skidder – but probably lacked the forest experience.  My experience tells me that he would have been a good, reliable tail chainman on a survey party – but even at that time, electronic measuring devices were replacing the chains.

All told, I think I understand why Jordan Peterson called it “The most terrifying IQ statistic.”  If he was close to correct – and I suspect he was – we’re looking at somewhere around one person in nine that can’t be trained to perform a minimum military job adequately.  I suspect the civilian world isn’t any more merciful.  Years ago, I had the privilege of knowing Doug.  The army had released him because of a low score – whether IQ or ASVAB makes no difference.  He was in his fifties, and remembered vividly the date when he learned he wasn’t good enough.  He made a living as a ranch hand, mostly working cattle, haying and fixing or building fences . . . he was conscientious and reliable at handloading ammunition, and a cautious, safe driver.  As I watched Peterson’s video, I realized how few jobs there are for folks like Doug.   There was a place for Doug in north central Montana, but few areas have that opportunity.  Doug couldn’t have made it in the urban technical world.   Anything that finds one person in nine untrainable is a terrifying statistic. 

1 thought on “An IQ Too Low for the Military”

  1. You might consider expanding this topic to correlate it with the obvious decline in student education standards, which has resulted in “teaching only to the test answer scores” and not offering a more well rounded education experience. All levels of intelligence are an asset and a boon to our lives in America and should be valued and respected as such. I had a wonderful education way back when; however, I dislike cell phones and really do not want to further clutter my life learning how to use one. I AM really happy with the telephone land line in my home. Does that make me “less than?” Holistic and spiritually honest life styles should also be viewed as highly prized and beneficial; your “Doug” should be admired for his persistent honesty regarding his capabilities as well as his skill in living his own honest life style and supporting himself while doing so. Some of his skills are disappearing.

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