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  • Retired Marine: Scrap College Degree Requirement To Become A Military Officer And Make Candidates Take A Test Instead

    Do military officers need college degrees? An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Monday argued that because colleges are continually watered down by low-quality students, a degree is no longer sufficient to signal superiority.

    Instead, as Benjamin Luxenberg, a Marine who served as a first lieutenant from 2009 to 20013 points out, the military should consider alternative routes to officership.

    A recent study by the Brookings Institution supports the main thrust of Luxenberg’s argument, namely that because college is so easily accessible, it has essentially lost its power to signal that the average graduate is particularly intelligent or capable of critical reasoning and writing skills.

    Instead, researchers Matthew F. Cancian and Michael W. Klein found that General Classification Test scores among Marine Corps officers have consistently declined over the past several decades, an alarming trend they think is best explained by the decreasing quality of college graduates. (RELATED: So Many Stupid Kids Are Going To College, Marine Officers Are Actually Getting Dumber)

    This is especially relevant as far as the officer corps is concerned because degrees are treated as fungible, that is, there is no differentiation between grades, so long as graduates meet a baseline of 2.5 out of 4.0., which isn’t terribly demanding.

    “Historically, a college degree signaled superior intelligence, critical reasoning and writing skills, and dedication,” Luxenberg writes. “A degree holder could be expected to form logical, coherent arguments and effectively communicate ideas. But a college degree in 2015 no longer signals—let alone guarantees—much of anything.”

    At best, a college degree “suggests long-term commitment to a goal.” Other than that, a college degree certainly does not guarantee maturity.

    Given that the college pool is gradually becoming polluted with increasingly low-quality students, as reflected in survey responses from the business community, Luxenberg thinks a four-year enlistment should suffice to show commitment and eligibility for Officer Candidate School, in addition to high scores on the General Classification Test, an older exam still used by the Marine Corps to assess officer candidates. If necessary, the services can develop a test to determine critical thinking skills and writing ability, similar to the test used by the Department of State for foreign service employees.

    Lumina-Gallup poll conducted in 2014 found that only 11 percent of business leaders “strongly agree that higher education institutions in this country are graduating students with the skills and competencies that their business needs, and 17% strongly disagree.”

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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