Gregory Salcido, the California teacher who called members of the military “the lowest of our low,” has been fired. Unfortunately, the outrage Salcido generated by touching a sacred cow has distracted from the fact that he is objectively wrong. Let’s look again at what he said:
Think about the people who you know are over there [in war zones] — your frickin’ stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They’re dumb sh**s. They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people; they’re the frickin’ lowest of our low. Not morally. You know I’m not saying they make bad moral decisions. They’re not talented people. . . . The data is in. We don’t have a good military.
This is simple to refute. People who want to join the military must take the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which measures math and verbal skills. The AFQT has been normed against the general population of American young people. By rule, virtually no one who scores below the 31st percentile is allowed to enlist. In other words, far from being dominated by people who are the “lowest of our low” academically, the military deliberately excludes them.
CNA, on behalf of the Defense department, has published lots of AFQT data for those who are interested. For example, 75 percent of enlistees score in the top 50 percent on the AFQT, and the fraction of enlistees who score in the very top AFQT category (6.5 percent) is close to the fraction in the general population (7.9 percent).
I don’t want to see a teacher fired for criticizing the military. It strikes me as a kind of reverse political correctness, with conservatives encouraging the witch hunt this time around. In particular, the school-board president’s claim that Salcido had “bullied” and “intimidated” people is ridiculous. Had he made the same inaccurate comments about, say, plumbers, it would probably never have become a news story. Nevertheless, Salcido’s defense that he was merely encouraging his students to go to college rather than the military is not a good one. He made false statements to his students about their career choices, and he should retract them.