The Corner

Derbs: The Next Generation

I am very much obliged to the readers who emailed in with observations following my yesterday post about the kids, most especially to military and ex-military readers offering advice on my son.

Service academies? Sure, we’ve considered that, and pressed the idea on Danny. The Coast Guard Academy is just a ferry ride away; and though you don’t hear much about the Coast Guard, it’s a pretty good career, and the most selective of the major services. You currently need an IQ of 98 or higher to be accepted by the Coast Guard; it’s 96 for the Air Force, 95 for the Navy, 94 for the Marine Corps, 92 for the Army. That is of course on top of the basic requirements that you are not a high-school dropout, not a budding career criminal, and not obese. (I’ve translated those IQ numbers from the Armed Forces Qualification Test cutoff scores. AFQT scores correlate at about the 0.8 level with IQ test scores. There’s some additional fuzziness in the numbers because the different services have different attitudes to the GED, but however you cut it I think the rankings come out the same. If you want to read up the AFQT-IQ correlation, The Bell Curve has a whole 14-page appendix on it, Appendix 3, pp. 603–616 in my 1996 paperback edition.)

The problem is, Danny hates school. Though he is bright and surprisingly well-informed, the business of sitting in a desk being taught stuff is almost physically painful to him. This is constitutional and hereditary: My Dad was the same, so was my brother, and I was not much of a student myself. Incredible as it may be to our over-educated, credentialed-up-the-Wazoo ruling elites, quite a lot of people, including many smart people, have no interest in book learning and are miserable in a classroom. Yet these people are citizens too, with the unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence. This is baffling and mightily inconvenient to the educrats, I know, but there you are.

Our guess is that after a year or two as a grunt the lad will modify his point of view somewhat. Some things, though, you have to go through; and this particular thing is, in my opinion, more rewarding and improving than most.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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