Monmouth University Professor Pities the Undereducated American Military, Round 2

W and J-Horn!

[Photo: President George W. Bush holding Monmouth's Jim Horn]

Monmouth University’s Professor Jim Horn, Educator Extraordinaire, froths at the mouth whenever the military comes up in e-conversation. And, since Master Horn must love frothing at the mouth, he brings up the military frequently.

I wrote in late January about Horn’s piece “Unending War Relies on Steady Supply of Dropouts and Pushouts,” in which he wrote:

“These youngsters today have failed to make it in the testing factories we call schools, and recruiters, armed with these kids’ school data (NCLB mandates it), have an unending supply of hot leads.

What would that recruiting poster look like–an army one group of dropouts and pushouts who can still contribute to the America’s world class military economy. Sign your body up today!” [emphasis added]

Not surprisingly, he’s at it again. In a brief treatment of the proposed changes to the GI Bill – a topic worth serious thought and discussion – Horn takes the opportunity to lambaste the American GI, who he’s classified as “undereducated”:

According to the Pentagon, which directs the spending of $3 billion every week in Iraq, this new GI Bill proposal is too expensive. And from their perspective, Webb’s bill threatens the readiness to conduct war without end (or maybe just a hundred years), which can only be carried out by underpaid, undereducated “volunteers” who do not have viable career options outside the military. (We all know that if we were drafting middle class kids to serve as IED targets in Iraq, this war would have been over a long time ago). [Bold emphasis added]

Before I parse this, remind yourself of the meaning of the word tendentious:

… having or showing a definite tendency, bias, or purpose: a tendentious novel.”

“Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan: a tendentious account of the recent elections.

Got it? Let’s hit the analysis.

First, Professor Horn wants you to look at the sheer amount of money being spent per week in Iraq:

“According to the Pentagon, which directs the spending of $3 billion every week in Iraq, this new GI Bill proposal is too expensive.”

And, he hopes, you’ll think it’s a ridiculous sum. He also hopes that you’re as agenda-driven and logically deficient as he is. That way, the argument that we’re spending tons of money per week on something unnecessary – at the opportunity cost of depriving veterans of money for education – will take root and blossom. It would have been a far stronger point if he’d compared the amount of monetary change in the proposed GI Bill to the vasts of military spending overall, but doing so wouldn’t have allowed him to poke the Iraq war with a stick and quickly run away.

“And from their perspective, Webb’s bill threatens the readiness to conduct war without end (or maybe just a hundred years)”

Well, everyone knows that John McCain wants to station nukes on every streetcorner in every foreign country for at least 100 years. Haha!

But Jim Horn, that silver-haired teenybopper, is infected with a star envy/crush that runs both deep and bold. I can’t help but remember his cutesy comment to the semi-fasting Kozol on the HuffPo:

“Thank you for your eloquent commitment to what’s right for so many years … A trusted lieutenant, should you need one. Jim Horn”

This time, too, he was likely just purposely distorting McCain’s comment by following in the footsteps of another one of his heroes.

“…which can only be carried out by underpaid, undereducated “volunteers” who do not have viable career options outside the military.”

Underpaid? Probably. I’ll give him that one.

But undereducated? This is standard Horn-fare – to pity the military for being ignorant, dumb, enslaved, stupid, unaware, backwoods cannon-fodder for Big Oil, Bu$hCo, Condoskeeza, Dick “Dr. Evil” Cheney, etc. It’s almost as charming as when Susan O’Hanian thought it was funny to sing – yes, sing, in a NCLB protest song – that NCLB was created as a way to divert attention from our wars. [She removed that line from her song, but then wrote in her newsletter that she regretted it.]

Thanks, Jim, but I don’t think they need your pity.

Not only is his claim about the mental ineptitude of the American GI rude and patently untrue, it doesn’t even make sense given the context. If our GIs are undereducated and intellectually worthless – so worthless that they “do not have viable career options outside the military” – why on earth would we pay them bucketloads of money when, as Jim suggests, we’re getting substandard production out of them?

Stick to education, Jim. You might have trouble in the private sector, despite your claim to believe in the foundations of education, which do include – to your chagrin – basic economic principles.

The scare quotes around “volunteers” can’t be ignored, either – I’ll spare you the obvious analysis, but I do ask that you remember that definition of tendentious.

“(We all know that if we were drafting middle class kids to serve as IED targets in Iraq, this war would have been over a long time ago).”

Jim is likely right. If there was a draft of any sort, the country would probably have a different approach to this war. But since we aren’t drafting anyone, it’s completely irrelevant.

Demeaning, tendentious language abounds – from calling GIs “IED targets” to referring to John McCain as “the Republican War Hero candidate” to implications of selfish, inhumane class warfare. And really, tendentious language here and there, light sparring, etc. isn’t a terrible thing. It’s not always destructive or mean-spirited, but Horn is a willing practitioner of the vile.

My disapproval has nothing to do with Horn’s politics or beliefs – public and higher education, the military and pretty much everything else can be criticized fairly. And for what it’s worth, I do hope that Jim Webb’s bill passes and increases education benefits for veterans. I am on Horn’s side entirely on this particular issue, but I condemn his reasoning and his discourse.

It has everything to do with his motivations.

Because of that, I’ve got to channel George Patton one more time:

You’re one lowlife son of a bitch, Jim.

The University that puts up with your pseudo-professional screeds is nearing that classification, too, as well as the unindicted co-conspirators who stay silent at the Education Policy Blog.

Sometimes, for better or worse, there’s just no other way to put it.

I’ll leave you with two excellent reads:

6 Responses to “Monmouth University Professor Pities the Undereducated American Military, Round 2”

  1. Michael,

    This is a representative paragraph from that link:

    “The percentage of Army enlistees who joined the service with a high school diploma went from almost 84 percent in 2005 to less than 71 percent last year, according to the analysis by the nonprofit National Priorities Project.”

    I don’t like those numbers anymore than anyone else does, but we also have to consider a few other things.

    From the America’s Promise Alliance “Cities in Crisis” report:

    “Only about one-half (52 percent) of students in the principal school systems of the 50 largest cities complete high school with a diploma.”

    … and the national average is around 70%. The argument that the military is preying on the have-nots is ridiculous and unsupportable.

    It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the military’s numbers are relatively in line with national numbers.

  2. Michael says:

    Matthew, you’re conflating two disparate things. The problem is that the army is lowering its requirements, not that there are fewer high school graduates. That lowering is directly related to the difficulties created by the current administration’s policies.

  3. Michael,

    Broadening minimum requirements [and the necessary movement toward the mean that comes with it] is a very different scenario than the military scavenging our poorest and least able with the most sinister intent.

  4. Michael says:

    Matthew, I expect better of you. The army is broadening its minimum requirements to include criminals and high school dropouts (I’m not comparing them, btw) because they can’t meet their recruitment goals. The reason for that is that the Bush administration has made it impossible for the army to uphold its high standards. The real problem, however, is in retention. There are far too many experienced NCOs and mid-level officers leaving to maintain the army’s health in the future. There’s a real problem here, and talking about “broadening minimum standards” is just so much fluff.

  5. Michael,

    I’ll likely continue to fall short of your expectations.

    I don’t have a problem with the military taking high school dropouts. While Horn et al. see that as opportunism on the part of the military, I see it as offering a viable option for one with too little formal training to get a GED and/or relevant work experience that will serve them well after their discharge. I also don’t have a problem with welcoming foreigners into the military and giving them citizenship as a result of their service.

    Retention is most definitely a serious issue right now, but that, along with general politics, can be saved for another day.

    Interestingly enough, to be a member of a district’s board of education in the state of New York, one need not be a high school graduate. One must be able to read and write. So far, I haven’t seen Horn or any others call this an outrage, though all are education professionals who should, based on their past contributions to public debate, be outraged that candidacy for leading a school district requires only literacy, residence and a heartbeat.

    I suspect, however, that Horn, O’Hanian and the rest would find little political value in attacking New York state’s board of education requirements.

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