Smart weapons require smart soldiers

No education qualifications are required to enlist in the British Army. Which is why so many recruits can’t read and write very well. The Telegraph reports:

A confidential study into the educational standards of soldiers has revealed that half of all new infantry recruits only have the reading and writing skills of 11-year-olds.

The study commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, which the Telegraph has seen, also discloses that a fifth of recruits have the literacy and numeracy levels of seven-year-olds. Four per cent are at the standard of the average five-year-old.

. . . Within the next 10 years, the Army will be issued with equipment that will require all frontline soldiers to be computer literate and numerically literate if they are to fight and survive on the battlefield. They will also need to be able to read and understand ever-more complicated training manuals.

Smart weapons require smart soldiers.

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  1. This reminds me of the kanji (Chinese character) problems the Imperial Japanese military had during WWII. Soldiers couldn’t read military terminology which was largely Chinese-based and written in characters that must not have been part of their everyday lives. IIRC, the post-WWII Self Defense Forces in Japan also had surprisingly low levels of literacy. This is documented in J. Marshall Unger’s book The Fifth Generation Fallacy which is about AI but doubles as a critique of myths about Japanese writing.

  2. Walter Wallis says:

    Cannon fodder has been out of style for quite a while. Even the infantry needs smarts. Often, the dumb soldier just gets in the way. I think this is Rumsfield’s judgement, too.

  3. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Among other reasons, people have always enlisted in the armed forces because they were poorly educated and had nowhere else to go. Some years ago, I saw a brief TV interview with a man who had enlisted without a high school diploma and retired with a Master’s degree.

    So all this means two things:
    –The problems with public schools aren’t unique to America.
    –While they are waiting for the schools to improve, and armed services had best be prepared to do a lot of remedial education. In the past, this has produced people who know the service turned their lives around, and are literally loyal to the death.

  4. Theodore Dalrymple has written of the problems of the underclass in Britain. (

  5. Ronald McFeely says:

    “Smart weapons require smart soldiers.”


    The smarter a soldier is, the less likely he/she will die on the battlefield. I don’t think anyone needs a computer linkup to fire his/her rifle, though.

    Jessica Lynch is now a “motivational speaker” out here in the Gay Bay. The best thing the Army could do is remove females from all combat/combat support units. Combat 18!

  6. Manuals and the associated equipment will become less complicated, not more, so that’s not why this study’s results are alarming. Here’s why.

  7. “…a fifth of recruits have the literacy and numeracy levels of seven-year-olds. Four per cent are at the standard of the average five-year-old.”

    It’s scary to think that my Tiny Princess (6yo 1st grader) could read and write better than a full fifth of the British Army, in this day and age.


  1. sisu says:

    Too white male for comfort

    University of North Carolina-Wilmington Professor Mike Adams was told he made a colleague “uncomfortable” by discussing his columns, reports Joanne Jacobs. “He was told not to discuss his writing in the office in front of those who might be offended