Here is another example of how creating and administering more difficult and diligent testing does not increase performance nor create better test results in those who are tested.
The United States Air Force is responsible for training and overseeing the “missileers” who man the underground bunkers across the country and who operate our strategic defenses in case of nuclear attack. The missileers are the military airmen who are responsible for reading the launch codes and standing at the ready of our ICBM force around the clock should they ever be needed to…you know…push the buttons.
For about a decade now the United States ICBM force has been performing at less than optimum proficiency… and that’s according to the Unites States Air force. Apparently many of the missileers have been showing signs of greater stress and boredom and have been performing at less than their usual proficiency, dexterity and alertness.
So, in an effort to get the soldiers to work harder and improve their skills, the The Air Force has toughened their already highly technical launch code tests and made promotion within the force more difficult unless the airmen score higher and learn and memorize increasingly more difficult launch code sequences etc. Today, 90% is considered a passing grade and a score of 100% is needed in order to be promoted to a higher rank within this strategic force…remember No Child Left Behind and President Bush’s benchmark of reaching 100% proficiency in the basic skills test for America’s children by 2014? (or else schools would be left behind)
So how is the air force doing with its upgraded testing program?
This past January, 92 of the 200 airmen who operate ICBMs at a Montana base were caught cheating or were involved in the cheating on their monthly proficiency tests, by using their cell phones to share answers. And supposedly this is nothing new but rather a practice that has been going on for years. It seems that the tougher the tests got, the more cheating became necessary.
But why didn’t the airmen just study and work harder to do better on the tests?
Because the missileers, mostly young officers who did not volunteer for the program, apparently know something that their older commanders still fail to acknowledge…The Cold War if over! Their job is obsolete! No matter how many missile codes they memorize and no matter how hard they study, no one is ever going to ask them to blow up the world with ICBMs anymore!
So spending countless hours underground, for days on end, being diligent and proficient in a skill that they are not going to use nor be asked to use, seems a bit silly to them… and studying to be promoted in this useless proficiency, seems even sillier. In fact, guess what happens to the airmen if they fail the test or get caught cheating at it?
They get decertified and can’t go down into the underground silos!… And those who pass?… They get to work double shifts!
So how do we fix this dilemma?…More difficult tests of course.
But wait, you say! Don’t we need these warriors with their arcane skills and outdated missile system to stay sharp… just in case we need to blow Russia or China or somewhere else off the map…you know… just in case?
Well, maybe you and I and the joint chiefs think so but it’s getting harder and harder to convince the younger generations of that…and besides we still have 14 Ohio-class submarines loaded with nuclear missiles and patrolling the oceans day and night, pretty much unopposed by any other navy…not to mention the 60 B-2 and B-52 bombers on constant alert around the globe, loaded with world ending nuclear weapons too of course…and unopposed by any other air force.
I wonder if those young, well trained, sailors, soldiers and airmen are getting bored too?
So what do you think? More testing? Or is it time for all of us to put down the old tests and start learning something new?