The topic for discussion at the end of Chris Hayes' 'All In' last night was whether or not Presidents - and hence Presidential candidates - ought to have 4-year college degrees. Hayes played some clips from the usual clowns on 'Fox n' Friends' that rejected the idea as "typical liberal elitism" and one of the Fox dunderheads actually cited "Jesse Ventura, Barbara Streisand, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs" as not having 4-year college degrees.
Yeah, but none of those luminaries or celebs will ever have their hands on the nuclear football! Sorry, but call me a "liberal elitist" - I want a person to at least have that qualification before assuming the highest office in the land.
The Fox clowns also cited the fact that "31 million Americans left college before getting their degree" - a point Hayes also reinforced while playing Devil's advocate. But again, none of those 31 million would be contending for the highest office in the land anyway. So the point is irrelevant.
One of the other guests acknowledged that the issue probably comes to down to whether you want a "President you can have a beer with" or a "President who knows a thing or two about a thing or two". Well, since neither I (or anyone else) would ever have a chance of having a beer with any Prez, it's immaterial - hence a foolish barometer by which to judge Presidential caliber. About as foolish as using John Stewart as a medium to get your political information. (About which I will have more to say in a coming post).
I'd like to refer once more to the take ('The Myth of Higher Education') offered by Dr. Steven B. Mason in an issue of Integra (No. 9, Oct. 2010) the journal of Intertel. As he writes:
"the bottom line regarding a well -rounded education is that it has nothing to do with any kind of bottom line. Its value (non-monetary) is to be found in the quality it adds to one's life. It allows one to better appreciate music, art, history and literature. It contributes to a better understanding of language and culture, nature and philosophy. It expands rather than limits horizons and replaces faith and belief with reason and logic"
This is totally germane to any person who aspires to the Presidency. Especially the last two sentences on contributing to a better understanding of language and culture, and expanding horizons while replacing faith and belief with reason and logic. These are exactly the ideals or ideal attributes which the citizen ought to demand in his President. (Of course, a President could still turn into an illogical dummy or ....more commonly.....might be known to be such before election, as Dumbya Bush was in 2000. But that's on a Supreme Court that shoehorned him into office, as well as his then FLA governor brother (Jeb), who with his Secretary of State put tens of thousands of African -Americans on felons' rolls so they couldn't vote).
Chris Hayes also raised the point that Scott Walker, for example, had already finished 3 1/2 years at Marquette University - a "fine private school" (to use Chris' parlance) just like Loyola which I attended for two years before moving on to Univ. of South Florida where I could specialize in astronomy and astrophysics. Chris, again as Devil's advocate, asked why that can't be enough.
Well, here's the deal, almost getting a degree, irrespective of university, isn't the same as actually getting it! One has to carefully plan and apportion courses - required and electives- semester by semester, with the credit hours needed, and which are specifically demanded by the particular department. This is not that easy and often courses or credit hours can come up short - showing poor oversight or lack of planning. But one of the traits we want in Presidents is precisely attention to detail when a particular objective is in sight and also competent planning toward that end.
Scott Walker's failure to get his degree - never mind his excuse of going to "work in Chicago"- still doesn't let him off the hook. And to that end, if he wants to remain Governor of Wisconsin, fine (though I do object to his right wing politics) but not to become President. Scott's three and a half years and lack of finishing is ok for the state job, but not getting near to the nuclear football -with the ability to launch nuclear missiles, at Russia say.
I want a person who's gone the whole way and finished what he started, demonstrating foresight and planning capabilities. The degree doesn't have to be from Harvard or the Ivies but it ought to be from a real, certified school - preferably not an online school. (But GRE scores can always be required from the latter types to validate quality.)
Chris asked if this should be a "deal breaker" and in my mind, yes it should. All other things being equal - and hey, if we suspect they aren't - we can always demand to see the potential President's GRE scores in history and political science!