Does a President need a college degree? Political insiders on the right and left are asking this question as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker considers a run for the White House.
Reporter Aaron Blake highlighted his lack of a higher ed certification in today’s Washington Post, noting that the last president sans degree was Harry Truman:
A spokeswoman said the governor wants to finish his college degree through the University of Wisconsin-System’s innovative online course offerings. For now, however, Walker is still waiting for the right degree program to be added to the lineup of the still fledgling program.
“Governor Walker would like to finish his degree through the UW FlexOption once they expand the degree offerings,” Laurel Patrick said.
The governor left Marquette University his senior year to take a job with the American Red Cross and hasn’t finished his degree. He has often said he would like to wrap up the task.
If elected, Walker would join Truman, Washington, Lincoln and eight other chief executives who never graduated from college. But what once was common now seems exceptional in this credentialist era.
While a college degree would seem a plus in seeking the presidency, it certainly isn’t a requirement. Many elitists wrongly conflate academic certification with intelligence, competence and wisdom. The records of Obama and Carter disprove that error, as does the wild success of many unlettered leaders.
Although I did earn a degree, I learned at an early age that higher ed wasn’t essential. Only two extended members of my family ascended out of the middle class. The second-wealthiest is an uncle who only had a high school degree. The richest is a high-school dropout who owns luxe aeries in Vegas and Phoenix, but prefers to live on his yacht in Marina del Rey. (The latter also proved that money doesn’t buy happiness, but that’s another story.)
In most career paths, hard work and smart choices are worth more than sheepskin. As Walker gains traction, I expect the left to mock his intelligence and the anti-intellectualism of the right. But academic snobbery is fraught with peril as it could easily offend many of the Democratic Party’s most reliable voters.
What do you think: Is a college degree necessary for the White House or not?