Does a President Need a College Degree? — Jon Gabriel

 

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?

There are 24 comments.

  1. Member

    It never has been. Many are better educated by themselves without, before, or after college/university. The modern university is only a mill to produce large loans for banks and large salaries for professors. Very few actually produce educated and thinking individuals.

    • #1
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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  2. Inactive

    It’s certainly not necessary to perform the functions of the office once elected. History clearly demonstrates as much. The real question for me is whether having a college degree is politically necessary to get elected in the first place. The answer to that is probably “yes.” People take an inordinate pride in getting higher degrees (thing of all the PhDs in education who insist on being called “Doctor”). For many people, voting for someone less “educated” than themselves would be an admission that the degrees they spent so much money obtaining are largely worthless.

    These days, most people get college degrees in order to join a caste of the “college educated.” Membership in this caste is supposed to confer benefits. Many would resent those who get ahead without jumping through the hoops that they themselves felt they had to jump through.

    • #2
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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  3. Inactive

    A college degree is a poor indicator of a person’s fitness for higher office. Much more indicative are a person’s life experience, political philosophy and work ethic. Obama strikes out on all three while I suspect Walker would be 3 for 3 (or at least 2 for 3 given that he’s a lifelong politician).

    • #3
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm
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  4. Member

    Democrats will really tick off the blue-collar base if they go too far with this elitist agitprop.

    • #4
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm
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  5. Inactive

    Higher education can in certain cases be a handicap. For example, prior experience of being a professor in constitutional law can lead to serious presidential ineffectiveness.

    • #5
    • April 8, 2014 at 12:54 pm
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  6. Member

    As I said on another thread, I’ll take, principled, pragmatic, and tough without being obnoxious over credentialed any day.

    • #6
    • April 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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  7. Inactive

    “…I expect the left to mock his intelligence and the anti-intellectualism of the right.”

    Of course they’ll do that regardless…

    • #7
    • April 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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  8. Inactive

    Walker of all people has certainly demonstrated that the degree’s not necessary to succeed as an executive branch leader.

    As far as it being a prerequisite to election, my hunch is that it matters more for a Democratic candidate than for a Republican; the folks who are snobby about their education don’t vote Republican much anyways.

    Side note – 58% of adults 25 and older have also not attained a college degree (and that doesn’t count those who have, but who work in a job that doesn’t require it).

    • #8
    • April 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm
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  9. Thatcher

    No, a college degree is not needed to be president, nor should it be. The candidate should be literate, well-spoken and able to explain conservative principles and his ideas for smaller government clearly, in a way people can relate to. Scott Walker has certainly demonstrated the ability to do this. I suspect I disagree with him on some points, because we are all individuals, not simple members of some group. I don’t know enough about any candidate to know now how I would vote, except it will not be for a Democrat, but as primaries, then the general election get closer, I will learn more. A college degree will not be one of my critical decision points. If he has a degree from any of the Ivies, it is probably a small negative.

    • #9
    • April 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm
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  10. Member

    Group Captain Mandrake:Higher education can in certain cases be a handicap. For example, prior experience of being a professor in constitutional law can lead to serious presidential ineffectiveness.

     Also, in George W. Bush’s first run for Congress, the Democrat whooped him by labeling him the College Boy. Imagine that. But the Republicans are the anti-intellectual party?

    • #10
    • April 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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  11. Contributor

    DocJay did a post about this last week with an interesting conversation.

    • #11
    • April 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm
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  12. Member

    Of course he doesn’t need a degree (and Harry Truman didn’t) to do the job, any more than Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell needed engineering diplomas to found and run high tech companies.

    You don’t need to graduate from an Ivy League law school to sit on the Supreme Court either.

    But the mediocre credentialists in Legacy Media may differ with this.

    • #12
    • April 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm
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  13. Member

    The best President of the 18th century did not finish high school.

    The best President of the 19th century did not finish high school.

    The best Democratic President of the 19th century did not go to college.

    The best Democratic President of the 20th century did not finish college.

    The worst President of the 18th century was a college graduate.

    The worst President of the 19th century (and worst President ever) was a college graduate.

    The worst President of the 20th century was a college graduate.

    The worst President of the 21st century is a college graduate (and even taught at a college).

    I will leave the Ricochetti to put names to these men.

    I’d say a college degree (or its lack) is not a predictor of Presidential success or failure.

    (Mind, I have a master’s degree, so what does that say about me?)

    • #13
    • April 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm
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  14. Inactive

    A college degree is not needed for most jobs that require a college degree.

    • #14
    • April 8, 2014 at 5:38 pm
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  15. Member

    The issue of a college degree exploded here in Georgia in the GOP Senate race. One candidate took a shot at another candidate who doesn’t have a degree. We’ll see what new polling says but the candidate who made the attack seems to have taken a beating. I would think such an attack on Governor Walker would face a similar fate.

    I would also think a person such as Walker who has a successful record would not thought less of for lacking a degree.

    • #15
    • April 8, 2014 at 5:50 pm
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  16. Coolidge

    If you have a PhD in Chemistry, then I’m impressed. A Doctorate in Education is laughable. The difference between the two is rigor. One has it, the other doesn’t.

    • #16
    • April 8, 2014 at 5:55 pm
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  17. Member

    I do not believe a college degree is required to be a leader, at any governmental level.

    HOWEVER, any candidate should be prepared to explain their life choices and experience, then deal with the cheers or fallout that brings to the people they plan to lead.

    Whether you like him or not, Scott Walker either made a good decision to leave college to work for the Red Cross and move forward with his life, or he overcame whatever downside it might have brought him. The trick will be to communicate that story to his voters.

    I hereby confer upon Scott Walker a ‘Wisdom Credit.’

    • #17
    • April 8, 2014 at 6:31 pm
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  18. Member

    I just said to my wife, “Hey did you know the governor of Wisconsin doesn’t have a college degree?”

    She says, “Didn’t you say in 2012 that we were past the days as a country when we would elect a president who didn’t have a degree from an Ivy League school or prestigious university like Stanford?

    Me, “Yup. Hope I’m wrong.”

    • #18
    • April 8, 2014 at 7:59 pm
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  19. Inactive

    Arahant:

    Group Captain Mandrake:Higher education can in certain cases be a handicap. For example, prior experience of being a professor in constitutional law can lead to serious presidential ineffectiveness.

    Also, in George W. Bush’s first run for Congress, the Democrat whooped him by labeling him the College Boy. Imagine that. But the Republicans are the anti-intellectual party?

    If true, that’s mighty ironic, as Kent Hance went on to become the Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

    • #19
    • April 8, 2014 at 9:53 pm
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  20. Inactive

    Whood a thunk it?

    • #20
    • April 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm
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  21. Inactive

    DocJay:Whood a thunk it?

     Ain’t that a kick in the head?

    • #21
    • April 8, 2014 at 10:35 pm
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  22. Inactive

    Can you imagine how the leftist elites and the media will tie themselves in knots over this? They will want to go after him as they did with Bush 43 as being a simpleton but they went after Bush as an individual; an exception to the rule of someone who actually got an Ivy League degree. If they go after Walker on not having a degree, they will alienate much of their base. I hope Walker doesn’t get the sheepskin and throws their populism right back in their face.

    • #22
    • April 9, 2014 at 5:32 am
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  23. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    D.C. McAllister:

    DocJay did a post about this last week with an interesting conversation.

     Agreed — great post and comments!

    • #23
    • April 9, 2014 at 9:23 am
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  24. Moderator

    Should Walker get the nomination and the Democrats make it an issue, can we claim they are waging war on the self-educated?

    • #24
    • April 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm
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