Time to “Break It Down!”
And just to be clear, right off the bat, that’s not “G,” as in Gangster, but G as in GOP. OK, perhaps the distinction is fuzzier than most would consider ideal.
I ran across a couple of memes in the past several months that jumped out at me as fodder for a blog post. One re-surfaced today, and not being in the mood to write about another unarmed African American catching a bullet from an overzealous law enforcement officer (Arlington, Texas), or about the fact that Donald Trump continues to simultaneously flout the rules and flummox his GOP opponents, or about Hillary Clinton reversing field, and releasing her e-mail server, or about Bernie Sanders’ next bout with the Black Lives Matter Movement, or about the on-going chess match between President Obama and Congress on the issue of the Iran Deal, I decided I’d take a stab at what I consider at least tangential circumstantial evidence that Republicans are not just anti-intellectual, but also anti-higher education.
Let me begin with Exhibit A. Consider these bona fides of Arizona’s most recent former Governor:
22nd Governor of Arizona
18th Secretary of State – Arizona
Member of Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (Where Phoenix is located)
Arizona State Senate
Arizona House of Representatives
Allow me to add Exhibit B. Also consider the bona fides of Utah’s current Governor:
17th Governor of Utah
Chairman of the National Governors Association
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
Finally, permit me to include Exhibit C. To the items above, consider the bona fides of the Governor of Wisconsin:
45th Governor of Wisconsin
5th Milwaukee County Executive
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
So let’s keep this real. On the face of it, any one of those three sets of credentials is impressive. Any man or woman who manages to rise to position of Chief Executive Officer of a State’s Government (Governor) has demonstrated substantial political chops. Nothing I write after this point will change that fact.
However, the one thing that connects the dots between and among these three impressive politicians is pretty stunning, at least to me. The single credential none of these well-connected, politically astute, successful men and one woman possesses is an earned college degree.
- Jan Brewer, the most recent former Governor of Arizona is an alumna of Glendale Community College. She did not earn a degree.
- The Honorable Gary Herbert is the Governor of Utah. A Mormon, he is an alumnus of Brigham Young University. He did not graduate.
- The Honorable Scott Walker is the current Governor of Wisconsin. He is an alumnus of Marquette University. He left before graduating.
Obviously, all three of these individuals were able to find and secure gainful employment, and to forge a path to steady and continuous career advancement. They are living breathing manifestations of the American Dream (Coincidentally, the aspiration Donald Trump declared dead). I salute them.
However…Governor Walker has decided to take his talents to the next lever. To clarify, he has defined the White House as the address of his next promotion. While I do not expect him to achieve his desired goal, I am mindful that he is in the discussion. I’m not sure whether to be drawn to my natural inclination to be amused by the Super Seventeen, and by his placement within the group, or to default straight to despair, due to the potential that a major Party would actually consider elevating someone, who does not at a minimum possess a college degree, to the highest office in the land.
Before anyone deigns to school me, I understand, college attendance is not a Constitutional requirement. The baseline for qualifying to become President, aside from securing the requisite votes, is as follows:
Qualifications for the Office of President
- Age and Citizenship requirements – US Constitution, Article II, Section 1
- No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.
- Term limit amendment – US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 – ratified February 27, 1951
- No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.
As you can see, from a Constitutional perspective, this is not a matter of concern. However, in the 227 years since the U.S. Constitution was ratified, a lot has changed. For example, we now have automobiles, trains, and airplanes, not to mention rockets that make space travel possible. It’s fair to say the bar has been raised. I for one, would like my President to have a college degree, and I don’t think that’s asking too much.
If Governor Walker were to ascend to the Presidency, he would be the first President in more than 60 years without at least a bachelor’s degree. In fact, of America’s 44 Presidents, only 25% (11) didn’t graduate from college, and that number is heavily weighted toward the pre-20th Century years.
Actually, there was only one, Harry Truman, from the 20th Century (April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953), and he essentially inherited the job, rising to the office after the death of President Roosevelt. He withdrew from Spalding’s Commercial College in Missouri.
The last non-college graduate President to be elected to the Presidency in his first term was William McKinley…in 1897 (March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901). President McKinley had previously left Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, after one year.
Presidential historian H.W. Brands, of the University of Texas, said, unless you’re someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (both college dropouts), not having a college degree would be “a serious handicap” in running for President. He went on to say:
“Nowadays a college degree has become the entry credential to nearly all jobs requiring any skill at all. A candidate lacking one would have some heavy explaining to do.”
The other former Presidents without a college degree were:
- George Washington (April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797)
- Andrew Jackson (March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837)
- Martin Van Buren (March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841)
- William Henry Harrison (March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841)
- Zachary Taylor (March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850)
- Millard Fillmore (July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853)
- Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865)
- Andrew Johnson (April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869)
- Grover Cleveland (March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889)
The meme that drew me to this subject basically asserted that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has a better education than Governor Scott Walker. Without comparing the collegiate rankings of the University of Idaho and Marquette University, the point was that Mrs. Palin, despite her frequent shallow appearance during the 2008 Presidential campaign, actually managed to secure a college degree. Governor Walker, not so much. On some level, even the possibility that Governor Walker could be Governor Palin redux plus, should be a scary proposition.
Alas, the inescapable nugget to which I am attempting to draw your attention is, this anti-education theme appears to be a pervasive element of the way Republicans see the world. Republican-led State legislatures have voted to take much of the history out of American History classes. Policymakers in Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina and Colorado have agitated to scrap or doctor the AP History course, citing its “liberal bias” and supposed focus on U.S. “blemishes.” Those blemishes include things such as discussions on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and even the fact that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Blemishes…really?
To wit, electing Governors without college degrees, and possibly, even a President, in the 21st Century, no less, is in my view evidence of a clear and dangerous fact-phobia; anti-intellectualism at its unfettered worst. My most fervent desire is that American patriots will rise up and defeat this backward thinking madness. However, clearly, there is an element of our society who thinks differently. If that segment is left to its own devices, we will devolve to… “No Degree, No Problem: It’s a Straight Up G-Thang!”
I’m done; holla back!
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