2008/10/26

Educational Background

Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A.
Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

vs.

John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

7 comments:

don't delete me! said...

Hey now, let's not be elitist snobs! Remember Abe Lincoln had little formal education although he studied quite a bit on his own (made it through several volumes of Euclid's Elements and many books in the Library of Congress).

I could see the education argument (presumably it's an argument) if I thought it was so important to being a politician. Sure, I wouldn't move into a high-rise building built by self-taught architects and engineers or uncredentialed construction workers. But we're talking about the kind of snotty Ivy league education that is mostly filled with 'useless' crap (like literature, anthropology). Even subjects like economics are taught extremely poorly at the undergrad level and I've meet plenty of economics graduate students that never learned enough "technical stuff" (like math and logical reasoning) to really understand what the hell they are doing.

I think there are many politicians (particularly at the local level) that don't have much of a formal education but end up doing a lot of good. At the national level, it's rarer, and I think it's partly a function of connections, e.g. go to Yale and meet other chidren of big-wig politicians, rather than because those politicians are just sooooo intelligent.

Being a politician is largely a function of interacting with people and arguing over stuff. It's nice to see a truly academic politician like Gore, and I'd honestly like it if the President was an intellectual (not just a glorified lawyer type), but I can't see why that is actually an important qualification. That's why they have academic types advising them.

Speaking of which, Obama critiques McCain's policies (such as health care) a lot, but in reality, his advisors agree with McCain on health care, for example, see http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/10/obamas-advisers.html . I don't think McCain's policies are any less thought out or intellectual than Obama's. That's not to say I agree with them, but I just don't see how saying for example, McCain is dumb, is anything more than an ad hominem.

don't delete me said...

addendum: on the health care thing, it looks like Furman's quote were taken out of context. But my original point, about discussing the merits of McCain vs Obama on policy, rather than their educational pedigree, stands. (I had read the WSJ article but not the rebuttal by Ezra Klein)

Jennifer said...

The last 8 years certainly demonstrate that education isn't everything. That Harvard MBA doesn't appear to have worked any wonders. (But I still disagree with don't delete me!--ignorance is dangerous, as we should also have learned over the last 8 years.)

ThePeat said...

We need to maintain some distinction between "elitist" and "elite." Obama is elite because he's taken advantage of his privilege to educate himself as far as he has. McCain has not. The elitist position would follow the proffered straw-man argument: Obama is better than Lincoln because he went to Harvard and Columbia. The more sensible argument--the one our dear blogger is making--is that Obama is better than McCain because while McCain drank his way through a military school, Obama worked his butt off to learn as much as he could. And at least he graduated.

What's really troubling about this situation then is not that we might not elect the elite, but that we'll do quite the opposite: we may end up electing those who have been so blind to their privilege that they couldn't even work their way respectably through and undergraduate curriculum. With so many people denied the opportunity to go to college, it should be scandalous that McCain and Palin mocked the advantages handed to them, choosing to squander government funds (many of these schools are state or federal schools) on an education they took no interest in or responsibility for.

And now they structure important elements of their campaign on mocking science and education as an ends elitist in itself.

I don't mind the uneducated holding positions of responsibility. But I do mind those who have remained ignorant by choice when they had the chance to be taught. And I mind even more when those same people launch ignorant polemics against education, as if tradition and God would solve all our problems.

don't delete me! said...

I never said ignorance was good, so I can only imagine that ignorance is being equated with a lack of formal education. That's silly.

In the last comment, we see an argument that Obama is better because he took advantage of his schooling as compared to McCain. This when talking about a 72 year old man who's done hell of a lot more than Obama since they graduated. We shouldn't be judging these two based on where they went to school and their ranking there. We should be looking at what they've done, and no matter what I think of McCain personally (and whether he's done that much good or not), his experience is certainly vast and more than makes up for whatever he was doing in the Naval academy instead of studying.

And I see no evidence that Palin squandered her educational opportunities. The University of Idaho is a respectable institution, and certainly far better than where she started. So this is an example of working her way up. Not squandering.

don't delete me! said...

You know, the whole assumption that somehow Palin didn't work her way respectably through school reeks...of elitism. I know plenty of people would look down on a record like that, "oh look, she transferred, etc." and I consider them snobs. I also know people with similar records whom I would consider among the hardest working, intelligent people I know.

ThePeat said...

The point on Palin is a good one. The list looks embarrassing, because there are five institutions, but I took as many years to get my BA, and maybe should count myself lucky I went to a school I didn't hate attending.

What I wanted to focus on was the distressing attitude toward education taken by the R ticket. Palin's lampooned fruit fly research, failing to realize--or ignoring--that fruit flies are an important tool in studying genetics. Their positions seems not to be "we're uneducated, but that doesn't make us worse than you," but "we're uneducated, and that makes us better than you."

Further, while there's nothing to be ashamed of in taking 5 years and as many schools to get a BA, there is much to be said for excelling consistently, and striving for more difficult accomplishments--and, perhaps this is most important, there's something to be said for elected officials who so clearly value their own educations. Whom do we want, after all, fixing our embarrassing schools?

Lastly, central to the question of elitism: this isn't a question of who is the better person or has accomplished the most. It is a question of whom we want with executive power. I have no problem with the uneducated holding office in the legislative branch: indeed, it's undoubtedly crucial that there be diverse reputation in that body. The presidency cannot, structurally, be representative; there are too many different people for any one person to represent them all. Instead, it should be the place for the elite amongst the elites.