Friday, September 26, 2008

The Education of Politicians

Biden's recent demonstration of striking ignorance of both political and technological history raises an interesting question: How well educated are successful politicians? People writing about them are likely to themselves be intellectuals of one sort or another, often academics, hence inclined to attribute to those they support the virtues that academics approve of. But is it true?

Suppose, for instance, that all four candidates were required, tomorrow, to take the SAT aptitude tests and a small selection of the SAT subject tests--say American history, math, literature, and one or two others. Any guess which if any of them would get scores that would earn admission to Stanford? University of Michigan? Podunk U.?

At various points during the past eight years, information on grades for Bush, Gore and Kerry, SAT scores for Bush and Gore, became public. Gore had a respectable score (730) on the math SAT, but his one D was in natural science, which is at least interesting. My guess is that if one did have such information, it would be a rare candidate for President or VP who met the standards that elite academics routinely apply to each other and their students.

Anybody know if any such data has been made public with regard to any of the current candidates?

Of course, as I commented in my earlier post on the Biden gaffe, it isn't clear that it matters very much.


Anonymous said...


Jim Miller

Unknown said...'s_grades_in_high_school

"Obama finished in the top ten percentile in his high school of 3600. He attended Punahou School, a multi-ethnic school in Hawaii, where he went by the name Barry Obama. Since starting his political career, he has gone back to his given name, Barack Obama."'s_grades_in_college

"I don't know about college, but he was magna cum laude in Harvard Law School, meaning he was in the top 10% of his class, and he was president of Harvard Law Review, the highest honor for a Harvard Law graduate."

And Bill Clinton was the first Rhodes Scholar but did not graduate with the intended degree:

June 9, 1994
Oxford Journal; Whereas, He Is an Old Boy, If a Young Chief, Honor Him

President Clinton returned today for a sentimental journey to the university where he didn't inhale, didn't get drafted and didn't get a degree.


Mr. Stephanopoulous said Mr. Clinton did not get his degree because he switched from one program to another, ultimately pursuing a B.Phil. in Politics, and had a year left to go to get a graduate degree when the opportunity came to go to Yale Law School.

A Rhodes scholarship provides for two years of study at Oxford University, with a third year granted by application. Most Rhodes Scholars earn degrees at Oxford, and all are expected to remain full-time students until they complete their programs, but Mr. Clinton is not the only one to have left after two years without having done so.

Mike Huben said...

McCain, class rank 894/899 at Naval Academy

Obama, class rank Harvard Law, 1.

Hawaii Pacific University (Fall 1982),
North Idaho College (Spring 1983 & Fall 1983),
University of Idaho (Fall 1984 - Spring 1985),
Matanuska-Susitna College (Fall 1985) and
University of Idaho (Spring 1986, Fall 1986 and Spring 1987 ).

506th of 688 at the University of Delaware in Newark. Juris Doctor from Syracuse University College of Law (76th of 85)

I was listening to Bill Clinton on the John Stewart show the other day, and was very impressed with his style of intellectually addressing the issues. That's why I want another academic achiever like Obama: foks like McCain that confuse their party's spin with the facts give me a pain. For all Biden's gaffe was stupid, he's still aiming better at the issues than the Republicans.

Joel Davis said...

but, the more interesting aspect of biden's comment isn't that he forgot which president oversaw the beginning of the depression, but that he was essentially pulling information out of his ass and presenting as fact. We have to ask: what happens when he's lying in a nonobvious with the perceived credibility of the office of vice-president behind him?

Anonymous said...

Are politicians more than their misstatements?

If a politician is ignorant in one statement, and another politician is ignorant in 50% of their statements, are they equally ignorant?

If we followed you around with video cameras for three months, would we be able to extract a few ignorant quotes from it?