These Educated Men

Some forms of elite Tertiary Education are meaningless. This is eminently verifiable if you judge the elite schools by their products/graduates. It really doesn’t tell you what the person knows, learnt, studied or how well they can think. It is of not much use in the vocational stakes, and actually, it’s not even all that good in the enlightenment stakes either.

How did I come at this today? I was in conversation with a friend about what a clown Donal Trump is, and openly wondered if he even had an education worth spit that might help him with the kinds of complex decisions facing the office of POTUS. I know, I know, it’s a bit late now, now that he’s got the job, but we in Australia didn’t dig too deep beyond the bloviating orange visage of a reality TV star. We simply didn’t think he’d win.

Just for kicks we looked up Wikipedia to see what his education reads like on paper:

Trump at New York Military Academy, 1964[13][14]
Trump grew up in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens, New York. He attended the Kew-Forest School from kindergarten through seventh grade,[15] riding the subway to school.[16]By age 13, Trump’s rambunctious behavior prompted his parents to enroll him at the New York Military Academy, a boarding school in Cornwall, New York. “I was a wise guy, and they wanted to get me in line,” Trump said. “Thinking back, it was a very positive influence.”[15]
In August 1964, Trump entered Fordham University in the Bronx. After two years at Fordham, he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, because it offered one of the few real estate studies departments in United States academia at the time.[17][18]
In addition to his father, other role models whom he sought to emulate included the Manhattan developer William Zeckendorf.[19][20][21] While at Wharton, he worked at the family’s company, Elizabeth Trump & Son, named for his paternal grandmother.[22] He graduated from Penn in May 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.[18][23][24]

A bit long there, but enough to go on. He essentially got a four year Bachelor of Science degree, and his major was in ‘Real Estate’. The weirdness of that combination of titles ought to set one’s head spinning. If ‘Real Estate’ was a proper subject of academia and economics were a science, then the Donald’s degree would theoretically hold water. We don’t know what the Wharton School taught that made ‘Real Estate’ a subject worthy of academic instruction, and how they justify economics to be part of a science degree, but there you have it — as bogus a four year degree that could be awarded by a school of great reputation.

The point is not, did he attain a degree; the pointed question is did Donald Trump get an education at all, and what quality was that education? After all, we’re talking about a man who is a climate change denier. All that science-ing he did in the 60s sure didn’t prepare him for the role in which he currently presides over. The evidence so far is not very good.

Just as a comparison we pulled up George W. Bush’s page, because his reputation for having been the worst-POTUS-ever looked formidable and inviolate until the turn of events in late 2016’s election. Dubya, if we may all recall was nobody’s idea of an intellectual or a wise man or a man given to educated thought. No, Mr. Mission-Accomplished appeared to have more in common with Forrest Gump, and yet this is his education summarised:

Bush attended public schools in Midland, Texas, until the family moved to Houston after he had completed seventh grade. He then spent two years at The Kinkaid School, a prep school in Houston.[21]
Bush attended high school at Phillips Academy, a boarding school (then all-male) in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and was the head cheerleader during his senior year.[22][23] He attended Yale University from 1964 to 1968, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history.[24] During this time, he was a cheerleader and a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon, serving as the president of the fraternity during his senior year.[25][26][27] Bush became a member of the Skull and Bones society as a senior.[28] Bush was a rugby union player and was on Yale’s 1st XV.[29] He characterized himself as an average student.[30] His GPA during his first three years at Yale was 77, and he had a similar average under a nonnumeric rating system in his final year.[31]
Beginning in the fall of 1973, Bush attended Harvard Business School. He graduated in 1975 with an M.B.A. degree. He is the only U.S. president to have earned an M.B.A.[32]

I guess we misunderestimated him for a reason.

If anything that entry paints a very bleak picture of how barren the educational attainments of the Ivy League schools are. Now, I’m not saying “look at these guys, they did well in life in spite of this crappy education.” That would be giving them too much credit. What I’m saying is that these are the scions of rich and powerful men, and education had very little to do with their latter success. Because what these elite schools like Yale and Harvard do for the likes of Dubya, is to give them a certificate they can wave to the world to say they got brainwashed in the same, respectable manner as the other elites.

George W. Bush is the only POTUS with an MBA. If education were truly of value in of itself, then his time in the White House represented the moment for economists at least, that an economic equivalent of the Philosopher King was in charge. This should have been the moment for economics. Ironic then, that the same man should end up presiding over the Global Financial Crisis and the Great Recession that followed. So much for Plato’s The Republic and the American Republic as well.

Closer to home, the craptastic duo of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey will go down in history as one of the worst leadership tandems in Australian political history. Abbott in particular not only was a University of Sydney product but also a Rhodes Scholar. WTE (‘Worst Treasurer Ever’) Joe Hockey has an Arts/Law degree from University of Sydney as well. No small potatoes in the prestige educational pedigree stakes and we only have to look at their dismal record to wonder if they actually learned anything of value or substance in their respective educational experience. Perhaps this is why they did their best to hamper education in this country — they themselves knew it was all crap. For the life of me I can’t imagine having these guys as alumni makes the University of Sydney feel prouder. So much for prestige.

I guess one can’t judge from a handful of cherry picked examples of how education has failed their students badly intellectually (and yet somehow they rose to the top of politics), and to argue anything general about tertiary education; but as four low-hanging, extremely prominent cherries go, there’s a lot that can be said about the value of just having a degree for the sake of respectability, if anything to hide one’s true ignorance and stupidity. The sad thing is that education would be so much better if it could annihilate the very same ignorance and stupidity. The rest, is history in the making.