Scott Walker don’t need no stinkin’ degree

Scott Walker 04

From: National Review, By: Michael J. Petrilli, February 20, 2015, read the full article HERE.

Many great job applicants lack a degree.


The pundit class is raising questions about whether Scott Walker’s lack of a college degree disqualifies him from being America’s 45th president. This is what educators call a “teachable moment,” because the issue goes much deeper than Governor Walker’s biography. Of course a college credential shouldn’t be a prerequisite for the presidency, but that’s also true for many jobs that today require a degree even when it’s not really necessary. That’s a big problem.

Many American leaders are obsessed with college as the path to economic opportunity. President Obama, for instance, wants America to lead the world in college graduates by 2020. But he’s hardly alone. Philanthropists, scholars, business leaders, and other members of the meritocratic elite have been banging the “college for all” – or at least “college for almost all” – drum for the better part of a decade.

Yet despite their own blue-ribbon educations, these leaders are making a classic rookie blunder: They mistake correlation for causation. They point to study after study showing that Americans with college degrees do significantly better on a wide range of indicators: income, marriage, health, happiness, you name it. But they assume that it’s something about college itself that makes the difference, some alchemy at their alma mater that turns gangly 18-year-olds into twentysomething masters of the universe.

Sure, college can be a great experience, and many individuals gain important knowledge, skills, insights, and contacts there. It’s also a prerequisite for most graduate and professional schools. All of that can help to build the “human capital” that enables people to get good-paying jobs and then excel at them.

But much of the college advantage can be explained by “selection bias” – the differences between those who tend to complete college and those who don’t. The dirty little secret of college is that it tends to bestow a credential on those who are already most likely to succeed. To use another term from Statistics 101, it’s “instrumental variables” that explain why college grads do better: their reading and math abilities; their social skills; their wealth. If people with these underlying advantages did something with their time other than go to college — like start a business or serve in the military — they would still outperform their peers over the long term.

Furthermore, research tells us how college students do “on average” against their peers without degrees. But those averages can mask a lot of variation. As Andrew Kelly succinctly put it in a recent paper for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “on average ≠ always.” He cites a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that found that the lowest-paid quartile of college graduates earns little more than average high-school graduates do; that’s been so since the 1970s. Which helps to explain all of those college-educated Starbucks baristas.

Back to Governor Walker. Our challenge as his prospective employer isn’t to determine whether presidents “on average” do better with a college degree than without one. It’s to consider Walker’s particular case. Does he have the knowledge and skills to do the job? What’s his track record in similar positions? We might conclude that his executive experience and legislative skills are quite solid but that his foreign-policy knowledge is a bit of a question mark. That’s the case with various of the successful GOP governors who are running for president. What matters isn’t whether they finished college 30 or 40 years ago, but how they’ve been performing in recent years, what kinds of advisers they are associating with, and what that implies for their potential success as president.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans don’t have this same opportunity to make their case to prospective employers, because their lack of a degree locks them out of the recruitment process altogether. While there are indeed some jobs that require the knowledge and skills gained in college, surely receptionists and photographers are not among them. Employers use college degrees as a proxy for smarts, perseverance, and other valuable skills. But this shortcut unwittingly excludes many talented people from their prospective hiring pool. This is especially unfair since it’s people who come from modest means (such as Walker) who are most likely to be disadvantaged by this type of credentialism. As Charles Murray has argued persuasively, a much better system would be one in which employers “rely more on direct evidence about what the job candidate knows, less on where it was learned or how long it took.”

Scott Walker may or may not be the best candidate for president. But there’s little doubt that he should be in the candidate pool. The same goes for millions of his non-college-educated peers who want a shot at a good job. We should give them a chance.


When all you have are academic credentials, they become that by which others are measured, i.e., when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Look at Barack Obama. He wasn’t successful as a community organizer, he didn’t do anything to stand out as an attorney- he never tried a case. As a State Senator, he was given credit by Emil Jones for legislation actually created by others and still voted “present” 129 times. And he had barely found his way to his U.S. Senate office when he began his campaign for president (he sponsored ONE bill that became law).

In short, he never produced in any of his jobs; he could claim no real accomplishments and barely rose to the level of adequate in any of his chosen positions.

Yet, somehow he was deemed to be qualified to be the CEO of the most complicated, complex entity on the planet – the United States government.

And what have learned from six years of his “leadership”? We learned (painfully) that we should have looked more closely at his work history and relied less on his academic achievements.

The country hired a lightweight unaccomplished academic to do a real live heavyweight job and now we’re paying the price (and so will our children and our children’s children, etc.).





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11 Responses to Scott Walker don’t need no stinkin’ degree

  1. Uriel says:

    Good piece Garnet…. couple of points 1) most colleges while providing good founding in specific fields are used as hotbeds to harness energy of those young emerging adults into the world of communism and malcontent with the status quo. 2) unless the student is driven to succeed in a field enough to ignore much of campus life then those who graduate are no better off (and probably worse) for not receiving a hands on commonsense education only found by living life outside the controlled and directed life on a campus. Too many graduate thinking they are totally prepared to be the elite walking straightway into the world when in actuality they are prepared for little.

    • Garnet92 says:

      Agreed Uriel, a degree alone only shows that someone put in the time required to graduate (especially when the detail of a transcript isn’t provided). Many party their time through college only to graduate with little real education – better they would have taken a job and received some real experience.

  2. Kathy says:

    It’s been said that George Washington didn’t go to college – he only attended school until he was 14 or 15, and he seems to have done alright without it.

    A college education is good, but a person has to have some common sense and patriotism, neither of which our current leader possesses. I’d take a Scott Walker with no degree over an O any day.

  3. captbogus2 says:

    Harry Truman had no college. Nor did Abraham Lincoln.
    Unlike Woodrow Wilson, who taught at Princeton or FDR who was a graduate of Harvard…..
    Seems a ‘higher’ education should be a red flag to voters.

  4. Garnet92 says:

    I think it depends on the field of study capt. I think that the “red flag” should be when the individual has a degree in political science and law – those are the ones who have trained to be first, a lawyer, and later a politician – double trouble!

  5. captbogus2 says:

    Not sure, Garnet. Most of our early Founding Fathers studied law and I doubt PolySci was on the 18th Century curriculum. Curricula… Whatever..

  6. Garnet92 says:

    No doubt capt., but I’m referring to present day, not the time of the Founding Fathers.

  7. Clyde says:

    Too bad the leftist loon media has NEVER read the Constitutional qualifications. They would KNOW that a degree is NOT neccessary. IMHO, a degree, especially from Hahvahd or Yale is an IMMEDIATE disqualification. Good piece, Garnet.

  8. Hardnox says:

    Good post. The left is scared if they are attacking Walker this early. They always tell us who they fear the most.