‘Elite’ education

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To expand upon Thomas Walman’s June 12 letter regarding President Barack Obama’s lack of common sense (“Obama Lacks Common Sense, Which Leaders Need”), I would add that several other things are playing out.

First is the notion that attendance at some “elite” school confers benefits of knowledge and leadership unavailable elsewhere. Harry Truman had to make more momentous decisions than Mr. Obama, and he never graduated from college. A large body of literature has accumulated questioning all the cliches about college, including its value and worth. Economist Robert Samuelson has written that college for all is an outmoded notion, and Joseph Epstein, in a December 2013 Wall Street Journal article, stated that, aside from math, medicine and the special sciences, undergraduate education mostly prepares you for more undergrad education — hence the proliferation, along with other factors, of self-involved, pseudo-educated types like the Obamas, the Clintons and Ted Cruz.

Second, Mr. Obama is an example of the severe limitations of a law degree. Having a law degree, even from an Ivy League school, in no way prepares one for grappling with the complexities of global warming, immigration, science and technology, the Middle East or military tactics and strategy. Reading American case law has nothing to do with understanding the politics of the Arab world, for example. When Mr. Obama responded to one of Vladimir Putin’s reasons for annexing Crimea with words to the effect that he didn’t know what lawyer Mr. Putin was consulting, he showed his benightedness: Mr. Putin isn’t consulting lawyers, he’s practicing 19th-century Russian imperialist realpolitik. Politics is mostly a messy choice between bad and worse and is completely removed from an unreal Harvard Law class.

Ideally, you would want individuals with backgrounds in business, the military, science and technology, as well as literature and philosophy, to hold office. Mr. Obama not only lacks common sense; he lacks the self-awareness to realize the limitations of his own background and worldview.

JEFF OLEN
Butler


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