It starts from the top down. As Coates noted, Obama earned his B.A. from Columbia University and his law degree from Harvard — where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review.
Donald Trump will be the first President of the United States in 25 years to not have a graduate degree of any kind. Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar and had a law degree from Yale University. Even George W. Bush had a Harvard MBA. Trump has B.S. in economics from University of Pennsylvania, but no advanced education.
Obama’s current Secretary of Education, John King Jr., has a B.A. from Harvard, a master’s degree and doctorate from Columbia, and a law degree from Yale on top of it all. He is one of the most educated people to ever hold the position of Secretary of Education. That makes sense right?
The incoming Secretary of Education is Betsy DeVos. She has a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College. That’s it. She’s also white and a billionaire. The standards are clearly different. Not a single black man in America would ever be under the impression that he could be Secretary of Education with a B.A. from Calvin College.
Perhaps no contrast is more stark than the difference between who President Obama has appointed as Secretary of Energy versus who Trump has appointed. Obama’s first Secretary of Energy was Steven Chu — a Nobel Prize winning physicist who is currently the Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. He has a B.A. in Math, a B.S. in Physics, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Berkeley.
After Chu served the Department of Energy for four years, he was succeeded by Ernest Moniz — who earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University. Moniz went on to join the faculty at MIT and eventually became the head of the physics department and co-chair of the MIT Research Council. These men are brilliant.
Trump just appointed Rick Perry — who failed his college chemistry course and had a transcript riddled with C’s & D’s. The former governor of Texas struggled his way into earning a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M. He doesn’t have any graduate degrees. He is famous for saying that if he became president, he would disband the Department of Energy, but he couldn’t even remember the name of the department.
These dropoffs in education level between the Obama Administration and the incoming Trump administration aren’t rare.
Secretary of State John Kerry has a law degree from Boston College. Rex Tillerson, who Trump nominated for the same role, didn’t go to grad school at all.
SECRETARY OF TREASURY
The current Secretary of the Treasury is Jack Lew. Lew has a B.A. from Harvard and a law degree from Georgetown. Trump nominated Steven Mnuchin. He doesn’t have a graduate degree of any kind.
Education matters. It is often on college campuses where people are challenged with new ideas, new cultures, and opposing viewpoints that don’t quite match their own.
While Trump, and these men, may indeed argue that they don’t need advanced graduate degrees, because they are so rich and successful, I’d prefer both. Not only that, but many of these nominees, and indeed Trump himself, don’t even have a day of experience working inside of the government. These systems are complicated and robust. To see the education levels drop off so much, is not just disappointing, it could be dangerous