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Educating Sarah.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | February 9, 2010

Posted by Cliff Tuttle © 2010.

The Trib ran a front page story today on Sarah Palin after her address to the Tea Party convention.  She has her answer to the question whether she will run for President pretty much down pat and it all boils down to whether the prospects will look good for her after the 2010.

However, one thing she said that caught my eye was that she recognized that she needed to improve her education in certain key areas.  She mentioned international affairs in particular. But Sarah says that she is already hard at work studying.  She says that certain in-the-know people in Washington are keeping her informed of political developments with hundreds of emails, which she is devouring.

This raises an interesting and perhaps critical question.  What kind of education should a 21st Century President of the United States have?  We have a lot of folklore about Presidents with little or no formal education. Lincoln, as usual, tops the list, with Jackson perhaps occupying a close second.  However, truth was, they were both lawyers, which meant that they had to follow a course of study leading to admission to the bar.  Yet, both had some formal education (more than Washington)and both were, to a remarkable degree, self-educated.

Should the President  have the benefit of a legal education?  Probably. Law is the study of the rules of the game. Yet, there have been enough great Presidents, starting with George Washington, a military man and land surveyor, who never had the benefit of a legal education, that a legal education can’t be called essential. After all, the President has an Attorney General and an army of lawyers standing by.

What about Political Science?  My guess is that a bona-fide presidential candidate (or anyone at the center of a national election campaign) is getting the kind of education in the science of politics that cannot be offered in any course taught at any University by any professor. And the emails from Washington should fill in the gaps quite nicely.

How about History?  Now we’re on to something!  Presidential candidates in general and Sarah Palin in particular, could benefit from a solid education in History.  Of course, American History is first.  A couple of generations ago, this could be supplemented by a solid dose of European History (mostly Western) beginning with Greeks — Herodotus, Thucydides, you get the picture.  However, that curriculum is woefully out of date. The foundation and development of Islam and Islamic culture are now an essential element of any Presidential education.  This investigation must begin in the Seventh Century and end with yesterday’s newspaper.  Since the subject is so vast, perhaps it must be focused — focused on the American Presidential essentials.

Then there is the history of China and India.  Any President will have to know more than the basics about those two great cultural traditions.  Which brings us to Economics.

How can any President today afford to be ignorant of the field of Economics? He or she may not need to be an economist — but the level of education must be at minimum sufficient to understand the advice being offered by Treasury, the Fed, the Counsel of Economic Advisors.  But wouldn’t it  be nice if the President could critically analyze this advice?  Maybe, think for himself?

Which brings us to leaning and critical thinking itself.  The primary purpose of education is not simply to fortify the student with facts and information.  Education is wasted if it does not train the mind to think and learn. A Presidential calibre mind must be able to learn at a prodigious pace and — this is critical– analyze what is learned.

So, Sarah, if you would be President, you must apply your mind to History and Economics — lots and lots of it.  To do this properly, you must be really smart — as smart as Barack Obama. If you’re not up to that, move over.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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