Thursday, May 25, 2006

So, What's the Point of College?

On the surface this is one of those "who cares" stories. It seems the president's personal aide, a long time family friend and college dropout, has been admitted to Harvard Business School, despite his lack of sheepskin. The thought is that four years babysitting the WH dogs, making PB & J's and giving W a two minute warning before speeches is fairly equal to four years of undergraduate studies. An "A" in cronyism gets you into the Ivy League everytime.

I've long believed that Universities are more interested in what kind of alumni you will make than how you will perform as a student. HBS obviously realize this kid has the right connections to make him "their" kind of alumni, so the decision is win/win for them. Others have pointed out that four years in the White House must be a learning experience like none other. For those who have seen West Wing, picture the lessons Charlie has learned from Jeb Bartlett. The problem here is, W is not a Jeb Bartlett, history wonk and philosopher. Nor is he a Bill Clinton, Rhodes Scholar. He's not even a Ronald Reagan or a George I. As we have seen from the results of his presidency, W is a former "C" student, failed CEO president, who disdains intellectualism, lacks inquisitiveness and presides over the most dissent free administration in decades. What could this kid have possibly learned from that?

Going to college is about a lot of things - growing up and becoming independent, meeting new people and new ways of thinking, studying a variety of subjects and diversifying your knowledge, but most of all, it is about challenge. Challenging yourself and what you know, challenging your parents and what they have taught you, challenging your professors and classmates until you are blue in the face and loaded for bear. Blake Gottesman, the young man in question, has quite possibly managed to grow into adulthood over the last four years, and he has certainly met quite a few people, but as for the most important lessons of a college education, his time in the Bush WH has been a miserable failure, of that we can be sure.

The unfortunate and lasting outcome of this action by Harvard is another generation of bad business school grads let loose on a nation besieged by corporate corruption. Yes, they have been graduating useless students for decades; just look at the president. But wouldn't it be nice if actual hard work and educational achievement were rewarded over cronyism and elitism. But then again, like government contracts and executive salaries, things in America just don't work that way.