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article imageOp-Ed: Scott Walker serves as interesting higher education litmus test

By Calvin Wolf     Feb 18, 2015 in Politics
While unlikely to gain any traction in the 2016 Republican primaries, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is starting a conversation we desperately need...but do not want to begin.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is unlikely to go very far in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. He is an outspoken liability who lacks the name recognition and experience of many of his competitors. However, Walker is bringing something important to the presidential campaign table, whether we want it or not: A conversation about the role of college.
Walker, in a rarity among state-level politicians, lacks a college degree. Having dropped out of Marquette University only a semester shy of graduation, the governor is now making waves for wanting to cut big bucks from the University of Wisconsin system. Years ago, he made national news for trying to gut public sector employee unions, running afoul of K-12 public school teachers. Historically, Walker became the only U.S. governor to survive a recall election.
While Walker won't win in 2016, he is an interesting character who can shape the actions of the winners. He has enough "political gravity" to alter their paths. Part of this "political gravity" is the litmus test he provides regarding college education. Walker lacks a college degree. Will America vote for a president who lacks a post-secondary sheepskin? Walker wants to cut college funding. Will America get tough on bloated college spending?
I disapprove of Walker for his union-busting, but I like that he is bringing up conversations that need to be had. Should we demand that everyone in a position of "leadership" have a college degree? Is it wrong to reduce spending on education, either K-12 or higher? We tend to shy away from these questions, lest we find ourselves run afoul of our fellows. Those who demand that "leaders" have college degrees are derided as elitist, while those who insist leaders do not need formal credentials are criticized as "anti-intellectual." Those who refuse to cut education spending are seen as elitist "limousine liberals" who are good at "spending other people's money." Those who want to cut education spending are seen as cruel, backward Neanderthals who hate children and knowledge.
Let the name-calling and finger-pointing begin!
By coming on the heels of Obama's proposal for free community college for all, Walker makes himself a polar opposite with his plan to cut higher education funding in Wisconsin. This will temporarily give him strength as a "true conservative" who is willing to go against the White House grain. Other Republicans in the presidential milieu have yet to brand themselves as anti-Obama so early. Walker's aggressive governance may force the GOP pack to shift further to the right.
And, with Republican education wonks Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush as part of the presidential pack, you can bet that Walker's goal of slashing college funding will bring up plenty of talking points. Perhaps most interesting, we will see how Rubio and Bush really feel about college, and K-12, education funding. Walker will force their hand, and this is a good thing. As a voter, I want to know how the presidential candidates will govern in terms of federal funding for K-12 and higher education. As a high school teacher, I am even more interested.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Governor Scott Walker, Scott walker, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, College, Higher education
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