By Courtney Tennill
Every time I visit a doctor’s office, I’m somewhat comforted by the degrees on the wall. Granted, a degree doesn’t come with a caring personality attached. But it does mean the person had to complete four years’ worth of study pertaining to the human body-and more importantly, pass a battery of exams before getting the title of M.D. I appreciate that. And after considering the idea, I realized just how many people in my life had to prove themselves by passing exams.
My high school teachers passed state boards. The lady who cuts my hair passed an exam to become a cosmetologist. The pharmacy technicians who bottle my medication passed exams to obtain their licenses. Even my father, who runs a geothermal installation business, has to pass an exam every year to keep his HVAC license. Not long ago, I was watching election coverage when I realized that there’s at least one important job that has no official prerequisites. Well, I take that back.
You have to be 35 years old, a natural-born citizen of the United States, and have resided here for the past fourteen years. That’s right-I’m talking about the president of the United States. I could find millions of people who could theoretically hold that office without so much as a high school education. I’ll be the first to admit that the requirements listed in the Constution aren’t the only ones candidates have to fulfill. The political arena adds countless unofficial prerequisites, like prestigious degrees and military service. I’ll also be the first to admit that a high school dropout would never make it onto the political radar.
And one could easily argue that the presence of the media forces those in office to pass makeshift exams on a daily basis, what with constant coverage of every move they make-good or bad.
However, my problem with the lack of specific educational or exam requirements for presidential candidates is not necessarily that it lets idiots slip through the fingers of the political system. The alternative just seems like a much sounder way to choose leaders for our country.
Imagine tuning into CNN for 2012 election coverage and discovering that your favorite candidate scored a 37 percent on an exam covering basic world geography. Or that the same person could not pass the AP American History exam you did three years ago.
I’m not necessarily arguing that being able to ace a battery of tests would make someone a good president. Things like ability to endure mental stress and leadership qualities can’t be tested, and they’re just as important. I just think I’d feel better knowing the current president knew as much or more than I did about geography, political science, history, budgeting and the environment. We wouldn’t even need to require presidental candidates to pass the test. They would just have to take it.
The results alone-and the subsequent media coverage-would probably have the same effect. But imagine what elections would be like if passing were requisite. Things like money, political names or years in the senate wouldn’t matter as much.
New people might enter the political arena-and voters might have to research their candidates, weigh their options and make more informed voting decisions. And we might never end up with another president who can’t pronounce the word nuclear.