Word. Encouragement for us non-degree-holding smarty pants types.

So, this kid here never finished college.

Er, hasn’t finished yet (and isn’t presently enrolled).

I still have pie-in-the-sky ivy league, post-grad visions of grandeur. I’m a smart enough kiddo who loves the instant gratification of papers and exams and loves the scholastic mandate (excuse?) to lose myself in someone else’s writing and then ruminate on it for a grade. It’s Grown-Up Fun.

I love school, school loves me.

And it smarts a little when I realize how much I’ve let myself down by letting myself off the hook for the last dozen or so years since I last pursued collegiate-stuff full-time.

I don’t talk about it much, publicly (instead, I e-publish it and toss it out on webernets for posterity. Much less embarrassing that way, right?). It’s like a bruise to my otherwise “smart person” persona that I’d rather keep hidden under the bed. Sure, I have hundreds of credits to my name. One year of “Fancy College” in San Diego assembled an interesting mash-up of bible classes and Christian psychology. Many years of intermittent community college landed me with a different cornucopia of art history, media studies, and philosophy classes before a previous employer offered to pony up for an accounting degree which, while never finished, landed me with not-quite-transferable professional-development credits that favored debits, balance sheets, and direct cost crud that derailed my “lib arts” plans for a good several semesters.

AND YET — even though I haven’t had the luxury of finishing an official degree, those dozen-plus years of sometimes-school means I fancy myself a reasonably well-educated brat, well-read (except that I undercut myself by slumming it with the Motley Crue memoir this weekend….and….enjoyed it), supremely enthusiastic about learning, and still eager to fulfill my promise to myself to belly up and finalize a degree before the b-a-b-i-e-s commence in a few years.

THAT bit of personal history is why I was fascinated by one Greta Van Susteren’s article on Huffington Post that asked if we’ll ever have a president who attended a community college. It’s a quick couple of paragraphs:

I was lucky, I went to some pretty good schools (University of Wisconsin and Georgetown Law School). One thing I learned going to those two schools and teaching in a law school, and rubbing shoulders all these years with people who went to similar schools or even much fancier ones, is that graduates of fancy schools don’t have a monopoly on being smart or having good common sense or even good ideas and strong leadership skills. There is a giant pool of other people — yes, those who went to a community college or maybe no college — who are really smart. I regret we don’t tap into this pool more often for ideas and for leadership. 

In many instances you go to fancy schools because you can — your family has money, or you have scholarship or a special mentor, or your family guided you there because they knew about those schools. Some families don’t even think those schools are within reach and so we never get to experience the leadership skills of their family member. 

I am certainly not criticizing those who seize the opportunity and go to fancy schools — but merely lamenting the fact that we miss the opportunity to experience the great skills and leadership of those who did not. Not everything is learned in a classroom — and all A’s doesn’t mean you have the answers for everyone else. It means you are good at tests. I think practical real life experience is much more valuable.

Oh, I have practical real life experience in droves. AND I get A’s. Using The Greta Criterion I should be president. I have decent common sense, good ideas, and, if not necessarily Global Superpower Leadership Ability, I’m young yet. So I should probably run for president.

All kidding aside, I was about eleven years old when I recall watching my first national political convention. Watching the delegates parade in, watching the speeches, watching the “who’s-who” of early nineties politics rub shoulders and give ovation after ovation, I remember being struck by the VERY vivid thought: “I’m supposed to be there someday.”

Sure, convictions of an eleven year-old’s homework-dodging mind are not always indications of a higher career calling, but, it was the beginning of my fascination with the theatre of politics, with the euphoric spell a finely-crafted speech casts upon an audience, with the cyclical nature of fervor and frustration on a national scale…..there’s something about the whole meal deal of Politics that continues to engage me on a sort of romantic level, as one of humankind’s oldest traditions, as something toward which precious few people feel REAL apathy (sure, there’s conversational apathy, but I think most people DO have fairly specific opinions about how the world ought to run).

This year, my personal political outlook has changed QUITE a bit, been tested quite a bit, and I’ve re-evaluated quite a bit, but what hasn’t changed is my fascination with the theatrics of elections, with the pomp of it all, the “using too many words to say too little” tactic used to whip large crowds into a sign-waving frenzy….it’s FUN.

And Greta’s right, smart folks come from less-lauded Alma maters, too (but, the sad truth, I fear, is that our current pool of political candidates is whittled more by the dollars to their name than by their smarts or their “practical real-life experience.”).

Anyway — more power to community college candidates of the future. We’re out there.

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