How America’s anti-elitism might be creating a whiter White House – The Washington Post
2017/01/21 Leave a comment
Good analysis on the relative lack of diversity in the Trump cabinet, from a variety of perspectives:
As his Cabinet nominees were grilled by the Senate on the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump declared that “We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled!”
It’s a grandiose assertion, one that’s impossible to know. But by another metric, Trump’s nominees fall short: academic degrees.
As a whole, Trump’s picks to lead the nation’s government agencies have fewer advanced degrees than any first-term Cabinet in at least 24 years.
A third of the nominees in Trump’s 15-member executive team hold only a bachelor’s degree. A quarter obtained up to a master’s degree, and 40 percent achieved a law or medical degree. No one has a doctorate. Compare that to President Obama’s original Cabinet, which conservatives derided for being stacked with intellectual elites: Only two members held a bachelor’s degree alone. A third stopped their educations at a master’s degree, and more than half held doctorates, medical or law degrees — often from the nation’s most prestigious universities.
Certainly, education comes in many of forms. For some of Trump’s nominees, what they lack in classroom education has been made up for in relevant career experience. But there’s something uniquely important about schooling — it’s supposed to be America’s great equalizer, the traditional gateway to the higher levels of society. At least for people of color.
In 2008, it wasn’t lost on people that Obama’s nominated Cabinet was both loaded with academic credentials and among the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. Six of the 15 nominees belonged to minority groups, all of whom held advanced degrees. Obama himself has a Harvard law degree and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. (Bill Clinton’s first Cabinet included just as many minorities as Obama’s, and it was even more educated, with all but one Cabinet member holding doctorate or law degrees.)
Trump’s Cabinet also happens to be the wealthiest in modern history — illustrating how it’s possible for some to reach the top without racking up college degrees. That level of success without years of advanced education is nearly impossible for black and brown Americans, say sociologists, economists and political scientists who study the link between race, education and achievement.“Rarely will we find an example of an uncredentialed black person in an elite position,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist at The New School in New York. “That black person is usually certainly qualified, if not overqualified, with regard to their education.”
The makeup of Trump’s Cabinet reflects a growing disdain in America for intellectual elitism and a distrust of scientific empiricism. Trump, the first president not to hold an advanced degree since George H.W. Bush, tapped into that sentiment in his unprecedented campaign by slamming the “Washington elite,” rallying against the “political correctness” often tied to academia, and misstating the facts on climate change and President Obama’s citizenship.
“As higher education has become more accessible to more diverse groups of people, the general population has become more distrustful of education and expertise,” said Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. “They think there must be something suspect about education, because how great can Harvard really be if someone like Barack Obama got there?”
“In this country, diversity has gotten tied up in the idea of a liberal academy,” she said. “The election of Trump is a critique and rebuke of that.”