Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker never finished college.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is teetering on the edge of a presidential run.

Do we have a problem here? Howard Dean thinks so:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker didn’t graduate from college, and Howard Dean says it would be a problem if the Republican ran for president.

He’s one of the few.

“The issue is, how well educated is this guy?” said Dean, a former Vermont governor who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Feb. 12, amid a surge in polls for Walker. “I worry about people being president of the United States not knowing much about the world and not knowing much about science.”

Dean’s comments were met with almost instant backlash from both the left and the right. Snobbery. Elitism. Distance and disown! And yet…

And yet. I’m not the only one wondering who will be the first to de-glove on the issue of academic gravitas vs. real life experience, and it’s a real concern for Walker, who by all accounts has more than earned the right to throw his hat in the ring.

Recently, a fan by the name of Kyle Smith asked “Dirty Jobs” star Mike Rowe about his thoughts on college as a prerequisite for higher office; Rowe’s response was epic.

He told the story of his first TV audition—he was tasked with creating an 8 minute cold pitch for a Ticonderoga #2 pencil. He had no experience as a professional actor, but 8 minutes of pressure mixed with raw talent got him a job on QVC and helped him launch his career.

The tie-in? Don’t “confuse qualifications with competency.”

Obviously, we need a bit more from our elected officials than the instincts of a home shopping host, but the business of determining what those “qualifications” are is completely up to us. We get to decide what matters most. We get to decide if a college degree or military service is somehow determinative. We get to decide if Howard Dean is correct.

Anyone familiar with my foundation knows my position. I think a trillion dollars of student loans and a massive skills gap are precisely what happens to a society that actively promotes one form of education as the best course for the most people. I think the stigmas and stereotypes that keep so many people from pursuing a truly useful skill, begin with the mistaken belief that a four-year degree is somehow superior to all other forms of learning. And I think that making elected office contingent on a college degree is maybe the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

But of course, Howard Dean is not the real problem. He’s just one guy. And he’s absolutely right when he says that many others will judge Scott Walker for not finishing college. That’s the real problem.

A few years ago, I may have wrinkled my nose at a candidate that hadn’t finished college. I still place importance in the value of higher education, and probably add greater weight to advanced degrees than most conservatives; but there’s a big difference between being competent to draft a white paper on health care policy, and being competent to lead a body of hundreds to common ground on health care policy.

Scott Walker will have to prove himself just like any other candidate making a run at the Oval Office; and if he can come out on top of the pack currently jostling for attention, he deserves our support—college degree or no.

Here’s the full post:

Can we plaster this message on the screen of every TV in America, please?

Featured Image via Mike Rowe