Daniel W. Drezner

What is it about grad school?

Noam Scheiber has a long story in The New Republic that argues the contrast between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s leadership styles can be explain by the differences between Harvard law school (Obama’s alma mater) and Yale law School (Clinton’s alma mater):  "The two schools stand on opposite sides of a cultural chasm in the ...

Noam Scheiber has a long story in The New Republic that argues the contrast between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama's leadership styles can be explain by the differences between Harvard law school (Obama's alma mater) and Yale law School (Clinton's alma mater):  "The two schools stand on opposite sides of a cultural chasm in the academic world. Even more than that, they stand for different theories of governing."

I always love Scheiber's long-form stuff (full disclosure:  Scheiber was my editor when I wrote for TNR online), but this seems like an explanation too far for me.  One could reverse the question and ask whether Harvard Business School explains George W. Bush (my guess is no).  As PrawfsBlawg puts it, "this is decidely one of those cases where the plural of anecdote is not data, and the whole piece comes off as weakly supported." 

There's something else about this essay that gnaws at me, however -- why is graduate school now the formative experience for presidents?  I bet more people know that Clinton went to Yale law school than Georgetown as an undergrad.  That holds double for Obama's matriculation at Harvard law school, which overlooks his time at either Occidental or Columbia. 

Noam Scheiber has a long story in The New Republic that argues the contrast between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s leadership styles can be explain by the differences between Harvard law school (Obama’s alma mater) and Yale law School (Clinton’s alma mater):  "The two schools stand on opposite sides of a cultural chasm in the academic world. Even more than that, they stand for different theories of governing."

I always love Scheiber’s long-form stuff (full disclosure:  Scheiber was my editor when I wrote for TNR online), but this seems like an explanation too far for me.  One could reverse the question and ask whether Harvard Business School explains George W. Bush (my guess is no).  As PrawfsBlawg puts it, "this is decidely one of those cases where the plural of anecdote is not data, and the whole piece comes off as weakly supported." 

There’s something else about this essay that gnaws at me, however — why is graduate school now the formative experience for presidents?  I bet more people know that Clinton went to Yale law school than Georgetown as an undergrad.  That holds double for Obama’s matriculation at Harvard law school, which overlooks his time at either Occidental or Columbia. 

Speaking for myself, I undoubtedly learned a lot at my graduate school.  If pressed, however, I suspect that my truly formative years were spent at this place.  I also suspect that this is true of more professionals than not. 

I put it to (well educated) readers, however — what matters more in your biography, your undergraduate years or your graduate years? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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