We don’t need primary debates, we need a prep school for potential presidents
Acton Institute Powerblog

We don’t need primary debates, we need a prep school for potential presidents

Last night was the second primary presidential debate of the election season. The debates are promoted as a way to distinguish the candidates from one another. But they are a terrible format for achieving that objective (see: Why presidential primary debates make us dumber).

Currently, there are 24 Democrats who have officially declared they are running for their party’s nomination. On the other side of the political spectrum only one Republican—former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld—is challenging President Trump. Can we really tell which of them would make the best President based on 60 second soundbites? Can we truly determine who has the relevant “experience” to be the chief executive and commander-in-chief based on how they answer a debate question?

No, we can’t. Which is why we need a better plan for knowing which of the candidates has acquired the skill-set needed to be the leader of the free world. That is why I’ve decided to design a preparatory course that would help prepare future candidates for the job, one that would (Acton Institute bias alert) promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

It’s too late for this gaggle of candidates, but here’s how it would work prior to future elections.

Candidates for the course would signal their intention to run for the highest office in the land by applying to head of their political party. Once the candidate was accepted, the DNC, RNC, or third party organization, would fully fund the cost of the schooling and pay the “student” a salary equivalent to a second-term Congressional representative. Candidates would be provided with full health and dental benefits as well as two weeks vacation per year.

The 105-week curriculum would begin the week before Inauguration Day and end just in time for the student to organize their campaign for the coming primary season.

The course would include the following eight sections:

Section I — Foundation

Course location: Great Books Program at St. Johns College, University of Dallas, or Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute

A 180 academic day program of reading and discussing with others the great books of the Western tradition. The readings, based on the curriculum of St. Johns College, would be organized into five segments: Literature, Politics and Society, Philosophy and Theology, Mathematics and Natural Science, and History. (For example, the “Politics and Society Seminar” includes: Plutarch: Lives: Lycurgus and Solo, Plato: Republic, Aristotle: Politics, Machiavelli: The Prince, Locke: Second Treatise of Civil Government, Rousseau: On the Origin and Foundations of Inequality, Marx: 1844 Manuscripts, Tocqueville: Democracy in America.)

Time: 36 weeks

Section II — Strategic

Course location: U.S. Army War College/Naval War College

The Army War College and the Naval War College prepare students to assume strategic leadership responsibilities and help them better grasp the fundamental essence of war. The academic year would consist of approximately 180 academic days, split equally between the two institutions.

Time: 35 Weeks

Section III — Diplomacy

Course: State Department (Foreign Service Exam/A-100 Class)

Foreign Service Officers are the “front-line professionals representing the Department of State at all U.S. embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic missions.” Since the president is the front of that front-line of professionals, shouldn’t they be held to the same standard?

I propose that the prep school include a two-week class to prepare them for the rigorous oral and written Foreign Service Exam. Assuming the candidates pass, they’d immediately attend an abbreviated five week version of the A-100 class, the orientation training class for incoming Foreign Service Officers on the US Department of State, information on embassy operation and foreign affairs, intelligence collection and dissemination, and the roles different categories of personnel perform in the conduct of diplomacy.

Time: 7 weeks

Section IV — Economics

Course: George Mason University Economics Dept. / Acton University

The curriculum would also include a 12-week crash course in macroeconomics taught by the economics department at George Mason University (Bryan Caplan, Arnold Kling, Tyler Cowen, Don Boudreaux,Walter Williams, et al.). The course would include, if needed, a refresher/remedial course on statistics. For the capstone seminar, students would attend Acton University.

Time: 13 weeks

Section V — Management

Course location: Crash-course McKinsey & Company

The global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has produced more CEOs than any other company and is referred to by Fortune magazine as “the best CEO launch pad.” Prep school students would attend a three-week crash course on business, management, and the “McKinsey Way.”

Time: 3 weeks

Section VI — Internship

Students would attend a six-week internship based on their previous experience. For example, state governors would serve in the office of U.S. Senator to learn about legislative tasks, while legislators would shadow a state governor to learn about the role of the executive.

Time 6 weeks

Section VII — Communication

Course Location: Dale Carnegie training center

Each student would take a one week Dale Carnegie Course on Effective Communications & Human Relations in order to “learn to strengthen interpersonal relationships, manage stress and handle fast-changing workplace conditions.” Additionally, they would, “be better equipped to perform as a persuasive communicator, problem-solver and focused leader.”

Time: 1 week

Section VII — Constitutional Issues

Students would receive an intense crash course on constitutional issues, with a special emphasis on religious freedom and limits on executive power.

Time: 4 week

Upon completion, the students would be provided with a certificate of completion a list of donors to begin their year-long session of fundraising.

What courses would you include in a prep school for potential presidents?

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).