In God We Trust

The First Sophomore


By Dean Kedenburg

To shamelessly plagiarize from Dickens, American education is in the best of times and the worst of times.  We turn out the world's best scholars, yet we wallow sadly behind many sister nations in the schooling of our young.

The national urgency for educational improvement is a standard rallying cry for every civil servant, from the sparest schoolhouse to the Capitol dome, but how can we seriously pursue excellence in learning when the centerpiece of our nation represents the single largest educational failure in American history: the president of the United States?

The president is the beneficiary of by far the greatest access to information, knowledge, and learned opinion in the world, all at his beck and call, yet in seven and one half years in office, Mr. Obama has learned nothing.

How can this be?

Mr. Obama arrived in the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, fully formed.  He already knew all the answers; the questions were irrelevant.  Anyone who had trekked through college could recognize Mr. Obama immediately.  He was a sophomore – and a perpetual sophomore at that.

College freshmen labor through stacks of books, gruff professors, painful self-doubts, humiliating Greek beanies, and oceans of beer before crawling onto the soothing shores of the sophomore experience.  As freshmen, they had paid their dues.  Some had learned physics, others literature, and some yet how to tap a keg.  But regardless of the subject matter, they all had learned something.

After the freshman rite of passage, sophomores emerge as a different breed.  They know stuff, and they're not shy about it.  With egos reflated, sophomores venture forward to take their place among the academic elite, oblivious to the fact that they have barely anted into the great game of arts and sciences.  Professors award them for their improved thought processes, even if their conclusions make little sense.  Psychology faculty recruit them for social experiments when in need of naïve and gullible subjects.

Sophomore year is a life stage; unfortunately for some, it becomes a lifestyle.

Mr. Obama, at the sage age of 47, entered the Oval Office knowing all there is to know – a full-fledged sophomore.  He knew he could rule with impunity.  Barely a year into his reign, Mr. Obama put forth some dazzling displays of his cerebral completeness.  At the State of the Union address in 2010, Mr. Obama brandished his sophomoric ruler to smack the knuckles of the Supreme Court justices seated before him for their legal stupidity in Citizens United v. FEC.  He then wrapped up his first two-year tour by trading the passage of a bizarre version of health care legislation for control of the House.  Doubling down on his wise foolishness, Mr. Obama gave away the Senate in 2014.  Serious damage was inflicted on the American people, but the most severe collateral damage for his omniscience was wrought upon his own party.  What college junior would sacrifice the control of Congress for a bowlful of beans or a piece of legislation he had neither written nor read?

One of Mr. Obama's handy homilies is "it's the right thing to do," a phrase that led him to do a lot of things: rob from the rich; abandon Iraq (and Israel); and love all of Islam, Putin, and the Iranian mullahs, to cite a few.  The consequences of these "right stuff" programs are well known.  Mr. Obama has been so enamored of his sophomoric ideas that he has shown no concern for, or even understanding of, their consequences – an apt definition of moral narcissism, and a trait pervasive throughout political progressivism.

Sophomore year for Mr. Obama has stretched toward eight, time needed to manacle the U.S. economy and spiral a precarious world order into chaos.  How did he manage all this mayhem?  Some point to his staff appointments, laden with the inexperienced and lightweights, but he had the benefit of seasoned and gifted men and women as well.  Others have contended that he was too smart for his own good. They may be on the right track.  Sophomores are smart – as long as they stick to the academic confines of textbooks, classrooms, and dorm chatter. The real world is made up of juniors and better, those who have wrestled with the sirens and demons of their sophomore year – and moved on.

As John Maxwell warned, "the greatest enemy of learning is knowing."