On artists, mathematics, and presidential candidates

I need someone to clean my house. I need someone really good. I will have to interview candidates. I will ask them to identify the paintings of 10 famous artists and see who does the best. After that, I want to hire a gardener. I want someone who really knows how to nurture plants and keep them healthy. I will have to interview candidates. I will ask them to find the solution to 10 quadratic equations and see who does the best.

Absurd? Not really. Not if you think about how the US chooses its president.

US citizens want someone who will govern well, see to it that people can live in dignity by assuring there are adequate educational, vocational training, professional training, and employment opportunities. US citizens want a president who can conduct a foreign policy predicated on American values such as freedom and justice and who can keep Americans safe from foreign and domestic threats.

So how is the president chosen? By his ability to speak well. We watch the candidates debate. We listen to their speeches. We listen to them answering questions.

But are we really measuring fitness for the job? If I knew that a candidate had a healthy set of core values, could assemble teams of experts to advise him, and had the knowledge and intelligence to know how to process that information and plan a long term strategy on the basis of what he had learned, I really wouldn’t care whether he spoke well or, for that matter, if he could identify the paintings of 10 famous artists or find the solution to 10 quadratic equations.

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Comments

  1. Ben says:

    Maybe we just need a deaf-mute candidate for president?

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