For giggles the other night, I started looking up the educational backgrounds of various countries’ heads of government. I’ll do the other countries tomorrow; today, I thought I’d start with Canada. Let’s do it by the numbers.
One: The number of Canadian PMs who have held PhDs. It was McKenzie King, who earned a PhD from Harvard for his dissertation on “Oriental Immigration to Canada”. He was against it: “Canada should remain a country for the white man”, he wrote with singular obliviousness.
Three: The number of PMs offered spots at Oxford. But only two took them up, as Louis St. Laurent declined his Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a legal career. It’s also the number of degrees Diefenbaker obtained from the University of Saskatchewan. Apparently, he was the first person to achieve this feat.
Four: The number of PMs who graduated from the University of Toronto, the most of any single university. The quad in question: Martin, Pearson, Mackenzie King, and Meighen (Harper attended, but dropped out, before doing two degrees at the University of Calgary).
Six: The number of PMs who studied abroad. Nearly all of them were in some form of political science (King, Turner, Trudeau, Campbell), though Tupper studied medicine at Edinburgh, and Pearson studied history at Oxford. I’m fairly sure only Australia can claim more.
Seven: Of the last nine PMs, seven have dropped out of a university program at some point. Turner dropped out of a graduate program in Paris (after completing his Rhodes – the man was no dummy). Both Trudeau and Campbell dropped out of doctoral degrees at LSE. Both Mulroney and Clark dropped out of Dalhousie Law School. Harper dropped out of U of T, before ending up at Calgary; and our current Prime Minister dropped out of an Engineering program at Polytechnique (in which he enrolled after getting degrees at McGill and UBC). And we wonder why there’s never been a bug push in Canada on retention/completion.
Eight: The number of Prime Ministers with law degrees. Additionally, Macdonald, Thompson, and Borden passed the bar without attending law school (we didn’t have any in the very early days), and Thompson even went on to found the Dalhousie law school from which two of our later Prime Ministers dropped out. So that makes eleven lawyers out of 23 Prime Ministers. Personally, I think this explains a lot about our country.
Eighteen: The number of Prime Ministers with university degrees. Of the five who did not have one, three were the aforementioned lawyers. The other two were Alexander Mackenzie, who apprenticed in Stonemasonry, and Mackenzie Bowell who had a teaching diploma (not a higher education credential back then) from a long-defunct Normal School in Hastings, Ontario.
Ninety-Six: The number of years since we’ve had a Prime Minister without a degree (Borden). In the US, the equivalent figure is sixty-three (Harry Truman), whereas in England it is eighteen (John Major).