Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Professor Gingrich

Yesterday, Brian Bolduc published an essay called, Professor Gingrich," at National Review Online. The title got my hopes up for an account of Gingrich's actual academic career at West Georgia College, but, alas, the item merely recounted Gingrich's time teaching a course called "Renewing American Civilization" at Reinhardt College in 1995 while he was Speaker of the House. The course may as well have been entitled, "Explore the Mind of Newt Gingrich." According to Bolduc's account:
His purpose was to determine why, in the past, “America worked” and how, in the future, it could work again. After learning the five pillars of American civilization — historic lessons, personal strength, entrepreneurial free enterprise, the spirit of invention and discovery, and quality — the class would apply them to four areas: the Information Revolution, the economy, the culture, and citizenship in the 21st century....

His syllabus was just as eclectic as his lectures: The required reading comprised the Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, Don Eberly’s Building a Community of Citizens: Civil Society in the 21st Century, and Drucker’s The Effective Executive.
He approached his subject with the cataloguing fervor of a taxonomist. Yes, there were the five pillars of American civilization. There were also four layers of planning. And four words of effective leadership. Seven key aspects of personal strength. Three big aspects of entrepreneurship. Seven welfare-state cripplers of progress. 
(If you're keeping score that's 560 different ways to apply a unique aspect of personal strength to a word of effective leadership for one layer of planning to support a pillar of American civilization.)

Bolduc's article is fine for what it is, but it doesn't actually tell me much about "Professor Gingrich" when he was actually Professor Gingrich at West Georgia College from 1970 until 1978. Accounts of his time as an academic are sparse.

We know he didn't write much. According to Google Scholar, his only scholarly writings are his M.A. thesis on early twentieth century French diplomacy, his doctoral dissertation on Belgian education policy in the Congo (4 citations), and a coauthored paper on the role of school principals in managing educational change (1 citation).

In fact, Gingrich seems to have spent most of his time at West Georgia College running for Congress. He lost two races against incumbent Democrat Jack Flynt in 1974 and 1976 before winning a seat in 1978 after Flynt's retirement.

For obvious personal reasons, I am curious about Gingrich's time as a professor, though. Yet, the record, such as it is, though, leaves me with many more questions than answers. Did Gingrich attempt a career in academia, or did he only use the college as a perch from which to pursue his political ambitions? What did he write and teach about? How did his experiences as a professor and scholar shape his politics and personality?

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