Steer clear of Newt’s courses

Newt Gingrich raised some eyebrows recently when he said he intends, if elected president, to teach an online course. It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Gingrich’s desire to teach while holding public office isn’t new.

In the 1990s, Gingrich taught “Renewing American Civilization” at Kennesaw State College in Georgia. The course became infamous because it was at the heart of a congressional ethics investigation that led to severe penalties for the disgraced former Speaker. But back in 1995, before the ethics scandal broke in earnest, the Washington Monthly ran a piece by Allan Lichtman that scrutinized Gingrich’s skills as a history professor.

Wouldn’t you know it, Gingrich had a little trouble keeping his facts straight here, too. He taught what Lichtman described as “fictionalized history.”

The thesis of Gingrich’s course is that American history was an uninterrupted continuity of opportunity and progress from colonial times until what he calls the “breakdown” of 1965. If you read the papers, you know what comes next: That’s when the elite liberal state, aided by the counterculture, introduced the infections of dependency, bureaucracy, and failure. He’s teaching the course in part to balance out the liberal’s view of the world. Did you know, for example, that Thomas Edison “is almost never studied in the counterculture because all his values are exactly wrong? He was successful, and he was very work-oriented, he was highly creative.” […]

Gingrich’s historical selectivity and outright errors are, well, revealing. He manages to get through the entire Civil War without ever mentioning slavery. Of the Declaration of Independence, he says “They originally wrote, ‘We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.”‘ Property? John Locke, yes. The Declaration of Independence, never.

Not surprisingly, much of Gingrich’s course is preoccupied with the history of the welfare state-the “actively destructive” welfare state, that is. He doesn’t acknowledge any of the good that government has done over the past 30 years, when federal investments in education, electrification, research, and facilities built Gingrich’s modern South.

If Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.8 million for to take advantage of his expertise as a “historian,” I’m afraid the mortgage giant paid too much.

If students paid anything at all to take one of one Gingrich’s courses, I’m afraid they were charged too much, too.