Political Animal


November 28, 2011 5:00 PM Steer clear of Newt’s courses

By Steve Benen

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.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • June on November 28, 2011 5:13 PM:

    And to think, Gingrich is routinely referred to now as being the candidate who has "such intelligence." :insert eye roll here:

    And by the way, where is the freak-out from all those "concerned parents" who broke down in tears at the mere thought of Pres. Obama offering words of academic encouragement to schoolkids? (Rhetorical question.)

  • Joe Friday on November 28, 2011 5:29 PM:

    Gingrich & GOPAC set-up a tax exempt entity called 'The Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation' that they purported would help needy children, but was instead transformed into a political organization.

    None of the money was ever spent on kids, but it was spent on efforts to recruit Republicans to be congressional candidates in the '96 elections.

    They claim the funds were only used to teach a college course, but the money was actually used to make cassettes of the course and send them all over the country with a letter on Republican Party stationary that said - this is Republican Party campaign materials, use it to recruit Republican candidates. And the House ethics committee report stated that the content of the college course was of a partisan nature.

    The tax expert hired jointly by the bipartisan House ethics committee and the Independent Counsel, stated that the use of tax exempt contributions for partisan purposes was a clear violation of federal tax law.

    If you or I had done this, we would in a federal prison.

  • Ten Bears on November 28, 2011 5:30 PM:

    Sounds like he'd fit right in in today's high school history classes.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on November 28, 2011 5:38 PM:

    Everything that I needed to know about American History, I learned from Newt's course!

    Everything that I needed to know about the Bible's New Testament, I learned from The Life of Brian.

  • Steve on November 28, 2011 5:53 PM:

    Is it just me, or wasn't one of the attacks on Obama for a long time the fact that he "lectured at" people. Voters don't want a professorial elitist teaching them things, etc, etc. And now this clown is self-promoting in advance of his inevitable defeat that he will teach courses after he gets his ass kicked? Hmmm...why would people have a problem with Obama teaching them and not Newt? Hmmmm...

  • DAY on November 28, 2011 5:58 PM:

    History? We don't need Newt to teach us history. We now have Wikipedia, and we can write our OWN history- just like the the lying liars in office do, every day.

  • c u n d gulag on November 28, 2011 6:05 PM:

    When will this 'historian' be named the "National f*ckindg Lizard?"

    He is a tragic waste of resources that could have been spent keeping old, and future, serial killers alive - they would do far less damage than this blustering, self-important asshole.

  • Stephen Stralka on November 28, 2011 6:24 PM:

    "He manages to get through the entire Civil War without ever mentioning slavery."

    Not to mention, the mere fact that the Civil War occurred is rather at odds with his thesis of uninterrupted opportunity and progress until 1965.

  • pj in jesusland on November 29, 2011 4:14 AM:

    Newt's a good example of why historians should have licensing boards, like plumbers.

  • Gridlock on November 29, 2011 9:02 AM:


    Don't forget, it wasn't just the Civil War that didn't interrupt opportunity and progress. The Great Depression didn't get in the way either.

  • paul on November 29, 2011 9:12 AM:

    Anyone who paid money for Newt's course was getting exactly what they paid for. It just wasn't a factual education.

  • Ed Drone on November 29, 2011 11:51 AM:

    [“We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.”]

    Technically, an early draft of that phrase read, “We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and property.” There was no "pursuit of property" as such. But yes, "property" was in an early draft of that phrase.

  • nyama2 on November 29, 2011 11:52 AM:

    As a historian who is appalled that idiots like Gingrich are completely misleading the gullible who are uneducated enough to listen to and believe his highly selective and biased revisionist history--thank you for this article!! Every practicing historian that I know cringes at the kind of "history" that Newt teaches. Not intellectually honest; not factual. Fail!

  • Rick Massimo on November 29, 2011 12:11 PM:

    "Technically, an early draft of that phrase read, “We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and property.” There was no "pursuit of property" as such. But yes, "property" was in an early draft of that phrase."

    Right. And I was taught that "property" was taken out because it implied that owning slaves was protected. So Newt's wrong twice in one sentence. But he had to make up "pursuit of property" because slavery, for the purposes of his course, didn't exist.

  • AlreadyMissingBarney on November 29, 2011 2:36 PM:

    While I don't remember hearing from Newt spefically at the time his desire to teach from the office, should he hold it, reminds me of the outcry over President Obama's "indoctrination" of our nation's youth when he was going to hold a 1 hour webinar geared toward encouraging children to do well in school.

  • Rick Massimo on November 29, 2011 2:38 PM:

    Except of course, there is no "outcry" over this because Newt's - well, you know ...