Late Night Rambling

Ed Driscoll forwarded me an opinion piece I probably would have missed:

CU professor Phil Mitchell’s class certainly isn’t as melodramatic as our man Ward Churchill’s. How could it be?

Surely, it’s a complete riot taking one of Churchill’s classes.

Deciphering the feckless professor’s swirling quasi-intellectual gibberish is entertaining enough as a citizen; I can’t imagine how a student feels.

Mitchell never refers to “actions” or “trigger fingers” and seldom calls anyone a Nazi.

Boring stuff.

As an alternative, Mitchell likes to employ facts in his history courses.

He teaches. He doesn’t preach.

His reward? After more than 20 years, Mitchell may be out at CU.

Mitchell isn’t as alluring as Churchill. He doesn’t hold tenure – or a plastic AK-47. Only bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, as well as a doctorate in American social history from CU.

He began teaching history in 1984, and in 1998, Mitchell won the prestigious SOAR Award for teacher of the year.

Recently, William Wei, director of the Sewall Academic Program, let Mitchell know that CU would not be renewing his contract after this year because “his teaching was not up to the department standards.”

(While Wei confirmed this to me, Joyce Nielsen, associate dean for Social Sciences, denies she gave that reasoning for Mitchell’s deal.)

As a conservative, and even worse, a ghastly evangelical Christian, Mitchell wondered how he lasted this long.


As regulars here know, I’m no fan of evangelical Christianity. As I’ve said before: my soul, my business — now please get off my front porch. But my own personal tastes aren’t the point here, are they? Not at all. Rather, the point is that an obviously well-credentialed teacher of any stripe couldn’t get tenure and couldn’t keep his job. Meanwhile, another professor got tenure simply because people thought he was an American Indian, and after causing some outrage is now in a position where he can reject a $10,000,000 severance as too small.

Sadly, CU isn’t exactly an isolated case. Let me give you a personal example.

When I applied to the University of Missouri in 1987, I had my sights set on a journalism degree. I didn’t want to live in New York to attend Columbia, and as any J-school grad knows, Mizzou is the perfect second choice. Hell, it’s a perfect first choice, their j-school is so well-considered.

It wasn’t long before university life (and practical experience) changed my mind.

I met my fellow j-school students. I talked with the professors. I dealt with professional journalists during my internship at KMOX. And all I could think was, “I want to make a career with these people? Screw that.”


So I went to my second choice: History. I got so involved in it, I quickly realized history should have been my first choice all along. I love to read it. I love to talk it. I really, really love to debate it. History is by nature a shared experience, and what better way to share it than with a roomful of interested and involved college students? I wanted, desperately, to teach history.

Then I got to know my history professors. The furthest Right any of them got was old-school Marxism. The younger ones were all Marxists of more modern stripes


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