Teaching college without a degree

I taught at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, in the 1970s and the American Campaign Academy in the Washington, DC, area in the 1980 and 90s.

This is unusual because I dropped out college at The University of Virginia in 1967 and never returned to earn a college degree.

No one at Lewis & Clark asked about my education when the school asked me to teach a class on movie reviewing.  I pointed out my lack of education to the dean of fine arts and he said: “That does not matter.  I read your reviews.  You’re good.”

At the time, I reviewed films at The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, and occasionally provided reviews to magazines as a free-lancer.

After moving to Washington in 1981, I took a longer-than-expected sabbatical as a political operative for the Republican party and joined the faculty of American Campaign Academy (ACA), an operation established by future Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Joe Gaylord, director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.  Again, no one asked about my education.

Both positions paid a stipend.  My class at Lewis & Clark Community College met weekly, on Monday nights and I assigned students to view a movie at one of the area theaters each week and write a review, which I evaluated and graded.

At the first class, a student held up his hand and asked:  “Will we be graded on spelling, punctuation and grammar?”

“Absolutely,” he replied.

“Why?  Our English instructors don’t,” he said.

When I checked with the English instructors at the college, I found out he lied.  He flunked the course.

I also lectured on movies and showed a number of classic films, including Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ first movie, nominated for nine Academy Awards and also my favorite film.

At ACA, I taught a class for press secretaries and communications directors and another on campaign tactics.  I told them their opinions were never relevant.  It was their job to sell the opinions of their candidates.

Gingrich ran into trouble when he tried to obtain a tax-deduction credit for those attending the academy.  The IRS ruled that a partisan political operation was not a valid foundation.

In a 1989 ruling, a U.S. Tax Court judge upheld the IRS, saying that the academy was partisan because it served “the private interests of Republican party entities and not public interests exclusively.”

Later, I worked as a fundraiser for GOPAC, another of Gingrich’s operations.  It paid well but also left me realizing that I would not want to ever work for Gingrich again.  It’s little wonder that he now advises president Donald Trump.  They have a lot in common, primarily when it comes to ignorance of the law, a lack of morals and often-convenient disregard for ethics.

Over the years, my life has taken interesting twists and turns.  Being a college-dropout instructor at a community college left a number of people who knew about my lack of a college degree shaking their heads but I enjoyed the experience and I hope the students benefitted.

During my time working for Congress, I also taught orientation classes for new members of the House of Representatives and their chiefs of staff. In later years, I served as a guest lecturer at American University in Washington and later at the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism.  I worked on the side as a teacher for Charlotte Tighe Communications, who taught public officials to take to the media without ever giving away anything real.

Since returning to Floyd County, I have spoken to media classes at Radford University, Hollins University and Washington & Lee.

My education, honed from the streets instead of a classroom, paid off.  Hopefully, it also benefitted my students.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse