In Defense Of “Professor Paul”

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Patrick Wohl Former Rand Paul Campaign Staffer
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I had to pause when reading a recent article about some George Washington University professors being outraged by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul teaching a course at their school. I glanced back to see if this was an old story from one of school paper’s April Fool’s editions. It was May 1st.

Oh, brother.

Yes, some professors at GW are “questioning his qualifications for the position.”

Having spent time both as a GW undergraduate – likely in class with some now outraged professors – and as a staffer for ten months around Senator Paul on the campaign trail this last election cycle, I can speak uniquely to his potential in this area.

Spend even five minutes with Senator Paul and you’ll quickly see that he’s in a league of his own intellectually. Even the most peripheral of observers can see this to be true.  He can open up a rally in rural Kentucky with a ten-minute anecdote about Henry Clay and close out a speech in Seattle with quotes from Voltaire or allusions to the Federalist Papers.  To be honest, he often sounds more professorial than senatorial.

No, he doesn’t have a PhD, but given that’s he’s a sitting U.S. senator, I find it embarrassing that outrage ensues and some of the school’s departments feel the need to release veiled attacks towards him and in effect, Republicans as a whole.

I can’t help but wonder if these concerns would be still voiced were he a Democrat.

Others claimed this move “comes at the reputation of the school.” What a silly notion. It’s clear that delusions of grandeur do indeed exist for those who assert they’re the only ones capable of molding a young mind.

Another criticism of his lecture is that it could become a “thinly disguised political ideology course, masquerading as intellectual inquiry.”  I’m thankful for statements like these, for they remind us just how thick the bubble on many university campuses can be.

Ask any Republican-leaning student who has spent more than a semester at a school like GW and I’m sure they can easily list more than a few courses where the political ideology of their liberal-leaning professor wasn’t so thinly disguised.  This never seemed to be a concern of faculty before, so why now? I’d venture to say it’s the “R” next to his name.

One observer dismissed him as a “celebrity,” a lousy pot shot that arrogantly fails to recognize that he may have things of value to say.  Senator Paul was once named TIME’s “Most Interesting Man in American Politics,” but I suppose for some that’s all for naught if you haven’t spent five years in graduate school.

The best professors I had as an undergraduate were the ones who were out in the field, who had real-world experience, and who could speak to their subject matter (in this case modern politics) based on their distinguished careers.  Some of those professors had spent years on doctorates from the most prestigious universities in the country, and others were grounded mainly in their experience.  Both were valuable perspectives for me as a student, and the same will be true for Senator Paul’s.

So perhaps some of those who are worried about Senator Paul’s viability to teach should sit in on a lecture – they may actually learn something for once.

Patrick Wohl is a GW alum and former campaign staffer for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens