Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Not a Rock Star Pastor: My Review of Jason Hanselman's Newest Book


I highly recommend you buy a copy of Jason Hanselman's new book, Not a Rock Star Pastor, if you are considering becoming a pastor or are rapidly burning out in your pastoral role.

This book is particularly useful and compelling for all of us who have been frustrated by the ugly underbelly of professional Christian service: the absolutely horrific way that we train and screen young pastors, launch them with inadequate skills into dysfunctional churches, and then callously look the other way as too many end up quitting the ministry all together.

The book is now available at Amazon.com for the wonderfully affordable price of $4.99 for the Kindle version and 14.99 for the paperback edition. Click here to order your copy now.

Although Hanselman only hints at a solution to this disgrace -- always implementing standard human resource practices, never leaving the top job vacant, and fearlessly broadening the definition of a successful ministry -- he does provide a fresh, original and at times painful to read look at what it is like to endure the less pleasant aspects of professional Christian service as a rural pastor, a bible college president, a mega-church planter.

For full disclosure, I should point out that Hanselman is a former graduate student of mine and that I have been begging him to put his ideas on paper for years. From my perspective, Not a Rock Star Pastor is a beautiful autobiography for a fairly new writer who unflinchingly records telling details, poignant moments with his wife, and heartfelt rage when he recounts a face-to-face confrontation with a former church employer who slandered him in his own community.


Although I had never heard the sad and comic story of him applying for food stamps for his family, I was aware of virtually all the other stories in the book. For the skeptical reader, I can confirm that Hanselman has written a truthful and accurate history of his life. You will have to buy the book, however, to discover how he leverages every tool at his disposal to eventually weave his misfortune, inexperience and just plain bad luck into a transforming personal and spiritual triumph.

Given my respect and affection for him, it pains me to make even the smallest criticisms of this book. Still, I owe him my best work.

If he revises this volume, I wold like to see him put all his stories in exact chronological order. This way the charming story of how he fell in love with his wife will be a terrific foundation for the rest of the book and not a somewhat awkward way to close it. In fact, I noticed that I started losing interest in narrative at about three-quarters of the way through the book when it seemed to me that his stories regarding his job losses seemed to circle back on themselves. At that point, I got confused about which job he was talking about because he was referring to jobs mentioned earlier.

Next, I'd like to see Jason loosen up even more and simply name names and be honest about the people that mislead or harmed him during his rocky pastoral career.

Frankly, I suspect Hanselman is being too cautious since insiders who are familiar with the small world of Christian pastorship will figure out the main character's real names faster than a National Enquirer reporter chasing an Ashley Madison information dump. 

I think Hanselman's use of pseudonyms undermines the clarity of the book and robs the reader of some of its most penetrating insight.Given the state of Christian ministry, I do not think we are going to fix things without a large dose of honesty delivered with little or no compassion for the feelings of those who have made a mess of things.

Just as David Bowie carved out a niche separate from the Beatles, I think this book offers the possibility of opening up a new niche for the non-rock star pastors who will never be the Rick Warren of their generation. Consequently, Hanselman lays out the ground work for the non-rock star pastor by highlighting the value added by pastors who are graduating from lesser schools, working in more isolated areas, or locked into smaller communities where a full-service mega church will only appear by way of large speakers and a theatre style HD television screen.

In my view, Not a Rock Star Pastor should be required reading at Bible colleges, seminaries, and pastor conferences all around the world. Anyone looking to enter the ministry, or stay in the ministry, will benefit from reading about Hanselman's painful, but often comic challenges and the tortured path that led to his right-sized redemption.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stockholm Syndrome? Two Profs Insist Academia is OK for Nice and Quiet Conservatives



I was startled to read a recent opinion article in the Washington Post by Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn, Sr., called "Forget what the right says: Academia isn't so bad for conservative professors." 

Shields is associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and coauthor, with Dunn, of "Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University." Dunn is associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado—Colorado Spring.

The part of their article that ticked me off the most was the idea that we should be encouraged that conservatives can survive in the academic world if they learn to keep their conservatism as secret until they obtain tenure:

First, conservative professors are not helpless victims -- they have become quite skilled at navigating the progressive university. About a third of the professors we interviewed said they concealed their politics prior to earning tenure. Of course, being in the closet is not easy. (One particularly distressed professor told us: "It is dangerous to even think [a conservative thought] when I'm on campus, because it might come out of my mouth.") But it's also a temporary hardship, since nearly all the conservatives whom we interviewed planned to emerge from the ivory tower's shadows after gaining tenure. Once tenured, conservatives are free to express their politics and publish research that reflects right-wing interests and perspectives. As one put it to us: "I don't mind causing trouble now."

As far as I'm concerned, this is an unacceptable reaction to a vicious, profound discrimination against conservative scholars. 

I served for three years at an assistant professor in the political science department at Williams College. At the time, I was one of only three registered Republicans on the staff. I keep an eye on the college and contribute to two of the websites associated with the college that are okay with freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Here are links to two articles regarding my story.



I have never gotten over the way my career as a scholar was gravely wounded due to affirmative action. I am especially bitter about how my doctoral dissertation was belittled by the political science department at Williams College. I developed my thesis while living in poverty, working as a gardener, and surviving without health insurance. 

I’m still immensely proud of it. 

It hurts me to think of all the young conservative professors who are being harmed by our college and university system. There has to be a better way to confront the dominance of the hard left in our college and university system than simply telling young conservatives to be nice and shut up. It is hard to do both when you are confronting a profound level of injustice. 

For some great commentary on this story from another source, I recommend this article by David Henderson called "Academic Conservatives and Survivor Bias." My experience rings true with Henderson's comments that conservatives need to outperform their liberal colleagues in terms of publishing, but the ability to publish is limited by the liberal bias of the journals controlled by the liberals. 

I found this to be a no-win situation and I quickly left to find higher paying work in environments with less outright discrimination. Here's an article from the Williams Record back in January 1989 which captured my mood at the time. See, https://ia802705.us.archive.org/zipview.php?zip=/14/items/thewilliamsrecord_vol101b_103a/thewilliamsrecord_vol101b_103a_pdf.zip&file=thewilliamsrecord_vol101b_103a_pdf/thewilliamsrecord_vol101b_103a_0284.pdf

This article, of course, reflects my thoughts prior to knowing that my dissertation would win national recognition from the American Political Science Association that summer or that it would be easily published as part of an edited book - almost exactly as I wrote it -- about seven years later. The publisher, Praeger, also published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Nevertheless, I have received some very friendly e-mails from both Dunn and Shields since I drafted this article. My gut feeling is that they needed to play up the cooperation with liberals angle to help get their research published and then the Washington Post distorted their true views to provoke a reaction from their audience. (I guess that worked on me.) I'm looking forward to visiting with Shields sometime soon and sharing my story with him. 

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Purple Bruises: Mob Rule at Williams College

As one of the last conservatives to have ever taught at Williams College, I feel vindicated in reporting that this once prestigious school has now devolved into a form of mob rule. Based on the aggressive language used to intimidate students like Zach Wood, it looks to me like the college is now dominated by hard leftists who have more in common with Joseph Stalin than with FDR. Under this radical, threatening regime, we have seen a stunning failure to provide adequate security for anti-feminist speaker Susan Venker, the outright censorship of race realist John Derbyshire, and the inexplicable tolerance of anti-Semitic hate speech from Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi.

Trust me. I understand mob rule and the role of censorship. I’m a former Communist myself. I’m also well informed about the continuing dysfunction and lack of intellectual diversity at Williams College.  As you may know, I was among the first young, white, professors at Williams College to pay a high price for for teaching politically incorrect ideas including how black poverty and inequality would be more efficiently resolved with the improved use of inexpensive condoms than with the wholesale adoption of a socialist economy. Then, as now, my ideas caused howls of indignation and immediate accusations of racism among supposedly liberal folks who --  by tradition, at least -- should have been more concerned about protecting my freedom of speech. As James Lewis writes at American Thinker:

We can never forget that U.S. ‘liberals” of this generation are not liberals at all; they have fallen back into ruthless Leftism, just like the old days of Joe Stalin. This is the Left that threw Lawrence Summers out as president of Harvard for wondering out loud whether some boys are just better in math than girls. This is the Left that keeps imposing ever-harsher speech and behavior codes on college students, with white guys as the official scapegoats. This Left manipulates universities by mob threats. This is the Left that tried to physically attack General David Petraeus at NYU, so he had to run for it. This is the Left that deliberately stirs up race hatred, as in Ferguson and Baltimore. This is the Left that has made common cause with primitive jihadist regimes in Europe and the U.S.

As one of only three Republicans teaching at Williams College in the 1980s, I was quickly marginalized for suggesting that white attitudes and U.S. capitalism inadequately explained why violent crimes are disproportionately committed by blacks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks were charged with 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders and 45% of assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, though they made up roughly 15% of the population there. It strikes me as nothing less than ideological blindness to insist that such extraordinary violence is the unfortunate result of peaceful white folks living ordinary lives in our nation’s rural and suburban areas.

In this context, I’m shocked by the sheer ignorance of Williams College’s president, Adam Falk. I don’t think there is a serious person who has studied John Derbyshire who would classify him as either idiotic, a lunatic, or a white supremacist. In my view, Falk’s flippant, juvenile comments are uninformed, and display a profound level of misunderstanding about race realism, political culture studies and alt-right philosophy.

The simplest explanation for his mistreatment of John Derbyshire is that this is the sort of mistake that happens when physicists get involved in political and biological matters for which they have no training or relevant experience. While most faculty members are experts in our own fields, we tend to be hapless amateurs everywhere else.

There is, however, a more complex explanation that goes to the heart at why mob rule is the order of the day at Williams College. If there were more diversity of opinion, and freedom of thought, at Williams College, then someone could have informed Falk that censoring John Derbyshire was a big mistake and a setback for Williams College.

The reason there is no intellectual diversity at Williams College is because conservative, Republican thinkers have long since been pushed out of the full-time faculty.  I should know. While I taught at Williams College, it was said that conservative students were passive and not very active. It was suggested that there was not much interest in conservative thought on the campus. Certainly not enough interest in conservative thought to spend time worrying about the intellectual diversity of the faculty in the political science department.

Nevertheless, in less than a year, the campus saw a veritable renaissance of conservative activities and thought as conservative students – with my support and active encouragement – established a conservative newspaper, a conservative radio show, and a conservative television show on the local cable access channel. We had qualified speakers at the Garfield Republican Club. The conservative students rallied around my office, which I decorated with a large American flag. We went out of our way to tick off the liberal/Communist professors by loudly greeting each other with hearty cries of “Merry Christmas.” Ironically, an independent study conducted of the political science department recommended changes be made to address the department’s lack of ideological diversity.

As far as I can tell, I am the last registered Republican to have ever taught in the political science department at Williams College. I am certainly the last to have ever espoused consistently conservative views from a sincere, heartfelt perspective. I am also, apparently, the first and only assistant professor who was denied the opportunity to continue along the tenure track pathway.

This itself is quite odd, since, in the 1980s, I was one of our nation’s top young scholars. Hired at Williams in 1986, I went on to win national recognition for my doctoral dissertation from the American Political Science Association (APSA). I completed my dissertation during my first year teaching at Williams College. The quality of this work was so great that it has now been published, in book form, almost exactly as I wrote it under the low-ceiling of my tiny, unheated office in Stetson Hall. My thesis was by published by Praeger, the extraordinary house that also published Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Apparently, the study, which documented a lack of ideological diversity at Williams College, has had little impact then or since.

Even as the nation has drifted in a conservative direction -- overwhelmingly electing conservatives to statehouses, governorships and Congress -- Williams College has held tight to teaching a narrow band of truth and lies. It clings to an unrealistic and unsustainable hard left faith that intentions are more important than reality. Accordingly, it will be a long time until we see an end to mirco-aggression monitors who eagerly to hunt down the unwitting first-year student who is stupid enough to tell a joke, have some fun, or say something devastatingly obvious. We are in a dangerous time. The hard left mob feels justified in every possible abuse while truth remains as vulnerable as any freezing bunkmate of Ivan Denisovich.

This article was first published at williamsalternative.com on March 6, 2016. It appears here with the permission of that website’s owner.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bad Professor: Schooling Derek Catsam of the University of Texas at Permian Basin

While making comments at Ephblog.com, I bumped into the hatred and foul language of Derek Catsam. His most recent comments are particularly unhinged and provide evidence of a rather extraordinary level of anger and bitterness.

He is a tenured associate professor at the University of Texas at Permian Basin (UTPB). This is a school located in one of the most depressing and barren parts of the nation—west Texas. UTPB is low-ranked Tier Two school with a shameful six year graduation rate of 34%. According to public records, he earns about $64,000 a year and yet imagines himself to be something of an extraordinary scholar and a gifted teacher teacher.
Derek Catsam, Associate Professor
University of Texas at Permian Basin.

(In California, for comparison, the starting salary for a tenured professor with a Ph.D. at a community college begins at about $64,000 per year and then moves up to over $100,000 per year.)

I did a little research on this darling of the extreme left. The truth about him is quite different than what he likes to report about himself. For example, I found that the Rate My Professor website indicated that Derrick Catsam was one of the lowest ranked professors at UTPB with an embarrassing 2.6 grade. Only two others score lower than him. Ironically, it turns out that Catsam's wife, Ana Martinez, teaches in the same history department as him and she scores a much higher grade of 3.3.
Thankfully, websites like Rate My Professor now provide undergraduates with an opportunity to get out the truth about bad professors like Dr. Catsam. Here’s a great comment from one of Dr. Catsam's own students which seems match my impression of him at Ephblog:
“Derrick is an egotistical, arrogant professor who looks like a dork. He was probably picked on growing up and is now taking out his anger and bitterness on his students. No one cares about the idiotic book you wrote Derrick so stop talking about it! Avoid this LAME teacher (he’s not worthy to be called a professor) at all costs if possible!”

Like any normal person, I judge academic performance as a scholar and as a teacher according to the quality of the institution that hires you. At UTPB, Rate My Professor shows Prof. Catsam is under-performing his peers by a large margin. He is literally the worst of the worst compared to other professors on his own campus. Here is a sample of what his students went out of their way to write about him:
“This guy knows his stuff and obviously loves Africa. He is not approachable though and never cared if his students succeed or not. During presentations he wasn’t even paying attention and then proceeded to give most of the class C’s on their work. It’s fine if a prof is hard, but they should be willing to help you succeed too and he is no help.”
“I agree with most of the other raters, he is an egomaniac.”
“Catsam is the epitome of the arrogant prof. He is more interested in telling life stories and supporting his stupid Red Sox book than actually teaching history. And, by the way, missing class so much b/c of A. Martinez or his trips is not cool for us who pay $ for class.”
As an ex-Williams College professor, there are few things I despise more than lazy, low-quality teachers. Ironically, Catsam’s 2.6 rating at UTPB is two points lower than his rating at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he scored a somewhat higher 2.8 ranking. Amazingly, Dr. Catsam indicates in his posts that he is "...the only member of my department to win the President’s Teaching Award in the last five years. I am the only departmental nominee for the Piper Professorship." I studied up on this. The Piper Professor Program makes ten awards of $5,000 each annually to professors for superior teaching at the college level. Selection is made on the basis of nominations submitted by each college or university in the State of Texas.  
It is difficult to see how Catsam is worthy of this honor when he ranks at the very bottom of the Rate My Professor numbers at University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Out of 20 professors who are rated, he ranks in the bottom 15%.
On the positive side, one of the things I like to do the most is work with people who want to improve their teaching skills. The highest rated professor at University of Texas of the Permian Basin is one of his colleagues in the history department, Diana Hinton. She scored a remarkable 4.7 at Rate My Professor compared to his 2.6. She is also rated “hot” even though she reportedly 70 years old. According to public records, she is earning about $95,000 per year. As far as I can tell, she is underpaid by the University of Texas system. 
Let’s see what her students think of her given she is in the same department as Catsam.
Two tests, and two book reviews. You will work for it, you will stress, you will flip out, until you sit down and write and realize it all flowed so easily because she made difficult topics incredibly interesting. Everything comes to life, and I have so much respect for this woman it’s unreal.
She makes history come alive and gives it great value. She makes me want to change my major to history. Take her for any history class you can.
Excellent professor. She turns history into a very interesting story. I always enjoyed her class and nearly switched my major! Take her classes if you get a chance, you won’t be disappointed.
My recommendation is that Dr. Catsam sit in Diana Hinton’s history class and make careful records of what she does to be such a great teacher. If he humbles himself, this might be a useful exercise. Then, take what he sees and apply it in his own classroom. It will feel awkward and scary at first to change your teaching style. Nevertheless, the benefits will be worth it.
Right now, the comments from his students make him look like an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. If he taught at Williams College -- where I used to teach myself -- his Rate My Professor scores would place him in the bottom 7%. In the Williams history department, he would be its lowest ranked faculty member.
One of his worst barriers to success is that he has — so far — failed to address the valuable information being provided to him by Rate My Professor.
As a political scientist, I’m trained in survey research. Invariably the most accurate information comes from anonymous, written responses to unbiased questions. That is exactly what you are getting from Rate My Professor.
When I coach struggling faculty members, we work through negative comments like those in Derrick Catsam's report and then brainstorm solutions designed to improve the faculty member’s performance.
If he wants to be worthy of the Piper Professorship, I urge him to work with a higher quality teacher like Diana Hinton and go through his  Rate My Professor report with her assistance. Ideally, he should prepare an action plan to remedy his weaknesses and allow her to hold him accountable for making improvements. Worst case, Catsam should ask his wife for help and advice...maybe she could break the news to him gently, saying: "You're a bad professor." 
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Film Crew at Our House: Trevor Loudon and the Enemies Within


Trish and I were honored to receive a visit from Trevor Loudon and his film crew this morning.
As you may know, Trevor Loudon is a New Zealand author, speaker and political activist who maintains a blog at TrevorLoudon.com. He initially got famous here in the U.S. when he was the first to show that there was a connection between Barack Obama and his mentor, U.S. Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis.

Loudon is also the founder and editor of keywiki.org, a website which compiles dossiers on activists and political figures. Like me, he thinks it is important to get out the word that Communists are still among us – often in high positions of authority -- even though they have been discredited by the way in which the USSR lost the Cold War and Communist China has adopted market reforms.

Loudon was mainly interested in how I became a young Communist, how I came to meet and debate young Barack Obama, and how my own views changed later on as I matured. It was a somewhat draining interview that brought back a lot of memories. It was also a remarkable moment to celebrate the way that conservatives have been able to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and alternative websites to bypass the mainstream media and get out stories that are considered too hot or too controversial for the mainstream media...including the folks at Fox News.

No matter what, I feel proud to be part of a small band of brothers who have been willing to risk everything they have to get out the word about the radical roots of President Obama.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.