Saturday, December 24, 2022

English Prof Sez He Was Fired for Being Too Conservative


(And maybe he was. I don't know. He may be an innocent victim of hateful narrow-mindedness. Litigation will determine it.)

David C. Phillips holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Chapel Hill. He's had trouble getting a foothold in the state's academic hierarchy, holding low-level teaching jobs since 2008 at UNC-Greensboro (Lecturer, Dept. of English), Guilford Technical Community College (Instructor), and Wake Tech CC (Instructor). Add a regular gig since 2013 teaching summers at the Governor's School, West Campus at Winston-Salem State University.

The Governor’s School was started in 1963 by Gov. Terry Sanford as a five-and-a-half week summer program for "gifted high school students pursuing academic and artistic endeavors." "Learning focuses on the exploration of the most recent ideas and concepts in each discipline, and it does not involve credit, tests, or grades" (DPI page about the NC Governor's School).

Apparently, Professor Phillips decided that the debunking of Critical Race Theory, and accusations that it (whatever it is) had thoroughly infiltrated the faculty and curriculum of the Governor's School, was in fact "a most recent idea and concept." A sad state of affairs has developed for "white, male, cisgender, conservative Christians" who are blamed for everything bad, and David Phillips rejects the badge of dishonor. So in June of 2021, during his ninth term of teaching in the Governor's School, Phillips offered three optional seminars in which "he critiqued some concepts from critical race theory" (what, specifically, ain't clear). Other faculty and several bright students attended his seminars, probably with a interest in challenging him, for indeed, fierce arguments broke out. Whatever Phillips said, or taught, was considered toxic enough to get him fired. For he does appear to have been fired immediately after the uproar in his seminar and in the middle of the term, which ain't common -- except for cause. "Cause" in this case is also shrouded from us by the Department of Public Instrux (DPI) as "a personnel matter."

So Phillips has allowed the Alliance Defending Freedom to file a lawsuit on his behalf in Wake Superior Court, asking to be reinstated at the Governor's School. What is the Alliance Defending Freedom? "An American conservative Christian legal advocacy group that works to curtail rights for LGBTQ people; expand Christian practices within public schools and in government; and outlaw abortion." Wikipedia 

By allying himself with such a hard-right operative as the Alliance, Phillips signaled that he's very willing to have this litigation usher him under the lights at Fox News, and indeed the lawsuit itself (which can be read in its entirety here -- scroll to the bottom) appears to have been written to attract conservative media attention -- a kind of dime novel featuring pure innocence, tied to the train tracks by the jackbooted tyrants demanding white guilt.

I'd really like to know more about Prof. Phillips and how he talks about the things he talks about, but I've found no presence for him on social media anywhere, no published pieces that I can get my hands on, and actually no eye-witness accounts of his lectures -- even hostile eye-witness accounts. But I did find some student evaluations on him. At Wake Tech he gets a 46 (out of 100) student rating of "Professor quality relative to others in department." His ratings tip negative in student comments too (though I take those always with a spoonful of salt) because he's a very hard grader. Normally, "hard grader" is going to get my sympathy and support, but digging a little deeper it appears that he bases final grades heavily on a couple of written essays -- and for the writing of which he offers little guidance and no coaching (a no-no for me, who taught a lot of writing classes). Rather than look at drafts with students in advance of grading, allowing for revisions, he used "peer editing" -- students handing their drafts over to fellow students, who knew in many cases even less about appropriate written English. So Phillips slapped D's and F's on stuff that wasn't good but could have been better with the proper instruction, and students felt blindsided.

"His lectures will take your soul," one student wrote. And that's the sum total of my insight on the type of teacher he was/is.

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