So does anyone have anything bad to say about Michael Lewis? Apparently not. At worst, he seems a tough but fair editor with an ample but not obnoxious ego. "He does have an ego. Michael thinks highly of Michael and of Michael's work," says Deeter. "But that's part of the confidence thing. It's not unattractive. He opens himself up to criticism and he is completely likable. He's a really nice guy. Face it, he makes a shitload of money and he's living high on the hog. He's married to Tabitha Soren. Life's good for Michael Lewis."
Indeed. Michael is rich and Michael mocks J-schools. So why is someone who finds J-schools objectionable and doesn't need the money teaching at one? "I find it's very valuable when I am trying to sort out what I think about a subject to have someone listen to me. My wife gets tired of it so it's really nice to have this group of students. I can float thoughts and ideas and theories and see how they respond," said Lewis.
In other words, the students are paying the University of California to help Michael Lewis write his book? "Yes, I think that's not a bad description of one of the things that are going on here," he admits with a laugh.
And what are the students learning in class? "Not journalism," he admits. "I don't have any great sense that the students are getting anything out of it. I don't know what they are getting out of it. I do know that personally I like them and it's been a lot of fun having them around. But I certainly would not like to defend the proposition that I am worth what I am paid. It's not a lot."
In fact, Lewis quickly and gleefully cops to the hypocrisy of his position. "I do realize it is a giant act of hypocrisy. I don't think I can completely justify myself except that I did say in this article I was arguing against going to journalism school as a student. I don't think I ever said it was a bad idea to go as a teacher," he says, barely tongue-in-cheek.
What's more, Lewis admits that his own experience, while inspirational, is far from instructive. "I would say that my experience is going to be next-to-useless for most people," he says. "My formula is 'OK, start by writing a No. 1 bestselling book.' Once you have done that I can tell you how to manage your career."
Despite his year teaching, Lewis still would advise his students to skip the degree. "I would tell them that experiences in the world are much more valuable than being in a classroom. I would say go wait tables," says Lewis. "Do anything. And if you really feel the need to be in school, the best things to study are history, economics, law -- subjects where there is actually a body of knowledge you can draw from."
But don't go to J-school. Not according to J-school professor Michael Lewis. (Salon plays up alleged hypocrisy)