Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Very Brave Man in Academia

Todd Hartch is a very brave man - as a professor at Eastern Kentucky University, he dared to challenge the conventional thinking of the academic world.

Professor Hartch is a conservative on the issue of same-sex marriage.  When his university proposed to grant benefits for domestic partnerships, he publicly took a stand.  Initially, he took the heat, and criticism alone.

But, as his stance became better known, he started hearing from the others - those who agreed with him.  And his thinking widened to accept that contrarian academics need to start risking exposing their unpopular views:
In the midst of all this, while reading George Weigel’s The End and the Beginning, the second volume of his biography of Pope John Paul II, it occurred to me that John Paul might have something valuable to teach me. His predecessors, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, treated the Soviet bloc as a permanent fixture in modern Europe. Their so-called “Ostpolitik” sought to preserve what could be preserved of Catholic life behind the Iron Curtain by avoiding confrontation and cooperating as much as possible with the demands of Communist governments in Eastern Europe. This was a modus non moriendi, a way of not dying, not a way of fomenting Christian growth and expansion. Despite the pleas of many bishops behind the Iron Curtain to adopt a stronger stance and despite the Paul VI’s own anguish about Communist perfidy, the policy lasted through the 1960s and 1970s. Pope John Paul II, of course, ended the policy and began a vigorous spiritual campaign against the Communist domination of his homeland, Poland, and the other eastern European countries. The rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland and the eventual fall of Soviet communism owe much to the more confrontational approach of John Paul. “How many divisions does the pope have?” Josef Stalin had once asked. The Polish pope demonstrated that he didn’t need armies, that personal example, words of truth, and the creation of a culture of life were more important than guns and tanks. John Paul’s example and my own experiences at EKU have convinced me that it is time to end Ostpolitik on campus.
For at least two generations, Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals, and other religious conservatives have sought to “get along” with the prevailing American campus culture of relativism and moral license. We have dedicated ourselves to academic excellence, to fair and balanced teaching, and to keeping a low profile. We have kept quiet in department meetings, in the faculty senate, and on university committees. We have bitten our tongues when colleagues disparaged our religion, our morality, and our most cherished beliefs. We have convinced our colleagues that religious conservatives can be surprisingly thoughtful and urbane.
In the end, what have such actions won for us? Many of us have produced solid scholarship and positive teaching evaluations. We’ve been awarded tenure and even prizes. We have the respect of our colleagues and our administrations. Ostpolitik on campus has allowed religious conservatives to live normal lives, to teach our courses with a degree of independence, and to pursue the research agendas of our choice. Our jobs are secure and our careers give every sign of continuing success.
We have watched, though, as our campuses veered farther and farther off course. Sexual license is now taken for granted. Mentions of abortion, homosexuality, and even bestiality hardly merit a second glance in our campus papers. Many students have never heard a rational conservative argument about any moral issue. Our colleagues now scoff even at the idea of truth, as if it were some quaint notion from the Middle Ages. Discipline after discipline has lost its mooring and drifted into irrelevance or outright idiocy.
It won't be easy for the dissidents of academia.  They may suffer the penalties of a vengeful "Soviet", sternly enforcing the status quo.

But, how can a free people (Americans) do less than the Polish people, who faced the most repressive military force of that time?

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