The Shame of Harding University
For our national and global readers, the four writers on this blog attend Harding University, a conservative Christian university located in Searcy, Arkansas and affiliated with the Church of Christ. A quick glance at the posts on this blog should easily show that we are probably well outside the mainstream school of thought at this particular school, but we enjoy our discussions and we have all benefited greatly from our contact with a lot of great students and professors. Harding has a lot to reccomend it in terms of its personal connections.
That being said, Harding’s biggest shame has been its suppression of academic freedom that has come in the form of censorship and intimidation. In the past, this blog has written about censorship and intimidation that has come from the administration, teachers, and school-sponsored organizations that clearly advocate a right-wing, close-minded approach to understanding religion as well as politics. It is understandable that a Christian institution would want to have certain ideological goals in mind, but it is inexcusable for an academic institution to actively suppress open dialog in favor of one-sided indoctrination. One of the worst recent examples of this type of intellectual oppression is the apparent censorship of Dr. Mark Elrod, who runs one of the most popular blogs in Arkansas.
Dr. Elrod’s blog has attracted almost half a million viewers over the past few years, and recently, he attracted even more notoriety after an audio interview with downintheblog.com and some subsequent blog posts on the politics of gay marriage. Evidently, not all of this attention was positive, though, and some individuals chose to complain to the Harding University administration instead of challenging any of the points made in the interview or the posts. To its enormous shame, the Harding administration seems to value certain of its loud alumni over its obligations as a legitimate academic institution. As a result, Dr. Elrod will be making his blog private.
Harding has a lot of qualified teachers and a lot of great people who make up its tightly-knit community. Although it has great potential as an academic institution, Harding’s greatest shame is its disregard for academic freedom. It is important that students learn how to think, not what to think. If Harding truly desires to be a university, it must turn from its shameful habits of censorship and embrace the most fundamental value inherent in higher education: the value of ideas and continued discussion.