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“Nathan Harden is the author of the book Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Cor­rectness, and a Good Edu­cation Gone Bad. He grad­uated from Yale Uni­versity in 2009 with a B.A. in Human­ities. He now works as the editor of The College Fix, a higher-ed news and opinion site, as well as a free­lance jour­nalist.”

Why did you transfer to Yale?

There’re a couple reasons. I had tried to get into Yale a couple times before. Yale has a mys­tique about it, an incredible presence archi­tec­turally, a great history, and it still has a great deal of intel­lectual resources too. I had a great political edu­cation at Claremont but I was able to explore some other branches of the human­ities in a deeper way at Yale. When you get down to it, with a lot of it is the power to get the name, which has the potential to open a lot of doors for you career-wise, and it cer­tainly has done that. It cer­tainly wasn’t exactly the expe­rience I antic­i­pated when I first arrived.

What inspired you to write “Sex and God at Yale” ?

I started working on reporting about Sex Week with the idea of doing a mag­azine article about it, or an essay. I even­tually did that, but I realized that there was a lot more to this than Sex Week itself. Sex Week makes up a pretty good chunk of the book, but in some ways it’s simply there to illus­trate the bigger problem. That problem is what I call a lack of intel­lectual purpose or a lack of moral compass. And so I touch on things like the loss of a sense of patri­otism or duty to the country. It’s looked at as intel­lec­tually sophis­ti­cated to be on the side of America’s enemies, to take a look of derision at the mil­itary, or expres­sions of patri­otism. The last thing is a pretty extra­or­dinary example of this: I was in a final exam in Inter­na­tional Rela­tions next to a former official for the Taliban. You have to look at a moment like that with an incredible sense of irony because at that very moment American troops were fighting his former com­rades in the moun­tains of Afghanistan. Here he was at the cradle of American pres­i­dents, the very center of where we train our next gen­er­ation of political and cul­tural leaders. It was a pretty extra­or­dinary moment.

Having grad­uated Yale, what do you do now?

My main gig now is that I’m editor of The College Fix, a higher-ed news and opinion site. We basi­cally publish pri­marily student jour­nalism. Our goal is to talk about issues important to higher-ed or pol­itics. We really want to identify elite, college jour­nalists at the student level and give them a national platform to cul­tivate their craft.

What do you make of com­par­isons of your book to William F. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale,” and of com­par­isons of him to you?

Well, of course it’s natural for people to make that con­nection. I had the chance to meet WFB a couple years before he passed away at the house of a pro­fessor. He was an extra­or­dinary man, what can you say? In some ways, he was the intel­lectual force who launched modern con­ser­vatism. And his book, “God and Man at Yale” — although, if you look at it now, its com­plaints about a Yale edu­cation look pretty quaint aside what’s hap­pening today. But at the time, it was sort of a rev­o­lu­tionary book. And it really launched a lot of careers, cer­tainly Buckley’s career, and, by extension, a lot of the modern con­ser­v­ative movement. I’m a very dif­ferent sort of guy from Buckley, but I do think that my own book is a kind of con­tin­u­ation of the story that he began to tell. Buckley always empha­sized the impor­tance of higher edu­cation. He realized that our political future is really wrapped up in what’s going on in the classroom today. And I def­i­nitely share that view. I think that what’s hap­pening at Yale has impli­ca­tions far beyond Yale, far beyond people who go to Yale. But if you don’t go to Yale, or your kids don’t go to Yale, what does this have to do with you? Well, three of our last five pres­i­dents went to Yale; two of the last three Supreme Court jus­tices. Countless cul­tural and political leaders are coming through this ide­o­logical training ground. And so the question is: what are they learning? What are the impli­ca­tions 20 years from now? Those are things that are critical for all Amer­icans.

How did you get con­nected to Hillsdale College?

I’ve known about Hillsdale for a long time. It obvi­ously has an incredible rep­u­tation as an aca­demic center, par­tic­u­larly among intel­lec­tuals on the right. I met [college Pres­ident] Larry Arnn several years ago, and I was very impressed by him. I think he’s done great work there. [Director of the Dow Jour­nalism Program] John Miller and I met by virtue of when I started writing for National Review Online. At the time he was a national cor­re­spondent for National Review and con­tributor to the blog, and he still writes for them. We sort of con­nected that way. He is also involved in the lead­ership of the College Fix, where I’m editor now. John’s passion is really cen­tered around iden­ti­fying young, freedom-loving jour­nalists with talent and really giving them a chance to cul­tivate what they’ve got. He’s got a real men­toring aspect to him. It’s a great fit for him for what he’s doing there at Hillsdale, and The College Fix has a similar vision, which is another con­nection we share.

Is this Hillsdale event on Thursday part of a national book tour?

Yes. I’ll be speaking at a number of cam­puses this fall, and doing some book­store talks and that sort of thing. It’s one of a number of similar events.

 

-Com­piled by Jack Butler

-Photo courtesy of Nathan Harden