Squeezed in between the radio’s incessant squeaking about Palin, Fannie, and Freddie, (barf, barf, barf), Neal Conan gave Stanley Fish air time on Talk of the Nation to promote his new book: “Save the World on Your Own Time,” and an opportunity for him to tout his devil-may-care devil’s advocacy. On the show he argues that liberal arts colleges are under no obligation to promote good moral character, and that professors should leave world-changing agendas out of the classroom. In fact, Fish says that to do so, is a decidedly UNacademic pursuit.
Of course I take great issue with this, as most people will. That’s probably what Fish wants us to do. Without knowing every inner thought of Fish’s mind, I can safely say based on a lengthy reading of a profile of him in the New Yorker 5-10 years ago*, and casual following of his inconoclastic bon mots ever since (see his NY Times blog), he likely wants us to all disagree with him. Maybe it’s all part of his agenda, or maybe he’s just plain annoying; that kid in seminar who had the most harebrained ideas yet WOULD NOT shut up. But every man serves a purpose. It’s all part of the great design.
I of course would not be a teacher BUT to POLITICIZE my students. I have no interest in indoctrinating my students, BUT: to teach them to be analytical, critical, and problem-solving, ie. academic, cannot for me, be taken out of the context of where we are and who we are as citizens of the world. Colleges are not fortresses, and hasn’t the academe itself been fighting against that notion for years now? AND: to deny students the opportunity to apply academic inquiry to the world around them is to me, totally unethical.
With that, and in the interest of POLITICIZING rather than indoctrinating you, I encourage you to listen to Fish’s interview.
Now, could we get a fast and dirty debate going here? Who’s for Saddleshoos? Who’s for Fish?
*I wish I could locate this article! It was brilliant, written in 1999 if my research and memory serve, when Fish accepted the position of Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. One of the New Yorker artists did a fabulous caricature illustration, but I just can’t find it on the web…
also, no star, but doesn’t Fish kind of look like the Grinch in the above pic?