Stanley Fish in Toronto and on TVO


I can’t believe I missed this.

Stanley Fish, author of Save the World on Your Own Time and respected commentator on higher education, was the guest at the Munk Centre Thursday for a live airing of TVO agenda.

The topic was “Politics in the Classroom.” The vodcast of the show has not arrived on the TVO website yet, so I can’t summarize the event. The after-show internet question and answer is online. Take a watch.


Stanley Fish in Toronto and on TVO

  1. As I said before, I think that Fish’s views are unfortunately oversimplistic, which is maybe why he uses only the most extreme “preaching”-type examples (read: straw men) to prove his point.

    Moreover, his idea that academic disciplines should “go back” to pursue “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” (whatever that means), as if it was a neutral enterprise, implies that such a “pure” state of academia sometimes existed, which is very dubious.

    If anything, I am very skeptical of any “ahistorical” view of academia. I don’t think Kuhn’s theory perfectly explains it, but I think it’s relatively uncontroversial to say that every academic field involves one or more dominant paradigms, which are the underlying “biases” of the field and transpose as the dominant ideologies in any university department. Furthermore, many people have pointed out that paradigms in science or social sciences are inevitably linked to the historical context where they were developed, and yes, this context includes politics.

    Furthermore, I resent any attempt to separate between “pure” and “applied” fields (where the former would be knowledge for knowledge sake, and the second would be aimed at solving concrete current problems). At worst, it creates a hierarchy among fields (physicists believing their work is more “fundamental” than engineers, or philosophers vs. political science). At best, it still maintains disciplinary boundaries that restrict communication and collaboration between fields. Engineers have made extremely important contributions to physics, “applied” physics has made great contributions to “pure” math., and so on.

    Ironically, by focusing so much on a “moral purpose” of university (i.e. pure, useless knowledge), Fish might be guilty of the very ideological dogmatism that he accuses other academics of. According to his narrow view, should a Law professor have anything to say about education?

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