Monday, August 25, 2008

Van Engen, Abram. "Teaching Life, with Restraint." BOOKS AND CULTURE August 11, 2008.

Fish, Stanley. Save the World on Your Own Time. Oxford: OUP, 2008. In his latest work on higher education, Fish argues that academics need to leave their proselytizing behind. Professors are not in the business of urging politics or values. Their only job is to introduce students to bodies of knowledge and equip them with analytical skills. That's it. Teachers analyze; they do not advocate—not, at least, in the classroom. Coming from one of the premier postmodern theorists—someone who helped convince us that nothing is neutral—this position seems somewhat remarkable. In 1991, for example, Fish argued that religious people should accept no place in the academy because their firm beliefs were not open to a marketplace of ideas. George Marsden responded in The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship that "Christians and non-Christians can readily share basic standards of evidence and argument." The classroom is a context requiring certain forms of behavior and restraint: "in the very nature of human life," Marsden wrote, "we routinely move from one field of activity to another, each with its own set of rules." Fish, it seems, now agrees. In life, he writes, "we refrain … from inserting our religious beliefs or our private obsessions into every situation or conversation no matter what its content." The classroom, likewise, calls for restraint. It is not a place for partisan politics—even of the most bland and seemingly universal sort, like "tolerance." We do not teach tolerance, says Fish, we teach physics or poetry or psychology: bodies of knowledge, sets of skills. . . . Read the rest here:

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