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Save the World on Your Own Time

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What should be the role of our institutions of higher education? To promote good moral character? To bring an end to racism, sexism, economic oppression, and other social ills? To foster diversity and democracy and produce responsible citizens?

In Save the World On Your Own Time, Stanley Fish argues that, however laudable these goals might be, there is but one proper role for the academe in society: to advance bodies of knowledge and to equip students for doing the same. When ...

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Save the World on Your Own Time

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Overview


What should be the role of our institutions of higher education? To promote good moral character? To bring an end to racism, sexism, economic oppression, and other social ills? To foster diversity and democracy and produce responsible citizens?

In Save the World On Your Own Time, Stanley Fish argues that, however laudable these goals might be, there is but one proper role for the academe in society: to advance bodies of knowledge and to equip students for doing the same. When teachers offer themselves as moralists, political activists, or agents of social change rather than as credentialed experts in a particular subject and the methods used to analyze it, they abdicate their true purpose. And yet professors now routinely bring their political views into the classroom and seek to influence the political views of their students. Those who do this will often invoke academic freedom, but Fish argues that academic freedom, correctly understood, is the freedom to do the academic job, not the freedom to do any job that comes into the professor's mind. He insists that a professor's only obligation is "to present the material in the syllabus and introduce students to state-of-the-art methods of analysis. Not to practice politics, but to study it; not to proselytize for or against religious doctrines, but to describe them; not to affirm or condemn Intelligent Design, but to explain what it is and analyze its appeal."

Given that hot-button issues such as Holocaust denial, free speech, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are regularly debated in classrooms across the nation, Save the World On Your Own Time is certain to spark fresh debate-and to incense both liberals and conservatives-about the true purpose of higher education in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Fish's lively polemic skewers the popular perspective that universities have an obligation to foster "ethical, social, and political virtues," arguing that academic institutions are best served by admitting to the distinct (and limited) nature of their task: "[to] introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry... and equip [them] with the analytical skills that will enable them to move confidently within those traditions and to engage in independent research." To professors using their podium to politically influence or engage with their students, the author chides: "Do your job," "Don't try to do someone else's job" and "Don't let anyone else do your job"-and offers refreshing takes on Ward Churchill, Bob Newhart and how writing ought to be taught. Despite the repetitive reiteration of initial premises and a few rhetorical inconsistencies, Fish's penultimate chapter shows off his unconventional style in its most personable guise; he lays out a simple strategy by which academics and administrators may fight (not "work with") those who demand that academia justify itself; he writes, "The only honest thing to do when someone from outside asks, 'what use is this venture anyway?' is to answer 'none whatsoever.' " (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Fish (law, Florida International Univ.), former dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, is deeply committed to teaching and to higher education and relishes presenting his views with zest and wide-ranging scholarship. He thinks universities should focus on teaching academic skills and analysis, avoiding politics. But he knows that universities are currently threatened by political activists on both the Left and the Right. He confronts both William Bennett and the cultural conservatives and Ward Churchill and left-wing activists and explains how they both attempt to distort the university's rightful role. Fish, an eminent Milton scholar, is a great debater and is ready to scold all who confuse the issues, including faculty, students, trustees, and members of Congress. Seven loosely connected essays in this volume urge universities to focus on their core role and exhort faculty to teach, acknowledging the support provided by administrators and pleading for appropriate resources for higher education. His many interesting insights into higher education issues may be presented here in a hectoring tone, but this work is recommended for public and academic library readers who enjoy a lively interchange.
—Elizabeth R. Hayford

From the Publisher

"[This book] is invariably smart, stimulating, and provocative. It is filled with insights and crackles with verve. It is a joy to take in." --Texas Law Review

"Particularly clear and engaging prose--a far-from-common gift in such a high-powered thinker." --Rocky Mountain News

"Fish's lively polemic skewers the popular perspective." --Publishers Weekly

"Is deeply committed to teaching and to higher education and relishes presenting his views with zest and wide-ranging scholarship... is a great debater and is ready to scold all who confuse the issues, including faculty, students, trustees, and members of Congress... this work is recommended for public and academic library readers who enjoy a lively interchange." --Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195369021
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/11/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Fish is currently Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Florida International University in Miami and Dean Emeritus at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of ten books including Is There a Text in this Class, There's No Such Thing As Free Speech and It's A Good Thing Too, and How Milton Works. The subject of a New Yorker Profile and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Harper's, the Atlantic, Esquire, Slate, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fish writes the "Think Again" blog for the opinion section of The New York Times and has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and several NPR shows.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

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