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Nut Cracked by University. Fish Waves Hands. Which is Stranger?

Stanley Fish doesn’t like the idea of unrestrained academic freedom. And in a gesture against the idea of unrestrained academic freedom, Stanley Fish points at the case of a tenured professor in Canada who said all sorts of wild things about how classes on particular subjects should be taught on other subjects instead, and how students shouldn’t follow course curricula, and how grades are bunk, and how physics is out to get you, and on and on and on. The tenured professor stopped teaching the subject matter of his department and used his platform to do whatever he felt like.

At this, Fish waves his hands and wails about the shameful loss of standards in education:

Last week we came to the section on academic freedom in my course on the law of higher education and I posed this hypothetical to the students: Suppose you were a member of a law firm or a mid-level executive in a corporation and you skipped meetings or came late, blew off assignments or altered them according to your whims, abused your colleagues and were habitually rude to clients. What would happen to you?

The chorus of answers cascaded immediately: “I’d be fired.” Now, I continued, imagine the same scenario and the same set of behaviors, but this time you’re a tenured professor in a North American university. What then?

I answered this one myself: “You’d be celebrated as a brave nonconformist, a tilter against orthodoxies, a pedagogical visionary and an exemplar of academic freedom.”

But that professor, even though he was tenured, was not celebrated as a brave nonconformist, a visionary, an exemplar. His own department turned against him. His administrators responded to his academic irresponsibility. He was removed. He was fired. And when he refused to leave the campus, he was hauled off in handcuffs. Those seem like standards to me. Those seem like limits on academic freedom to me.

Read Fish’s essay and tell me if you can figure out what Fish is complaining about.

5 thoughts on “Nut Cracked by University. Fish Waves Hands. Which is Stranger?”

  1. qs says:

    John McCain says that the spending bill is spending six hundred thousand dollars for every one of the government jobs it will be creating.
    Secession now! We could have elected Ron Paul, and I’d still favor secession since there isn’t a damn thing anyone could do to fix our awful government.

  2. qs says:

    “will be”

  3. F.G. Fitzer says:

    I like fruit!

    Also, in other unrelated comments:

    Killer bees haven’t killed anyone all year!

    The City of Laredo has a garbage problem!

    Nonsequiturs are on the rampage!

    Okay now, qs, back to the subject…

    Imagine what would happen if YOU wrote about a problem that didn’t exist! You’d be mocked. You’d be laughed out of the room.

    But what if you were Stanley Fish? Oh, well then you would be celebrated as a brave nonconformist, a tilter against orthodoxies, a pedagogical visionary and an exemplar of academic freedom!

    Oh, the agony!

  4. Jim says:

    My mother says you have three nipples, so it MUST BE TRUE.

    Now here comes the part where I ask you how John McCain calculated that, how many jobs there are in the package, for how many years they would be, how many non-governmental jobs would be established, for how many years that would be, how many non-job benefits would be accrued, how large they would be, and where you don’t answer because you don’t know, which means you don’t have the basis to evaluate John McCain’s statement, but hey, when did that ever stop you before?

    Oh, if only Ron Paul could visit you like a fairy godmother and make the words flow with his little sparkly wand. That would just fix everything.

  5. Mark at Fish Aquariums says:

    I don’t think the problem is that Rancourt wants to save the world. The means, not the ends, is the problem.

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