Saturday, July 22, 2006

Shorter Stanley Fish

Academic freedom doesn't mean freedom to say things people think are crazy; it means the freedom to study things they think are boring.

Okay, so this Kevin Barrett character sounds like an idiot, possibly enough of an idiot to deserve a good firing or two. But Fish has gone off several deep ends at once. Yes, it would be nice to have professors who come up with interesting ideas about shoes. But when most people think of academic freedom, I suspect Galileo comes to mind more than Derrida. We let professors think crazy things, objectionable things, because sometimes, centuries later, it turns out they were right. A million Kevin Barretts are the price we pay for that.

And what on earth is wrong with professors urging activism? Professors are the canaries in the coal mine; they're often the first ones to see what's gone wrong. If they don't urge activism, there's often no one who will.

[I'm not back, really, just in between jobs and free to post for a while. --Polonius]