cover image Save the World on Your Own Time

Save the World on Your Own Time

Stanley Fish, Author . Oxford Univ. $19.95 (189p) ISBN 978-0-1

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.)