Stanley Fish

Teaching, Tenure, and Academic Freedom

In The New York Times a couple of days ago, Stanley Fish offered an article with the title "Vocationalism, Academic Freedom and Tenure."  He is responding to a book, The Faculty Lounges: and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For  by Naomi Schaefer Riley.  He writes:

What Riley shows is that vocation-oriented teaching, teaching beholden to corporations and politically inflected teaching do not square with the picture of academic labor assumed by the institutions of tenure and academic freedom.

I agree with Fish in part when, in response to Riley's point, he writes:

I say, and have been saying for years, that colleges and universities should stop moving in those directions — toward relevance, bottom-line contributions and social justice — and go back to a future in which academic inquiry is its own justification.

But I do think he views things to narrowly.  Academic inquiry is not simply its own justification, but is a necessary basis for higher-level teaching, which itself is not the "thing" his article (and, I assume, Riley's book) imagine it to be, but is itself a dynamic requiring academic freedom every bit as much as research does.