Stanley Fish Opposes Politicized “New Civics”

National Association of Scholars

Our old critic and sometimes antagonist Stanley Fish has an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education responding to the National Association of Scholars’ report Making Citizens. Professor Fish, who has found common ground with the NAS in recent years on much of our work, offers constructive criticism of our newest report. He believes we have correctly identified the problem but suggested erroneous solutions. We welcome this debate and are glad to see Professor Fish weigh in.

Here is an excerpt from his article:

Nevertheless, I have felt for some time that the integrity of academic work has been under pressure from forces that would politicize it, either from the outside in the form of external constituencies eager to have colleges and universities reflect their agendas, or from the inside in the form of student protests aimed at getting colleges and universities to toe their preferred ideological line. The NAS report stands squarely against the second form of politicization (as do I), but participates fully in the first. Consider the following key and representative sentence: "We view the liberal arts, properly understood, as fostering intellectual freedom, the search for truth, and the promotion of virtuous citizenship." Fostering intellectual freedom? Yes! Search for truth? Yes! Promotion of virtuous citizenship? No! Promoting virtuous citizenship is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not an academic goal, because, like the programs the report derides, it is a political goal.

Read what others have to say about Making Citizens >

Image: flag by Paul Gooder // CC BY 2.0

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