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Save the World on Your Own Time Hardcover – August 11, 2008

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195369021 ISBN-10: 0195369025 Edition: Second Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
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From Booklist

A college teacher has just two professional responsibilities, Fish says: (1) “introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry” and (2) “equip those students with the analytical skills” needed to absorb those traditions and perform independent research. Those should take up all a teacher’s professional time. Political advocacy, religious instruction, and pet causes should be prosecuted outside the classroom. To show that conscientiously pursued teaching can take all one’s work time, he sketches his own way of teaching English composition, intriguingly enough to make one wish to have been in his classroom. He is trenchant and cogent on the dangers of trying to do someone else’s work and of allowing someone else to do yours, and the particulars in his argument include his defense of academic work (it is not good for something but good in itself), his experienced administrator’s revelation that public (i.e., tax) support of higher education has plummeted throughout the U.S., and his evisceration of the activist maxim everything is political. All who care about higher education should read this book. --Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Second Edition edition (August 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195369025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195369021
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University. He has previously taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has received many honors and awards, including being named the Chicagoan of the Year for Culture. He is the author of twelve books and is now a weekly columnist for the New York Times. He resides in Andes, New York; New York City; and Delray Beach, Florida; with his wife, Jane Tompkins.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By K. N. VINE VOICE on September 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
*Save the World on Your Own Time* is an incisive, engaging, and I daresay inspiring polemic on major issues in higher education today. Stanley Fish does not mince words; the argument he repeats throughout this book is that academics should stick to "doing their jobs": "introduce students to disciplinary materials and equip them with the necessary analytic skills" to engage in disciplinary methods of research (p. 153). Yet proceeding from this modest thesis, Fish outlines a series of logical consequences which expose the folly of the way partisans of the left and the right tackle issues ranging from academic freedom and faculty hiring to deconstruction and Intelligent Design.

How does the humble work of academic inquiry manage to take on these diverse hot-button issues? For starters, Fish pulls the rug out from under all those who see the university classroom as a site to do something other than teach disciplinary methods of research and analysis. Despite the lofty rhetoric of professors who aim to teach their students "civic responsibility" and "tolerance for others," it is Fish's contention that doing something other than engaging in academic study in the university is dangerous. Politics, Fish surmises, has no place in the classroom unless it's the object of academic inquiry in a political science seminar. That is, politics should be something professors analyze, not something they demand allegiance to.

Fish's position may strike many in the academy as deeply conservative, but what emerges from *Save the World* is a deeply committed defense of the academic enterprise itself.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on December 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In The Trouble with Principle, Stanley Fish argues against Principles. The values he attacks vary, but the methodology is always the same, and can be summed thus: every value no matter how important, must be balanced against other considerations, which means that for every principle, there would be circumstances when that principle would be violated. Therefore, Fish argues, there are no principles.

My view was that Fish took a far too stringent view of principles. If principles are taken as good generalizations or rules of thumb (i.e. "In principle, I agree that..."), they can be very useful. Only when conceived as eternal, unchanging, and always correct, is there a "trouble with principles"; Otherwise, they would do just fine.

So it is a little of a shock to find Fish does the very thing he argued against in his previous book in this one - that is, declaring a principle. Taken in my sense, that of a rule of thumb, Fish's principle is solid: the prime objective of an academic is to engage in academic pursuits, that is mostly in the teaching of the "current state of disciplinary knowledge" (p. 13), and doing research.

This is surely a good idea; We don't need professors to be preachers or pundits; That's not where their comparative advantage lies. But it is over simplistic; Reality is more complicated that Fish is willing to acknowledge, and the generally good rule must be tweaked to acknowledge that.

For example, Fish criticizes the professors who opposed the housing of the George W. Bush presidential library at Southern Methodist University.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Save the World on Your Own Time," former professor and dean Stanley Fish is quite clear on what he wants: "I want a university infected by no one's politics, but by the nitty-gritty obligations of teaching and research." (p. 16) Fish draws on his own experience in academia, as well as the usual highly publicized examples a la Ward Churchill, to argue that the academy is focusing less on teaching and more on preaching. And unlike those like David Horowitz and Dinesh D'Souza, Fish does not simply want to make political discourse by university faculty more "balanced," but to remove it all together. As Fish writes repeatedly, teaching political ideas (how to think about them, the history of them, etc) is different from preaching political ideas.

That the latter is happening on a pretty large scale is not much in dispute. From Ward Churchill being removed from the U of Colorado for comments made after 9/11, to universities taking collective stands on policy issues, to the "speech codes" that several universities have experimented with over the past decade, Fish documents this trend quite well.

But what to do about it? Fish wants us to "return" to the "proper" job of universities: to teach students how to think, rather than what to think. Teach about ideas, rather than endorse ideas. Let's avoid the rhetoric, contra Derek Bok and Martha Nussbaum, about the universities' responsibility to promkote tolerance, democracy, pluralism, or any other value and accept the fact that universities are not in the "making good citizens" business, but in the "making educated citizens" business.

Does this mean that universities should not talk about values, politics, literary ideas, etc? No. "You can probe [a] policy's history,...explore its philosophical lineage...
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