Versions of Academic Freedom
From Professionalism to Revolution
The author and New York Times columnist sheds light on the intersection of academia and politics with this look at the debate surrounding academic freedom.
Depending on who’s talking, academic freedom is an essential bulwark of democracy, an absurd fig leaf disguising liberal agendas, or, most often, some in-between muddle that both exaggerates its own importance and misunderstands its actual value to scholarship. The crucial question, Fish tells us, is located in the phrase itself: Do you emphasize “academic” or “freedom”?
No reader of Fish will be surprised by the deftness with which he dismantles weak arguments, corrects misconceptions, and clarifies muddy ideas. And while his conclusion may surprise, it is unquestionably bracing. Stripping away the mystifications that obscure academic freedom allows its beneficiaries to concentrate on what they should be doing: following their intellectual interests and furthering scholarship.