Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Last professors, NOT!

I was going to pass over Stanley Fish's latest ramblings in silence, but one of our most steadfast readers has called my attention to this and asked for comment. Here goes. Fish deals with a book called The Last Professors by Frank Donoghue — a former student of his. It's more of the same the-sky-is-falling that has pushed the humanities to the brink of extinction. Especially humanities people are irrelevant and marginalized. The dreams of 'restored stability', where people value 'liberal education' and such, is a delusion. The future is MacEducation run by adjuncts working for minimum wage. Just give up and march to the beat of our corporate overlords. Or flip burgers.

The book title might be an allusion to the 'last of the Mohicans', or rather, that is, a reference to the Mohegans. Guess what? The Mohegans are still here and will continue to be. Professors will be too. In fact, we're fighting for the future of our society, and fighting for the role of higher education. Let me quote a recent speech of note:

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. … We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.
Yes we can. And yes we will. The ground has shifted beneath Fish and Donoghue, who question the scale of our ambitions, and their stale political arguments no longer apply. Those are the words of a new president, one who was shaped by reading and learning and who thinks, speaks and acts in a way that shows it.

In fact, some of what I had been planning to write here has been very nicely anticipated by a young member of our vast international conspiracy:
maybe we could also stop thinking about college campuses as little incubators of radical ideas, kooky professors, and privileged students, and start thinking about them for what they are: institutions that can drive real social, economic, infrastructural, cultural, governmental, personal, spiritual, and scientific change.
That's right. We are going to turn things around. We've got work to do. Real work, relevant to the real world.

Later, gentle readers, I've got to do my part.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'Cynic' is too good for Fish. In line with your basic point: Forget about those creeps and look ahead!