To the Editor:
The interviewer of Stanley Fish uses a surprising phrase in one of his questions: “to ratify the political project that New College has become,” (“Why Is Stanley Fish Teaching at Florida’s New College?” The Chronicle Review, November 15).
Surprising, that is, because for 50 years the academic left has been insisting that all education is a political project, and that attempts to declare otherwise are either deceptive or naïve. Did the reporter do any digging to determine if the years preceding the appointments saw a political project of another kind in process in Sarasota?
The laziness is equaled by another query that follows the common journalistic habit of citing unnamed “people” who express certain reservations or criticisms, though in vague terms. It’s a way for a journalist to let others pose a hostile insinuation and to take no responsibility for it: “A lot of academics, including people who are quite conservative about the canon, feel that the new New College is more of a threat than a way forward.”
A real journalist would take these concerns of a “threat” and ask the real question: Why is the appointment of a handful of conservatives to the board of a tiny and struggling liberal-arts college a national story that goes on and on? What makes the curricular revisions and leadership changes, which happen all the time in academia, so ominous and controversial? Forty years ago when schools dropped Western Civ requirements, nobody called it a threat — why does the termination of the gender studies concentration merit the term?
A Chronicle reporter might even consider interviewing a New College trustee or the president some time to get a factual update on the state of the campus. Or, ask Professor Fish again once he’s begun teaching there in January. Or, ask the many professors who have come to us this year eager to join the effort.
Professor Emeritus of English
Member, Board of Trustees
New College of Florida