Aug 272013

Just a few notes for now about “The Two Cultures of Educational Reform” by Stanley Fish. He’s responding to Higher Education in America by Derek Bok. Fish’s allusion to C. P. Snow’s two cultures–the sciences and the humanities–shows his cards right off the bat: education reform must (but has yet to) confront a division between measurable and unmeasurable qualities. This is a winning hand because the distinction is real and epistemological. Upgrading a pencil to a laptop to a tablet has nothing to do with it.

Fish’s tone says a lot though: he is uncharacteristically journalistic. Very Bak says, but then he says and so on with his point being that the “but then”‘s reveal the emperor’s naked and should be deal breakers. But he never makes the argument forcefully ending instead with a reference to an obscure movie from the nineties about “da kids today” and how disconnected they are. Is he just working out his ideas or is the reform discourse something he’s heard before, perhaps in the theory that flaunted its own contradictions without ever having to own them. If the latter, then his tone is a concession–this is going to happen–and also a warning: batten the hatches, keep your head down, hold on.

…the alternative tone would say, grab this beast, turn it, tame it, make it pull the plow.

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