FISH TO ACADEMY: DROP DEAD….Stanley Fish thinks that university professors should quit jawboning about political issues and stick to their academic knitting:

My assertion is that it is immoral for academics or for academic institutions to proclaim moral views.

….Of course [universities] can and should take collective (and individual) action on those issues relevant to the educational mission — the integrity of scholarship, the evil of plagiarism, the value of a liberal education. Indeed, failure to pronounce early and often on these matters would constitute a dereliction of duty.

Now, ever since Aristotle leveraged his position as head of the Lyceum to become an unofficial advisor to Alexander the Great, academics have placed themselves squarely in the middle of the issues of the day. So this is not exactly a new problem.

But never mind that. What I’m curious about is the reaction of Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds: they both think Fish is onto something, Eugene going so far as to say “I almost entirely agree” with Fish’s article. (Glenn, needless to say, merely links in a vaguely approving manner without actually coming right out and saying he approves.)

I don’t get it. Both of them have dedicated considerable amounts of their professional lives to speaking out on public affairs ? much of it on university time and taking advantage of their authority as university professors. Hell, they both run popular blogs in which they mouth off on subjects far and wide on a daily basis, just like the rest of us. So why would they claim that professors should limit themselves to the merely pedagogical?

Am I missing something here?

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman writes to say that he thinks Fish is speaking strictly about classroom advocacy. After reading the article again, he might be right, although there are a number of passages that seem to indicate otherwise. If that really is what Fish meant, then it’s a pretty muddled piece. He should have made his point a lot clearer.