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The Democratic Classroom: Sharing Power to Improve Learning and Educate Citizens
Unformatted Document Text:  Democratic Classroom 4 bad character” (Fish, 2006b, n.p.). Fish agrees that these are worthy goals, but objects that it is not the responsibility of faculty to pursue educational objectives they were not trained for. The job of faculty is instead to “1) introduce students to materials they didn’t know a whole lot about, and 2) to equip them with the skills that will enable them, first, to analyze and evaluate these materials and, second, to perform independent research, should they choose to do so, after the semester is over” (2006b, n.p.). It is the job of “ministers, therapists, social workers, political activists, gurus, inspirational speakers, and diversity consultants” (2006b, n.p.) to aim for the lofty goals listed above. While Horowitz wants to open up academe to the debates of the political world outside its walls, Fish is instead engaged in a project that seeks to compartmentalize and define the mission of higher education as precisely and minimally as possible. It is this latter argument that I explore in this paper through addressing the question: What if doing one’s job successfully in higher education leads one to address the “big issues” that Fish sees as outside the purview of higher education? Though Fish does not say so explicitly, the second part of his definition indicates that it is the faculty’s job to help students learn the material. That is, one would be hard pressed to expect students to “analyze and evaluate” material that they haven’t learned. I would guess that if questioned about this, Fish would agree that the “skills” faculty are responsible for teaching are more precisely “learning skills.” And while such skills vary in their application according to discipline, it is safe to assume that these skills are transferable from course to course. Over the last several decades, student learning has emerged as the primary goal of higher education. Prior to this shift, the goal was closer to the first part of Fish’s definition – the introduction to materials or, as this job is more commonly known to faculty, “covering the course content.” As

Authors: Price, Christopher.
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Democratic Classroom 4
bad character” (Fish, 2006b, n.p.). Fish agrees that these are worthy goals, but objects that it is
not the responsibility of faculty to pursue educational objectives they were not trained for. The
job of faculty is instead to “1) introduce students to materials they didn’t know a whole lot about,
and 2) to equip them with the skills that will enable them, first, to analyze and evaluate these
materials and, second, to perform independent research, should they choose to do so, after the
semester is over” (2006b, n.p.). It is the job of “ministers, therapists, social workers, political
activists, gurus, inspirational speakers, and diversity consultants” (2006b, n.p.) to aim for the
lofty goals listed above.
While Horowitz wants to open up academe to the debates of the political world outside
its walls, Fish is instead engaged in a project that seeks to compartmentalize and define the
mission of higher education as precisely and minimally as possible. It is this latter argument that
I explore in this paper through addressing the question: What if doing one’s job successfully in
higher education leads one to address the “big issues” that Fish sees as outside the purview of
higher education?
Though Fish does not say so explicitly, the second part of his definition indicates that it is
the faculty’s job to help students learn the material. That is, one would be hard pressed to expect
students to “analyze and evaluate” material that they haven’t learned. I would guess that if
questioned about this, Fish would agree that the “skills” faculty are responsible for teaching are
more precisely “learning skills.” And while such skills vary in their application according to
discipline, it is safe to assume that these skills are transferable from course to course. Over the
last several decades, student learning has emerged as the primary goal of higher education. Prior
to this shift, the goal was closer to the first part of Fish’s definition – the introduction to
materials or, as this job is more commonly known to faculty, “covering the course content.” As


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