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Advocates of academic freedom often view it as a variation of the right to free speech and an essential feature of democracy. Stanley Fish argues here for a narrower conception of academic freedom, one that does not grant academics a legal status different from other professionals. Providing a blueprint for the study of academic freedom, Fish breaks down the schools of thought on the subject, which range from the idea that academic freedom is justified by the common good or by academic exceptionalism, to its potential for critique or indeed revolution. Fish himself belongs to what he calls the “It's Just a Job” school: while academics need the latitude—call it freedom if you like—necessary to perform their professional activities, they are not free in any special sense to do anything but their jobs. Academic freedom, Fish argues, should be justified only by the specific educational good that academics offer. Defending the university “in all its glorious narrowness” as a place of disinterested inquiry, Fish offers a bracing corrective to academic orthodoxy.
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