My last post came on little sleep, so I thought I might try again. Actually, I already tried again in an email exchange with an old friend. He wrote to get my thoughts on Fish's piece. Here's my (hopefully) more coherent response:
As a rhetorician, I'm in a weird spot. I am a member of the humanities, sure, but not necessarily the Humanities [the remnants of the Arnold's liberal arts, those non-utilitarian caches of Culture]. I do things, I produce things, I engage actual people and practices. Although I work with "high theory," I attempt to reconcile high theory with everyday life. Rhetoric has been disparaged for the last 200 years by the very disciplines that Fish sees as dying.
Chances are this is some remnant of the Clark experience. The whole "peas in a pod" thing, our social obligation, blah, blah, blah.
Still, there is a part of me that believes education involves periods of pointless exploration (in rhetoric we refer to this as "invention"). The H/humanities excel at such intellectual wandering. Yet, in an era marked by increased demand for results, education is more and more becoming exercises in accountable delivery. It is hard to measure wandering. So we resort to teaching rather than attempt to learn.