Stanley Fish and the line of virtue

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Last November, the THE's Devil's Advocate column focused on Stanley Fish, the Milton scholar.  I was reminded of the piece as I sat in the back of a primary school classroom the other day watching what was going on.  In terms of what does go on in such places, Fish argues, "The line of virtue is very clear: are you asking academic questions or are you trying to nudge your students in some ideological partisan direction?"  Actually, Fish was thinking of Higher Education when he wrote this, but when it comes to issues like sustainability and development, the arguments seems to apply with considerable force in schools as well.  In this primary school, I watched as the teacher, following an exploration of people's lives in Ghana, coaxed her 8 & 9 year olds to agree with her that we should all pay more for chocolate in order to be fairer to them, and to make their lives a bit better.  In the end, they all agreed.  But I didn't, and thought of Stanley Fish and of how much there is still to do.

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