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I don’t think we should be embarrassed about the age-old practice of reading students’ and colleagues’ work or listening to their arguments with a view to improvement.And I certainly don’t prioritize style and delivery over substance when it comes to my students’ presentations.
But of course, academics have helped students to get good at evidence-based reasoning, making coherent, clearly-structured arguments (written or oral), weighing two sides or interpretations of an issue, being confident, assertive and effective communicators (and so on).
And even if we didn’t do so with their future lives and careers as an explicit focus, we surely knew that most of them weren’t going to be translating Sophocles for a living in ten years’ time.
And as for ‘making the weak case look strong’, well we don’t really know for sure what Protagoras meant by this.
Again, one thing which academics have done is helped each other and their students to see the weak points in their essays, theses, monographs and articles.
I always get worried about the fact that, on the one hand, I admire so many thinkers who have gone on record as anti-Fishians and yet, on the other, I rather like Fish’s book .
I have the same experience with the work of Judith Butler …).
But several decades after Socrates was put to death, the orator and politician Aeschines could still remind the Athenians that they executed ‘the sophist Socrates’ for being the teacher of Critias.
(Critias became a murderous oligarch – one of the ‘Thirty Tyrants’).
No, the real worry for all academics is that they become perceived as ‘sophists’ in the same way that Socrates was.
We don’t think of Socrates as a ‘sophist’ because Plato and Xenophon did such a good job of depicting him as the of the so-called ‘sophists’.