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In this short and powerful book, celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education.
Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have rightly been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry both in the United States and abroad. Anxiously focused on national economic growth, we increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world.
In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world.
Drawing on the stories of troubling--and hopeful--educational developments from around the world, Nussbaum offers a manifesto that should be a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the deepest purposes of education.
"Nussbaum . . . brings to this perennial [education] debate an impassioned urgency . . . and broad erudition. . . . Nussbaum's defense of this worthy cause is deeply learned."—Mick Sussman, New York Times Book Review
"One turns with some relief to Martha Nussbaum's Not for Profit, and her impassioned . . . argument in favor of study of the humanities."—Peter Brooks, New York Review of Books
"Against the commercialisation of the academy, [Nussbaum] poses a sentient, Socratic and cosmopolitan vision of higher education."—Jon Nixon, Times Higher Education
"A comprehensive look at today's worldwide marketplace for college students."—Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post
"It's an important and timely plea because the pursuit of so-called useful educational results continues apace, and because the threats to humanistic education are indeed profound."—Michael S. Roth, Chronicle of Higher Education
"Moving deftly between analysis and and polemic, the author draws on education practices in India, experimental psychology, the works of such liberal education proponents as Dewey and Tagore to emphasize the importance of critical pedagogy for the development of individual responsibility, innovation, and self-examination. . . . [I]n advocating educational curriculums that recognize the worth of personal development and creative thought, this slim book is itself a small but decisive step in the effort to broaden and enrich current pedagogical practices."—Publishers Weekly
"For Nussbaum, human development means the development of the capacity to transcend the local prejudices of one's immediate (even national) context and become a responsible citizen of the world."—Stanley Fish, New York Times Opinionator Blog
"This is a passionate call to action at a time when the nation is becoming more culturally diverse and universities are cutting back on humanities programs."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist
"Nussbaum's ideals are dynamic. Hers is a cosmopolitan humanism oriented towards global citizenship. . . . Not only a spirited defence of the humanities and a lament for their perceived decline, it is a call to action."—Luke Slattery, Australian
"[A] short, though-provoking book. . . . Not For Profit offers a passionate and persuasive defence of the humanities. While most of the cases Nussbaum discusses are drawn from the US and India, her argument has undoubted relevance for Australia."—Tim Soutphommasane, Australian
"Nussbaum believes that cutting the liberal arts from our academic programs will lead to undereducated graduates. To make responsible decisions, a student must comprehend more than a limited business-oriented curriculum can provide. . . . Not For Profit is required reading for educational administrators, government analysts, and liberal arts instructors at all levels."—Julia Ann Charpentier, ForeWord
"But when economic growth becomes the focus of education, both democracy and human decency are in jeopardy. In her new book, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton), acclaimed University of Chicago philosopher and legal scholar Martha Nussbaum argues that our culture of market-driven schooling is headed for a fall."—John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"This book will certainly add weight to Nussbaum's considerable reputation and influence as a major public intellectual. Her core diagnosis is both accurate and compelling. . . . Not for Profit is an important book with an urgent message that should be read and considered by the widest possible audience."—Paul Russell, Globe and Mail
"Nussbaum's defense of the value of the humanities is informed, intelligent and deeply plausible—so much so that many readers might find themselves somewhat at a loss as to how our society, and indeed the world in general, has reached the point where such a book is even needed. What could be more obvious, and thus less in need of a defense, than the claim that a strong grounding in the arts and humanities is a great good, both for the individual and for the society in which she lives? . . . I admire this book, as I do all Nussbaum's work, and I could not be more sympathetic to its message."—Troy Jollimore, Truthdig
"This brief volume incisively argues that higher education around the globe must reprioritize toward preparing students to become 'citizens of the world'—a task that will require schools to cultivate imagination, empathy, and other trademarks of humanistic education. Nussbaum's analysis is a moving reminder of the humanities' practical consequence."—Diversity Web
"[R]efreshingly free of the policy speak and narrow thinking that often dominate works on the subject. . . . Nussbaum's unorthodox method of defining and then demonstrating the value of the humanities is perhaps the most compelling aspect of her book."—Andrew Benedict-Nelson, Common Review
"As a model of public philosophy, [Not For Profit] is exemplary. . . . There are no pronouncements from on high here, only strong arguments, forcefully made."—Julian Baggini, Philosophers' Magazine
"Nussbaum makes a compelling case for the humanities' continuing value and importance."—David A. Bell, Dissent
"This is a little book with a big, and important, message. . . . Nussbaum has long demonstrated her courage as a public intellectual, and this book articulates the liberal vision that sustains her."—John A. Scott, Philosophy in Review
"[E]xcellently written."—Herman De Dijn, Ethical Perspectives
"As a model of public philosophy, [Not For Profit] is exemplary. Anyone familiar with Nussbaum's work will know that a lot is going on beneath the surface, and that her case has more and deeper roots than are on show here. However, she is always careful to argue for her conclusions as fully as is compatible with brevity and accessibility. There are no pronouncements from on high here, only strong arguments, forcefully made."—Julian Baggini, The Philosophers' Magazine
"[Nussbaum's] book is a compact, animated, and mellifluous defense of the humanities that makes a powerful case for the ethical imperative of providing the younger generations of the world's democracies with a critical, engaged, liberal-arts based education."—Erin McGlothlin, Belles Lettres
"Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities is refreshing in being a scholarly work in the humanities and social sciences from a US author that is not wholly preoccupied with the US. Indeed, one of the most interesting facet's of Nussbaum's work is her comparison of both the historical development and current position of education in the US with education in India which she clearly knows reasonably well."—Gavin Moodie, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management
"[I]t is resolutely vigorous and committed, honed for the purpose of public debate."—Solange Chavel, Books & Ideas
This book will certainly add weight to Nussbaum's considerable reputation and influence as a major public intellectual. Her core diagnosis is both accurate and compelling. . . . Not for Profit is an important book with an urgent message that should be read and considered by the widest possible audience.
— Paul Russell
CHAPTER I: The Silent Crisis 1
CHAPTER II: Education for Profit, Education for Democracy 13
CHAPTER III: Educating Citizens: The Moral (and Anti-Moral) Emotions 27
CHAPTER IV: Socratic Pedagogy: The Importance of Argument 47
CHAPTER V: Citizens of the World 79
CHAPTER VI: Cultivating Imagination: Literature and the Arts 95
CHAPTER VII: Democratic Education on the Ropes 121
Posted August 19, 2012
Why do we need the humanities? Martha Nussbaum argues that the humanities offer insight into other cultures, other values and teach an appreciation for the complexity of the world beyond what we see close at hand in our day to day life. Activities such as philosophical discourse (alas Socrates), a critical reading of history, participating in drama, reading and writing poetry and fiction help us see what life is like through the eyes of persons with whom we are not familiar. These other groups of people extend beyond just those who are geographically remote from us, and include people from different economic backgrounds, other ‘races’ , other religions, other genders and people with different sexual orientations. Critical and creative thinking in the humanities teaches us to look for gaps in what we’re told by society and to consider the assumptions behind the values given to us by society. But while advocating the need for the humanities, Prof. Nussbaum reminds the reader on a number of occasions that she is *not* arguing against science/engineering/economic education. Rather, she is arguing that society needs the humanities in addition to these fields, and while the sciences are growing, the humanities are under attack on many fronts. One reason for this growing lack of support is the perception that an education in the humanities is not as employable as an education in (for example) engineering and the skills learned from the humanities may not seem as critical to economic growth. But she and others (e.g., Jean-Jacques Rousseau, American philosopher John Dewey and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore) note that central to the humanities are critical thinking and creativity skills that many employers value highly in their senior staff, and that economic growth as measured by the GNP is not necessarily the best measure of the health of a society since it does not take into account the disparities of wealth, the quality of life or educational opportunities available to all citizens. This very readable book summarizes many points that concerned readers should bring to the attention of local school boards, state educators and university administrators. If Prof. Nussbaum had included statistics showing changes in funding for the humanities, or even a list of institutions that have cut back on their humanities programs, I would have given this book a 5-star rating. But this lack of more widespread supporting quantitative data, which decision makers will certainly ask about, does not detract from the main message of the book. Anybody interested in education will be glad to have read ‘Not for Profit’.
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