Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Humanties and Education

Martha C. Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), in what she terms a manifesto, makes a compelling case for studying history, literature, and the arts in an era when the emphasis is increasingly on science and technology (and other disciplines testable). It is in the humanities, she argues, that we gain the “ability to think critically; the ability to transcend local loyalties and to approach world problems as a ‘citizen of the world’; and, finally, the ability to imagine sympathetically the predicament of another person” (p. 7). Nussbaum is arguing against the use of standardized tests and large impersonal classes and for small classes where teachers can employ the Socratic method. Despite the clarity of her argument and the marshalling of positive and negative cases to make her point, her position may be something that has already become outmoded because of corporate perspective and political pressures (except in some classrooms where some teachers ad scholars resist the tide).

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