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The Forum > Article Comments > Not for profit: why education needs the humanities > Comments

Not for profit: why education needs the humanities : Comments

By Martha Nussbaum, published 15/8/2011

If educational trends continue nations all over the world will soon be producing generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves.

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A very good extract. Regretfully, that section of the community that one would hope would lead the way in education for the humanities is the very section that opposes such education. I refer of course to the attitude of the various churches to the introduction of voluntary classes in ethics training and, by extension, critical thinking in NSW schools. Fearful that such classes could in some way weaken their political influence (which almost by definition it very likely would) and equally fearful of the concomitant loss of public funding, the established churches are fighting the introduction of these classes tooth and nail and, by and large, are succeeding. The recent outrageous prostitution of the democratic process by Fred Nile qua 'Christian Democrats' is a sad case in point.
Posted by GYM-FISH, Monday, 15 August 2011 9:20:30 AM
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With a bit more time, in the real world, this lady might actually see that the west has a real shortage of technically trained people, but a surfeit in the fairy floss disciplines.

Unless we get quite a few more doers, & a lot less talkers, our ability to fund all the talking will become severely diminished.

It must be getting hard to fill the places in some of this stuff, for this type of promotion to be necessary. Hard to get takers when once they have done these courses there are no jobs for them, [apart from the public service], which is becoming a problem. I see GYM-FISH has the answer. Lets make this rubbish a school subject. Lots of nice easy jobs in education then. Even if no one is interested, it will keep graduates employed.

Then of course, lots of even better ones in curriculum development, & the like, & someone will have to write text book or three.
Posted by Hasbeen, Monday, 15 August 2011 10:46:56 AM
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While I appreciate Martha Nussbaum's concern over the Humanities, I fear her solution is actually part of the problem of the decline. The Humanities obsession with equality, race, class, and gender does little in the way of teaching critical thinking skills. For one, how can critical thinking skills be employed when the problem is already outlined and preached in advance by university professors and doctors? This is follow the leader, not critical thinking. Nevertheless, why should we be angry toward inequality? (I mean "angry" not "critical" as the term critical is employed by academics to hide their resentment against authority). The cry of equality and social justice by Humanities departments is really a euphemism for tearing down distinction, rank, and the successful. It is no mistake that Humanities departments focus on race, gender, and class, as these form the basis of their objects of resentment. Their rage, in most cases, is against whites (race), males (gender), and capitalists (class). Under this approach, every minority group is made out to be victims of these "bullies." Humanities courses then focus on tearing down these "bullies" and propping up the supposed oppressed minorities. This is not education and not critical thinking, it is merely the political project of the neo-Marxists who attempt to indoctrinate every young freshman into their ideology. As long as this project continues, the Humanities will keep declining in relevance. I, for one, hope the Humanities does not die out, but if it continues along these lines, then, it deserves its fate.
Posted by Aristocrat, Monday, 15 August 2011 11:08:06 AM
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Marthaís article is so riddled with fallacies, so dripping with hypocrisy, that itís hard to know where to begin in exploding all her bubbles.

For starters, her critique of profit of course assumes governmentís superior goodness and wisdom in providing goods and services. But it is *governments* who are providing the educational services she criticises.

The advantage of supplying goods by profit and loss is that they tell you whether you are producing too much or too little. Too much, and you make a loss. Too little, and the profit is a signal direct from the great mass of society telling you they want more of what youíre producing, the value of which they consider to be *greater* than the value of the money they pay for it: see "Profit and Loss" by Ludwig von Mises
http://mises.org/daily/2321

But Martha is opposed to that. She is urging for economic growth Ė in the humanities - but she wants it supplied specifically on the basis that the masses donít want it and must be forced to pay for it.

So how are we to know how much of it is to be supplied! Why Marthaís superior wisdom and goodness will supply all deficits of course!

And how will Martha know? In presuming that she is the vanguard she contradicts every one of her equalitarian doctrines to the core.

And if a youngster decides to drive a truck instead of studying humanities, so what? Who is to say that the value to him, or to society in general, is lesser from delivering bricks than it is from imbibing compulsorily-funded, centrally-dictated, collectivist doctrines about how class, and race, and gender are what make life worth living?

No mention of Marthaís personal conflict of interest by the way? Looks like profit isnít so bad all the time eh?

As for critical thinking ... in the humanities? A horse-laugh to that! If they cultivated critical thinking, Martha wouldn't have written this article!

All conceivable arguments for government education are refuted here: "Archipelagos of Educational Chaos" by Benjamin Marks
http://mises.org/journals/jls/19_2/19_2_5.pdf
Posted by Peter Hume, Monday, 15 August 2011 11:42:07 AM
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My the barbarians are out in force today! Not Gym-Fish.

Hooray for Martha.

This has been a very hot topic for forever and a day, and certainly more so in recent times. It is an argument engaged by both sides of the culture wars divide and by both religious "traditionalists" and those of a more secular orientation such as Martha.

Many very vocal religious "traditionalists" argue that the academy needs to be re-Christianized and thus brought back to its presumed Christian roots. For instance the people at First Things are very much involved in this project. Never mind that the paradigm promoted by these self-righteous dudes is itself the primary cause of the problem.

Although not identified with this movement a very influential work was/is After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre. This quote is from that book: "This time ... the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing for quite some time."

The proof of this was the fact that the 8 years of the mal-administration of George Bush was easily the worst period in USA history. But he was only finishing off the cultural and environmental wrecking project began by Ronald Reagan.

This essay was written at the start of Bush's regime.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/1116/looting_planet_earth

By the way that chap from the Czech Republic is very much a supporter and propaganda hack of this looting planet earth paradigm - as is the IPA.

Unfortunately the merely good-hearted and well intentioned suggestions offered by Martha do not go deep enough to the root of what human existence is intrinsically all about - and in fact cannot go deep enough.
Posted by Ho Hum, Monday, 15 August 2011 1:08:41 PM
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Early on, Peter Hume asserts, "The advantage of supplying goods by profit and loss is that they tell you whether you are producing too much or too little. Too much, and you make a loss." Doesn't this assume that "too much" and "too little" are defined solely in terms of how much people will buy; that the answer to the question of how much is the right amount to produce is the amount that will maximize the profit of the producer?

If so, why should this definition of "right amount" lead to the right or best answer as Peter Hume (I think) assumes? What if the question doesn't mean what is the right amount to maximize the producer's profit but something else, like what is the right amount to maximize human beings' average well being and to minimize its variance? Or, perhaps, the right amount to allow the planet to sustain itself for as long as possible? Isn't Peter's answer then exposed as merely a good answer to a wrong question.

At least, this is how it seemed to me and why I had difficulty taking what else he said as seriously as I probably should have. And why I suspect that he could learn a thing or two by taking GYM-FISH more seriously.
Posted by GlenC, Monday, 15 August 2011 3:00:17 PM
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