Candy Wood's Reviews > Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

Not for Profit by Martha C. Nussbaum
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's review
Jul 23, 2011

Read in May, 2011

The people who really need to read this book probably won't, but it's a fairly brief statement of the value of education in the humanities. It seems persuasive to me, but then, I'm already convinced. At times it seems a bit too much like "Nussbaum lite," with endnotes referring to more detailed books she has written on the subject. There's a quick history of education in the United States, showing how men like Bronson Alcott and John Dewey carried on the ideas of Europeans like Rousseau and Pestalozzi, and much about India, where technical training and standardized tests have driven out the Socratically-influenced methods of Rabindranath Tagore. Throughout, Nussbaum emphasizes the need for citizens in a democracy to think critically, respect differences, and empathize with others--all characteristics that are discouraged by bottom-line proponents and fostered by the liberal arts. I wonder if her insistence on play doesn't confirm what the profit-and-loss guys suspect, that literature, art, and music are playthings to be outgrown. She doesn't provide many examples from literature, either: my reference just now reminds me of Dickens's Hard Times, but Dickens doesn't get a mention. Shakespeare does, only because Tagore translated Macbeth into Bengali at the age of fifteen. Maybe I'll just need to read some of her longer books, but meanwhile, this one stimulates thought.

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