Not For Profit
This is the title of a new book I just got. Its full title is Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, by Martha C. Nussbaum.
She has the strange idea that people are important – when of course they are not. They should be, but they are not. And I would tackle the subject from that viewpoint. But she takes a different tack.
Here are the two quotes from the first chapter The Silent Crisis:
Education is that process by which thought is opened out of the soul, and, associated with outward things, is reflected back on itself, and this made conscious of their reality and shape.
Bronson Alcott, Massachusetts educator, c. 1850
While making use of material possessions, man has to be careful to protect himself from their tyranny. If he is weak enough to grow smaller to fit himself to his covering, then it becomes a process of gradual suicide by shrinkage of the soul.
Rabindranath Tagore, Indian educator, c. 1917
Ms. Nussbaum is an educator – in spades. From the back cover:
Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry in the United States and abroad.
We increasingly treat education as thought is 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 for the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems.
Few will disagree, at least openly. But if you look below their covering, as Tagore calls it, you will see a profound hostility towards anything human.
In this quote, she starts to get downright nasty:
But educators for economic growth will do more the ignore the arts. They will fear them. For a cultivated and developed sympathy is a particularly dangerous enemy of obtuseness, and moral obtuseness is necessary to carry out programs of economic development that ignore inequality.
Equality is a subject where even I fear to tread; it is a minefield, waiting for the tread of careless feet. But for that reason, we should pick our way carefully through it. But that means we have to think, which Americans refuse to do.
Would a better education help? Of course – if it is better. Good teachers are extremely important, and ought to be amply rewarded. But good parents (ones that support good schools) are even more important.
And these are in extremely short supply.