Not for Profit

Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

by Martha C. Nussbbaum

Number of pages: 184

Publisher: Princeton University Press

BBB Library: Education

ISBN: 9780691154480

About the Author

She is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law.


Editorial Review

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

Book Reviews

"Is America making a mistake by orienting its education system towards national economic gain? In her new book, Not for Profit, University of Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes the case that the humanities are central to the education of citizens of a democratic state." Harpers

"Nussbaum makes an urgent call for the promotion of knowledge and skills necessary to establish democratic citizenship. These skills can be obtained by studying the humanities. Nussbaum thinks that the serious worldwide crisis in education is caused by social, economic and intellectual developments." Radboud University

"Most will agree that training people to be economically productive citizens is a reasonable goal, but there is a downside. According to Nussbaum, the narrowed process of achieving a stable economy by eliminating the humanities from our educational system may be counterproductive, perhaps even dangerous. As parents, teachers, and politicians focus on the importance of making money, some have forgotten about common sense and the ability to reason. Individual ideals and critical discourse enable a person to think coherently and ultimately be successful. Students cannot attain a healthy life of contentment from a calculator and a financial spreadsheet alone." Foreword Reviews

"While speaking recently to an audience at Stanford's Cubberley Auditorium, Nussbaum, author of Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, warned that education leaders are being shortsighted in their efforts to stay economically competitive."Stanford University

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Wisdom to Share

If we do not insist on the crucial importance of the humanities and the arts, they will drop away, because they do not make money.

Under pressure to cut costs, we prune away just those parts of the educational endeavor that are crucial to pre-serving a healthy society.

Distracted by pursuit of wealth, we increasingly ask our schools to turn out useful profit-makers rather than thoughtful citizens

The imaginative component of democratic education requires careful selectivity.

The empathetic imagination can be capricious and uneven if not linked to an idea of equal human dignity.

The cultivation of sympathy has been a key part of the best modern ideas of democratic education, in both Western and non-Western nations.

We cannot understand where even a simple soft drink comes from without thinking about lives in other nations.

Our problems and responsibilities call on us to study the nations and cultures of the world in a more focused and systematic way.

We need world history and global understanding for reasons that go beyond what is required to understand our own nation.

All good historical study of one’s own nation requires some grounding in world history.

Young people must gradually come to understand both the differences that make understanding essential if common problems are to be solved.

From a very early age, students should learn a different relation to the world, mediated by correct facts and respectful curiosity.

Knowledge is no guarantee of good behavior, but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of bad behavior.

Human lives are seen primarily as instruments for gain.

It is irresponsible to bury our heads in the sand, ignoring the many ways in which we influence, every day, the lives of distant people.

Our simplest decisions as consumers affect the living standard of people in distant nations involved in the production of products we use.

The global economy has tied all of us to distant lives.

The problems we need to solve – economic, environmental, religious, and political – are global in their scope.

More than any time in the past, we all depend on people we have never seen, and they depend on us.

What makes majorities try so ubiquitously, to denigrate or stigmatize minorities?

Producing economic growth does not mean producing democracy.

It is easier to treat people as objects to be manipulated if you have never learned any other way to see them.

Moral obtuseness is necessary to carry out programs of economic development that ignore inequality.

A cultivated and developed sympathy is a particularly dangerous enemy of obtuseness.

Achievements in health and education are very poorly correlated with economic growth.

Without support from suitably educated citizens, no democracy can remain stable.

To think about education for democratic citizenship, we have to think about what democratic nations are, and what they strive for.

Education is not just for citizenship. It prepares people for employment and importantly, for meaningful lives.

The profit motive suggests that science and technology are of crucial importance for the future health of their nations.

The humanities and the arts are being cut away, in both primary/secondary & university education, in virtually every nation of the world.

Thirsty for national profit, nations, and their systems of education, are heedlessly discarding skills needed to keep democracies alive.

Radical changes are occurring in what democratic societies teach the young, and these changes have not been well thought through.

We must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product.

We must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens.

We treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically.

Recently, a lot of thinkers are thinking that the aims of education have gone disturbingly awry.