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Arts and Culture

Troy Jollimore on Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

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Posted on Apr 22, 2010
book cover

By Troy Jollimore

(Page 2)

In particular, Nussbaum identifies three sets of “abilities crucial to the health of any democracy internally, and to the creation of a decent world culture capable of constructively addressing the world’s most pressing problems”:

These abilities are associated with the humanities and the arts: 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.

Developing students’ critical thinking abilities is a matter of what Nussbaum calls “Socratic pedagogy,” which encourages students to think for themselves rather than accepting traditional ideas or the pronouncements of authority. She delineates the line of European and American thinkers who have made major contributions to this approach: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Pestalozzi, Friedrich Froebel (whose “mystical flights” she mentions only to set aside, though this reader found his interest rather whetted), Bronson Alcott, Horace Mann and John Dewey. For Dewey, as for the Socratics in general, “the central problem with conventional methods of education is the passivity it encourages in students. […] Such a subservient attitude, bad for life in general, is fatal for democracy, since democracies will not survive without alert and active citizens.”

Socratic pedagogy, then, is meant to produce an ideal citizen, one who is “active, critical, curious, capable of resisting authority and peer pressure”—the kind of citizen who poses a threat to authoritarian regimes but who enables democracies to function. It does this by forcing students to fall back on their own powers of judgment and, particularly in Dewey’s case, by having them make connections between ideas and real-world objects, in a way that encourages students to see the ideas themselves as meaningful real-world entities rather than intellectual abstractions.

 

book cover

 

Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

 

By Martha C. Nussbaum

 

Princeton University Press, 178 pages

 

Buy the book

The drawing of connections between ideas is also crucial to the second set of democratic abilities Nussbaum identifies: the ability to function as global citizens. In a cosmopolitan and interconnected world, being a good citizen of one’s own country means being a citizen of the world; and this requires a lot, both in terms of knowledge (“Think, for example, of what it takes to understand the origins of the products we use in our daily lives: our soft drinks, our clothing, our coffee, our food”) and in terms of imagination and empathy. Again, Dewey is invoked as a shining example of how education ought to function:

In his Laboratory School, for example, even very young children would learn to ask about the processes that produced the things they were using every day. Weaving cloth, they would learn where the materials came from, how they were made, and what chain of labor and exchange led to the materials being there in the classroom. Typically this process would lead them far from home, not only into regions of their own country about which they previously knew little, but also into many other nations. […] “[T]he great thing,” he concluded, “is that each shall have the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance.”

True global citizenship encourages intelligent and responsible decision-making, both on the personal and the political levels. It also encourages toleration, not in the minimal “live and let live” sense that is all too often taken as adequate when dealing with those unlike ourselves, but in the fuller sense of striving for a genuine understanding of others, of seeing the world from their perspective. The ability to employ one’s “narrative imagination”—the third of the abilities crucial to citizenship that Nussbaum identifies—is, she writes, best developed through literature and the arts, which help students build powers of imagination and creativity:

The cultivation of sympathy has been a key part of the best modern ideas of democratic education, in both Western and non-Western nations. Much of this cultivation must take place in the family, but schools, and even colleges and universities, also play an important role. If they are to play it well, they must give a central role in the curriculum to humanities and the arts, cultivating a participatory type of education that activates and refines the capacity to see the world through another person’s eyes.

Nussbaum here and elsewhere recognizes that since the capacities to think critically and engage imaginatively and creatively with the world depend on what happens very early in life, and outside the classroom, schools and universities cannot provide the complete education that democratic citizens need. Still, the education system has a profound and essential role to play here—all the more so since the public cannot control what goes on in the privacy of people’s homes, but can, at least in theory, decide what happens in the schools. As should by now be clear, the very best thing that can happen in the schools, in her view, is not career preparation, or the packing of students’ heads full of facts, but rather the honing of the critical, analytical and imaginative skills one needs to make good sense of the facts—without which, as she reminds us, people are left at the mercy of unscrupulous manipulators:

A catalogue of facts, without the ability to asses them, or to understand how a narrative is assembled from evidence, is almost as bad as ignorance, since the pupil will not be able to distinguish ignorant stereotypes purveyed by political and cultural leaders from the truth, or bogus claims from valid ones.

Nussbaum’s defense of the value of the humanities is informed, intelligent and deeply plausible—so much so that many readers might find themselves somewhat at a loss as to how our society, and indeed the world in general, has reached the point where such a book is even needed. What could be more obvious, and thus less in need of a defense, than the claim that a strong grounding in the arts and humanities is a great good, both for the individual and for the society in which she lives?


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By Gordy, April 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, I think the fear is that without state
encouragement/coercion kids will just play videogames
all day and take no interest in the arts. 

My own view is that this is a mostly baseless fear
and that art arises spontaneously from human nature,
building on the pre-existing culture around us, which
we absorb without trying.  Although to become a true
craftsman requires hard work, the innate motivation
to undertake that work is there in humans in various
kinds and degrees; a wholly state-forced ‘interest’
will only damage the arts, damage artistic motivation
and lead to an ossified, received sense of what is
good and tasteful.

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By Anarcissie, April 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

I think people are continuing to confuse The Humanities, the product(s) of the Education industry, with the contents of the humanities (literature, history, music, the plastic arts, and so on).  You don’t need a degree to read Moby Dick or follow Gödel’s or Wittgenstein’s thinking or listen to Palestrina or Alban Berg.  In addition, staying outside the purview of the Education industry may permit you to enjoy despised arts like graffiti, van painting, hip-hop, and so on.  (Or have these been sucked in now?)

What you need a degree for is to get a middle-class job.  This, too, is a serious matter, and I’m not making light of it.

As for the condition of the arts, I myself find an incredible treasure of art all around me, not only the works of past ages but things being done right now, much of it available via the Internet.  In addition I have time to practice various arts myself and to help support others who do materially and spiritually.  If art is what you like, this is a golden age beyond all golden ages.

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By Gordy, April 26, 2010 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

Dodger, human culture has never known such a vast
media output in all genres.  I think that the problem
is that the minority of sincere works are choked out
by soulless art that is only intended to
excite/hypnotize and make money. 

High art seems to be about novelty of personality,
experience and expression more than sincerity or
depth.  Critics often seem to value above all else
zeitgeisty fads, and a lot of elitist standards and
technical skills.  They don’t seem to bring a lot of
human warmth to their subject; they are like
chattering snobs or Olympic skating judges.

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By Artful Dodger, April 25, 2010 at 11:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Motivations for Studying the Humanities

1. Seeing the art work done by others motivates one to wantto paint or draw.

2. The pain of growing up makes one realize the unfairness of life. A young man or woman may read the story of Job or see a movie production of Shakespeares’ Richard the Third. One asks himself questions about the meanings of things. This starts a lifelong quest into philosophy.

3. Hearing someone sing or play a musical instrument, may inspire a child to do want to do the same.

4. An old elder could tell stories of a different time to a child that inspire him or her to want to study history.

A child exposed to culture in an organic fashion as part of every day life will encourage a love of the humanities. For some reason our culture doesn’t inspire an interest in the humanities. Smart people are eggheads. Cultured people who listen to classical music do it only to show that they are snobs. Poets are neurotic ne’er do wells, so why waste your time reading it? Those seem to be the misconceptions. Sometimes I feel industrial civilization has killed the creative genius that gave birth to it. The modern age provides us our entertainments. We need never feel alienation or emptiness. Why identify your angst with that of Hamlet or Thymon of Athens? There’s a pill for that. Somehow I think humans would become more humane if they had to reach for a candle and a book rather than a light switch and the remote. There was no CD player ages back; you had to learn to play the piano. Humanities require initiative. Where is that now?

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By Gordy, April 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie: “I think it’s a mistake to attribute
interest in music, art, literature, mathematics,
science, politics and so forth to education.  People
are already interested in these things.  What the
education industry does is sequester and regulate
access to them.”

As someone who completed a degree in English, wrote
creatively for pleasure and taught the subject to
kids I’m supposedly one of the system’s top-tier
success-stories, yet I have always attributed my
ability and interest in the subject to INNATE
TEMPERAMENTAL AFFINITY and unlimited access to comics
and books; I remember school English as being mostly
one long torture, except when they let me off the
leash a bit to write what I wanted to with minimal
interference or direction.  THAT is learning - when
you respond to a stress as a whole organism;
creatively, originally, personally. 

Natural interest enlivens the whole organism and
sharpens attention and memory; the experience of
coercive ‘education’ is reduced to a fuzzy grey
memory shortly after one graduates. 

Education should be wholly integrated with daily life
and the self.  If ‘The Humanities’ are a flexible
concept meaning broadly ‘not science’ then yeah -
obviously it’s a mistake to let that side of life
atrophy, though come to think of it if it was dropped
from the curriculum MAYBE SCHOOLKIDS WOULDN’T REGARD
READING AS A PUNISHMENT the way the do now. 

If the Humanities are the historical, traditional
wing of state education that Anarcissie usefully
describes, then I don’t see it as something to get
worked up about - they weren’t a force for good
anyway.  The critical thinking they supposedly teach
in schools is usually very tame, you know.  Bounded,
formal training in ‘critical thinking’ is probably
worse than just letting people dream freely and
question things for themselves, without any formal
training whatsoever. 

This world is already too full of highly trained and
qualified confident people who are just wrong about
everything they believe but can never be made to see
it.

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By Anarcissie, April 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

teaching today’s student, April 24 at 11:04 pm:

‘This discussion has certainly veered off the main topic . . .         

I thought the main topic was the proposition that the Humanities were being inadequately supported and purveyed by the education industry, of which the capital-H Humanities are a product, or a class of products.  To discuss that proposition we probably need to consider what the education industry does, what it is supposed to do, its place in the state, and so on, because we might disagree on these things.  So it seems to me everything has been on or at least near the proposed topic.  What do you think is off-topic? 

’... The decline of the humanities is just one more sign that this society is in decline.  But if you insist that everything is fine and that this doesn’t “really matter,” or that humanities is “fluff stuff,” or that it’s “coercive,” I really don’t know what to tell you.’

You were just telling us that those who are educated (who learn under authority) are better able to handle difficult intellectual tasks than those who learn otherwise.  Here’s a chance for you to show your stuff.

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By Gordy, April 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

‘teaching today’s student’ -

You said: “But if you insist that everything is fine
and that this doesn’t “really matter,” or that
humanities is “fluff stuff,” or that it’s “coercive,” I
really don’t know what to tell you.”

Why did you say this? I don’t think that anyone was
saying that the humanities are bad and coercive per se. 
Were they?

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By Anarcissie, April 25, 2010 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

Heh.  The Truthdig web site liked me message so much it posted it twice.  Y’all better read it carefully!

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By Anarcissie, April 25, 2010 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

I think it’s a mistake to attribute interest in music, art, literature, mathematics, science, politics and so forth to education.  People are already interested in these things.  What the education industry does is sequester and regulate access to them.  Being part of the state the education industry serves the state, that is, the ruling class of the state, and also labors to make itself seem necessary to the pursuit of the above-mentioned interests.  But things could be organized differently.

The appearance of the Internet, which has made publication almost cost-free, has created a tremendous problem for media industries, including academia, which can be seen as a kind of media, because now there are many routes to information, art and entertainment which do not go through the institutions which formerly controlled them.  They are laboring mightily to recreate the scarcities which once gave them power, mostly by use of state force, but meanwhile they are wasting away.  This is part of the crisis of the education industry just as it is part of the crisis of the music recording industry, the movie industry, and the newspapers.

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By Anarcissie, April 25, 2010 at 7:30 am Link to this comment

I think it’s a mistake to attribute interest in music, art, literature, mathematics, science, politics and so forth to education.  People are already interested in these things.  What the education industry does is sequester and regulate access to them.  Being part of the state the education industry serves the state, that is, the ruling class of the state, and also labors to make itself seem necessary to the pursuit of the above-mentioned interests.  But things could be organized differently.

The appearance of the Internet, which has made publication almost cost-free, has created a tremendous problem for media industries, including academia, which can be seen as a kind of media, because now there are many routes to information, art and entertainment which do not go through the institutions which formerly controlled them.  These are laboring mightily to recreate the scarcities which once gave them power, mostly by use of state force, but meanwhile they are wasting away.  This is part of the crisis of the education industry just as it is part of the crisis of the music recording industry, the movie industry, and the newspapers.

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By teaching today's student, April 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This discussion has certainly veered off the main topic . . .

I’ll tell you something as an educator—students whose minds are not developed by studying challenging subjects like philosophy, ancient languages, and rigorous history texts don’t know math, science, and economics either.  They are just trained for a job that may not exist in five years, nevermind ten—and poorly trained at that.

I tried explaining the very simplest form of derivative to my students this semester.  It involved knowing only basic mathematics.  The explanation included a motivation (i.e., why would someone want to buy a put?) and was painstakingly step-by-step.  They couldn’t get it.  Not even the honor students did.  I was genuinely surprised.  Having heard how well-suited the contemporary college student is to understanding these concepts, I expected them to take to it right away.

This has nothing to do with learning to “express your feelings” or “have compassion for another person,” and everything to do with effectively using your mind.

I also happened to be taking an evening class this term at a local state university, for the first time in decades.  The woman who used to sit next to me is a full generation younger, has an advanced degree in some IT-education field from a well-respected private university, and is getting Ds on her exams.  “If I don’t get it right away, I don’t get it,” was one of her remarks to me.  She simply doesn’t know how to study, or to tolerate frustration for a little while until the problem she’s working on becomes clear to her.  Nor does she know what a fantastic feeling that is when you think about something over and over, and suddenly it does become clear to you.  Suddenly you do see one pattern, and then another, and another.

The decline of the humanities is just one more sign that this society is in decline.  But if you insist that everything is fine and that this doesn’t “really matter,” or that humanities is “fluff stuff,” or that it’s “coercive,” I really don’t know what to tell you.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie- okay so the system is a filter and humanities is part of the filtering process. Ok,Fair enough. And as for the reading analogy, I see your point.


Eartling- I agree whole heartedly. I thought the Universites were to focused on Business and jobs when I went through and I believe them to still be this way. Our education system is producing minds without ‘souls’. Souls is my word for the appriciation of that which cannot be quantified easily, such as philosophy or metaphysics.

Until society starts to appriciate the unknown, the soul, or God again people and culture will continue to be shallow.

So it seems then that our society is in some kind of vicious cycle that as the futher it gets away from the humanities the dumber it gets and the less humanities it wants and the process repeats. And then we get good meaning Law makers who try to regulate morality, like universal healthcare and society simply can’t handle it because everyone is motivated by greed and not charity. If the humanities are respected, then morality legislation is not desired.

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By Anarcissie, April 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

Earthling, April 24 at 9:43 pm:
’... In short, only the uneducated denounce Philosophy ....’

As in “Philosophy is the disease for which it is supposed to be the cure”?  I think that’s Wittgenstein, although I’ve also seen it attributed to someone called Feigl.  And, no doubt, Yogi Berra.

Hume recommended that metaphysics be thrown into the fire, but perhaps he was uneducated by modern standards.

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By Earthling, April 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment

As a philosophy and mathematics major, during university I was always confronted with the question “What can you do with philosophy?” My answer was a rhetorical retort, but expressive of Professor Nussbaum’s own views: What can you do without it?
    Without concentrated devotion to such seemingly ‘practically useless’ problems as the nature of mathematical knowledge, the nature of our knowledge of our first languages, the nature of our understanding of the concept of ‘effective,’ of the nature of biological dispersion (no horses in the ‘new world’ or immunity among its denizens against influenza, but rich in potato, corn, and tobacco, ...), morphological similarity, or, e.g., whether or not a painting of sprinting horses depicted them correctly, etc., etc., etc., there would be no computer (Turing), no top-secret coding (Godel), no AI or robots, no television, no moving pictures, no evolution, etc., etc., etc. In short, only the uneducated denounce Philosophy or the Humanities for their alleged uselessness.
    The unfortunate state of higher education indicates the uneducated nature of the people in charge.

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By Anarcissie, April 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment

thinkingman101—For me, the experiences of reading under authority and reading voluntarily are radically different.  In the second case, reading must produce what the reader wants; in the first, it must produce what the authority wants.  People who want their minds to be opened to new ideas do not need an authority: the library and the Internet are at hand to assist them.

School is seldom entirely voluntary.  Younger students are compelled by law to go to school; older ones are told that if they do not obtain a degree—an intellectual pedigree—no one will hire them; they will be excluded from the middle class.  No doubt there are exceptions and ambiguities, because many people do like to learn in spite of the compulsions which surround official learning.

The academic system serves as a class filter primarily through admissions and advancement: the rich, those who can get along with the rich, those who are ready to serve, even if the tasks appear meaningless, are more likely to be advanced (given good grades, scholarships, important contacts, and so on) than those who lack these qualities.  This is not surprising; any class-organized society must have ways of dividing the sheep from the goats.

To observe a case of the ideological content of education, you need only consider the review we are commenting on, and, probably, the book reviewed.  Note that it is a proposition for the inculcation of at least two specific ideological items, “global thinking” and “sympathy”.  These appear to be part of the standard social-democratic apparatus.  “Critical thinking” is a bit more ambiguous, since it could be turned loose on the very ideology it is supposed to be part of.  I think this was why Socrates was mentioned; as I noted before, Socrates sometimes tricked his interlocutors by asking them very carefully loaded questions so that they would come up with the conclusions he desired.  So I think the “critical thinking” to be promoted is probably a very carefully guided kind of critical thinking.  But I haven’t read the book, so perhaps I am engaging in a flight of unjust fancy.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, April 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By the time books and articles like this start appearing you know that it is already too late.  We are entering a dark age.  We have lost our connection to the rest of humanity.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment

How do you reach the conclusion that the Humanities act as some kind of filter for modern society? I see the Humanties as an appriciation of Human activites, all activities. I don’t know the Humanities to be class setting tools, but mind opening experiences to learn about the vastness of human endeavors, brining socity closer together, not further apart.

I don’t understand what you’re trying to explain with the example of reading Moby Dick. How does studying something make it different than reading something. Usually one must gain the understanding of critical thinking, then that can be applied to texts read in the future.

In your example both I can only assume both readings are voluntary acts? So the main difference is one with teacher, one without. The child (young mind) needs the teacher, the adult (educated mind) can read for itself. So studying Dylan, may not make you a Dylan, but it will help in reconizing a Dylan.

So to with studying the humanities, some will study the humanities and disreguad their moral teachings, others will heed the warnings. The humanities are about teaching about the human experience, I don’t see how they seperate people.

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By Anarcissie, April 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

thinkingman101—two points about my message which you commented on: 

(1) I do not actually agree with Marx on the “anarchy of production”, but was rather giving his view (from the Manifesto) about the theoretical ideal as an endpoint on a spectrum of situations.  While capitalism is certainly dynamic, there are important countervailing forces, especially the tendency of the more successful people to form conservative upper classes precisely to secure their own position and arrest some of the dynamism.  As the social order of the United States is presently constituted, we seem to be in a period when such a formation is going forward quite rapidly, and the education industry, especially at the university level, is acting as a class filter to help that formation.  Under these circumstances there is room for what we call “the Humanities” because a class filter requires a class ideology, and because there will be reasons inside that class system to integrate diverse phenomena as there were for the 18th-century British gentleman.  There may even be some leisure if they can quiesce the lower orders and the barbarians at the gates for awhile.
 
(2) “The Humanities” are not the same as the alleged content of the Humanities.  For example, it is one thing to read (or write) Moby Dick and quite another to study Moby Dick under authority and to write papers or tests about it for which one is given a grade.  One might say the two experiences are not only different but almost antithetical, mutually contradictory.  Or as a friend of mine said long ago, “I knew Dylan was finished when they started studying him in school.”  But I know some people somehow manage to do both.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment

....Just become another burden to the market, espcially if they have stong police powers.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment

Hahaha,


That is great! The old philosopher king!  With the an intelletual board of directors all who devote their life to the state, forgo personal wealth and live a life of poverty. Yes, espcially in this age with mass communication being what it is now adays.

But agian, if their decision making power is not limited, then what checks do the people have on their choices? It matters not what type of decision making body a state has, it matters the scope of decisions to be made.

Error on the side of the priciples of free markets and away from decision making bodies. Respect Life and property and people will move the market.

Again, we have to have a Counstituion of principles that we belive in and agree upon or those monks just

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

I’ve had similar thoughts’ I dunno; I remain tentative. 
See what you think of this:

http://thedailyg.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/uk-leaders-
debate/

The first part is about the upcoming British elections
but then I offer my utopian-dream-on-a-beer-mat.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

I agree. This is why small goverment makes sense, so people can find their own idea of community agian. There is no real American “community” in the sense you are talking about. Americas communities compete for their own share of the market agianst other communities. There are pockets scatterd throughout the 50 states.

So if people wanted a city that had high taxes and community approah to everything then they could move to that. And if a community wanted a city the Dog eat Dog style the could have that.

The greater the consolidation of power the greater amount the of mankind suffers. Power must be difused and dispursed. The more power is spread around the more “local” control, the more “community” you have.

How about this, Small central governments, strong local governments.

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

Please read my posts a little more carefully - I find I
have to keep repeating points. 

IN THIS WORLD I see no virtue to earning - in this dog-
eat-dog system where work is devoid of altruism, true
idealism or community spirit.  No virtue in being an ad
executive or a burger-flipper.  It’s just survival and
greed.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

thinkingman101, I don’t see how there’s any special
virtue to ‘earning’, acquiring or possessing money and property in this world.  I know rich people like to see themselves as dynamic, rugged pioneers, but I beg to differ


Gordy - I don’t care how Rich people perceive themselves. I am not talking about or arguing for against Rich people. But I would Love to hear how there is no special virtue to earning, because I beg to differ.

If you don’t see the virtue in working, creating welath, then Theft should be your natural reaction to property. Because the person who does not create, does not produce fails to reap the fruits of their labor, so they must steal in order to survive.

And when you steal someones fruit, they will produce less because self-interst is deminished. In fact the self-intereted person will do everything to avoid the theft. Hide the fruit or move to a place where there is less theft.

This principle works the same for the wealthy, poor and middle class.

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment

thinkingman101, I don’t see how there’s any special
virtue to ‘earning’, acquiring or possessing money and
property in this world.  I know rich people like to see
themselves as dynamic, rugged pioneers, but I beg to
differ.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

Excellt retort firefly, only you are talking right past me, ignoring my points and talking about your own.

First of all, I never mentioned or argued for no government, only small and limited government.

Second, the UN charter of human rights is in direct contrast to Liberty, infact it’s an outight threat to Liberty.  Social security and free education are chains and bindings upon some people in a society to provide for others in that society. That is not freedom, that is not Liberty, that is tyranny. That is the use of force aginst on group of people for the benifit of another group - i.e. theft.

It is not the government’s job to enact this UN charters. It’s the government job to protect us from this kind of slavery and bondage. If you take from some people to give to other people that is theft. That is wrong. That is not Liberty.

Firefly I am not lacking in knowledge, you are lacking in understanding of what Freedom is. What you are advocating about is the opposite of freedom. That’s why your statement “That all people, regardless of how much money they have, have
the right to education, healthcare, food, water,
shelter and liberty” is absurd.

Liberty doesn’t guarantee anyone anything. What you are advocating is State Force upon its citizens to take money that has not been earned and freely exchanged and give that stolen money to people that you deem are more deserving than the person who earned the money. What you are advocating is theft, not Liberty.

Even in your own statement, you admit the Rich buy the goverment. The Rich use government force to take the publics money and use it for themselves. Government is the tool of depriving people, not enriching people. The funny thing is you argue the point yourself, but you don’t see it. So if goverment was simply limited to defense, manging the public goods and the courts (resolving disputes) then the public would have much more money in their pockets to spend as they saw fit, including helping others.

When the government gets into the business of “helping” others buy stealing wealth from some people in order to give it to other people the amount of charity goes down. The amount of civic involvement goes down. People give more if they are allowed to give freely. If people know they are going to be taxed and that money is going to a government social program, the people won’t use their time and money to help their neighbor because the government has taken over that role. If the government stayed out of social welfare roles the public would be able to do more, do more effectivly to help better their own society. In other words a free society looks after itself better than a totalitarian one.

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By firefly, April 24, 2010 at 11:02 am Link to this comment

Thinkingman101,

Firstly you are right about America’s monopolistic
monetary system. But you are wrong about monarchies.
You don’t seem to understand what a monarchy is, nor
do you have any evidence to suggest that the
Democrats are asking people to “follow my Royal
orders”. What Royal orders are you talking about? The
flaw is in your argument. Monarchies are rich
families that own everything – land, armies, people
etc. They influence laws and regulations in their
favor and most importantly, they are not elected.
They do not represent anyone other than themselves
and their governance is purely out of self-interest
and self-survival. America will only become a
monarchy once it loses its government, because
without government you don’t have democracy or
elections. I therefore support governmental democracy
not monarchy. I support the right for people to elect
a government that represents them. America’s problem
is not the concept of government, but who the
government supports and that is because the rich
essentially buy the government (which in my opinion
completely contradicts the notion that the US
elections are ‘free (ha ha) and fair’.  America is
losing its democracy and slowly becoming a plutocracy
which is the slow path to monarchy. What you are
advocating is anarchy which is the fast path to
monarchy (a kind of survival of the fittest or
richest if you will).

Finally, to declare that my statement “That all
people, regardless of how much money they have, have
the right to education, healthcare, food, water,
shelter and liberty” is false, shows your lack of
knowledge about the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/:

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living
adequate for the health and well-being of himself and
of his family, including food, clothing, housing and
medical care and necessary social services, and the
right to security in the event of unemployment,
sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other
lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his
control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special
care and assistance. All children, whether born in or
out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social
protection.

Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education
shall be free, at least in the elementary and
fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be
compulsory. Technical and professional education
shall be made generally available and higher
education shall be equally accessible to all on the
basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full
development of the human personality and to the
strengthening of respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding,
tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or
religious groups, and shall further the activities of
the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of
education that shall be given to their children.

Essentially, it is the government’s job to enact the
declaration.

Gordy, is right with his comment: If people were free
spirits, the big state wouldn’t be able to do
anything unwelcome to them.  It’s moot.  If there was
NO state we’d endure the force and tyranny of
bandits, barbarians and corporations.

Exactly!!!!!!!!

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

thinkingman101 - those institutions can be powerless
and purely administrative in nature.  Then if people
don’t like what they do, they walk away and the
institution dissolves.

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By thinkingman101, April 24, 2010 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

“In a pure capitalist system, an “anarchy of production” as Marx called it, one cannot rest on one’s class; everyone must struggle for position, usually through the struggle for wages or profit.  There would be little room or use for the Humanities in such a system, other than those practices, like music, which could be commodified and sold.”


Anarcissie - this is why Marx misses the Mark.  The Humanties make the most sense in an “anarchy of production” because when people are forced to interact of their own accord without the crutch of a class system then all must act civil to make a living. People must come together to create markets that allows for the entreprenuer to seek the products and services that best seve humanity to make the most profit.

It is precisly this “anarchy of production” which allows peoples minds to run free and then are foced to understand their neighbors better in order for their survival. The Humanities then must be taken into account into the production model if the product or service is to be sold.

In a class system, in a system with centralized economies, incentives are taken away and the incentives to become more “worldly” or “educated” go down unless you are born into the leisure class. If the leisure class is foced to compete with the rest of society then all of society has to take into account the Humanities as part of their life experience in order for survival. The Humanties are built into the products and services in a classical liberal model or free market society.

The market will gauge what and who needs Humanities, right now in a statist world and even more so in a Marxist world the Humanities die because humans are not allowed to be innovative. The system calls for confomity over innovation, which stifles human progress.

And Gordy - I’m not arguing -isms. Professor Chomsky has written a great deal describing the problems of the world, for which I agree, but I do belive that the size and scope of governments matter. Same could be said for corporations as well. Allowing an institution to grow to a size that no one person or one family can control is absurd and abusive to the human condition.

I can come up with many examples of the Big-state being the enemy of the people, being aggressive and keeping humanity in slavery. I cannot show where small goverment model has acted in the same matter. I can show (think Nothern Euroupe) where limited size of goverment works, even if the state is more socialist than not.

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 9:40 am Link to this comment

I think that’s right on the money Anarcisse - I was
interpreting ‘Humanities’ as I would like them to be
but you rightly place it as a historical phenomenon
with historical baggage and a historical purpose that
probably is, as you say, obsolete. 

I would simply like people to have a healthy
cultivation of mind and personality, and see
underfunded subjects like English and Art as potential
instruments to that end.

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By Anarcissie, April 24, 2010 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

Gordy, April 24 at 10:39 am:
’... My view is that a wider sea-change in culture must
come prior or simultaneously to a reform of
Humanities education, hence my earlier remark about
‘tinkering round the edges’.  How can a dogmatically
Capitalist society tolerate let alone create a true
school of Humanities?  It can’t.’

I am not sure what you mean by a true school of Humanities; my understanding of the Humanities as presently or recently conceived in American education is that they evolved from the 18th-century British notion of the proper education of a gentleman, that is, a member of the upper classes who would have the leisure to make use of such arcane subjects as French literature or geometry, and would have the capacity to integrate diverse phenomena and thereby rule more wisely, should he be called upon to perform some function of governance or leadership.  This was a society which still had many aristocratic and traditional relations and forms, although there was plenty of capitalism going on. 

As Marx noted in the Manifesto, however, “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.”  In a pure capitalist system, an “anarchy of production” as Marx called it, one cannot rest on one’s class; everyone must struggle for position, usually through the struggle for wages or profit.  There would be little room or use for the Humanities in such a system, other than those practices, like music, which could be commodified and sold.

Of course, we don’t have such a system, but rather an uneasy mix of lingering aristocracy, capitalism, nascent fascism, and anarchy, in which the educational system serves as a bulwark of tradition and as a class filter.  In it, the Humanities hang on.  To what new system shall we change?


Of course, we don’t have such a system.

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 7:15 am Link to this comment

thinkingman101, you ask, ‘so where is the answer at?’
- I already gave my answer with the Noam Chomsky
quote: it’s an end to ‘isms’ including ‘big state-
ism’ or ‘small state-ism’.  There’s no one ‘answer’
for all time and circumstances; the monolithic
structures we have now ARE the problem.  I agree that
the state is coercive and suffocating but merely
dismantling it or diminishing it will leave.. what
behind, exactly? 

More scope for corporate exploitation, in all
likelihood.  The ‘big state’ has the power to
regulate and resist corporations. 

I would rather that both ceased to be centres of
power and ideology, and became at most mere centres
of administration and logistics.

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By Gordy, April 24, 2010 at 6:39 am Link to this comment

prgill, don’t be a twat.  It’s not unusual for
comments to go completely off-topic and I responded
to what the most recent commenter said because I’d
been reading something related just then.  Snark
aside, what do you have to say anyway?  ‘We must
think globally’ - fair enough, but it doesn’t take a
post-doc to come up with that, does it? 

Alphysicist, having experienced an education in
Humanities as student and teacher: what I find is
that schools tend to base everything around books
they’ve had in stock for a looong time and have
ready-made lesson-plans for.  Some of those books
will be old literary classics; some will be books
chosen during the 70s or 80s for their edgy social
relevance. 

Although it’s true that better funding would allow
them to update their collection and appeal more
directly to contemporary sensibilities and concerns,
the fact is that teachers tend to be rather cynical
and apathetic anyway - they could do a lot better
with what they already have, but they don’t care; and
what’s more they resist reform movements that are
based on caring for and attending to the students as
human beings.  For a teacher who does not have the
burden of an unusually well-developed conscience or a
genuine love of literature, authoritarianism appears
to be the path of least resistance.  Authoritarian
discipline serves as a substitute for engagement. 
Engagement makes teaching a joy, but seems to be out
of reach most of the time. 

At university level the tone is less authoritarianism
and more boredom and complacency.  People are not
throwing their lives into aesthetic ideals any more;
it’s just a way to become famous. 

My view is that a wider sea-change in culture must
come prior or simultaneously to a reform of
Humanities education, hence my earlier remark about
‘tinkering round the edges’.  How can a dogmatically
Capitalist society tolerate let alone create a true
school of Humanities?  It can’t. 

Science can’t claim critical thinking all to itself
as philosophy, language and the aesthetic senses are
base units of cognition that science rests upon.

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By Anarcissie, April 24, 2010 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

prgill, April 24 at 4:24 am:
‘Great book review.

One has to wonder though, how it is the commentary could degenerate so quickly, after only 7 posts. Is it perhaps, because the subject itself is complex and requires a fairly high level of “critical thinking”?

Maybe what is not understood is the idea of “local loyalties”, because surely, to understand and assimilate this text one must “think beyond the pale”, which is not to say, Anarcissie, “globally”. (“Global” is a code word that opens the door all too often to the “globalization polemic” and related issues of “displaced and misplaced authority”.)

Finally perhaps, those who see in this review a opportunity to rail against authority and bemoan their “helplessness” are in fact those who are most in need of a “liberal arts” education.’

It is the review and the book which raise the issue of the state; in fact, according to its title, that’s what the book is about—the relation of education to a particular kind of state, the democratic state, or I should say the social-democratic state, since it is pretty clear we are not talking about any old kind of democracy.  Since the author appears to propose that the state, through the educational system, indoctrinate students with certain values about itself, it’s pretty hard to avoid the issue.  (In contrast, there are many books about how education is good for the individual, the community, the culture, business, and so forth, which do not focus on the state.)  Since the review and book push a very particular view of the good state and what people ought to think about it, it seems natural to me for people who may have different preferences and beliefs to push back exactly along this axis.

I was actually very suspicious of the notion of globality mentioned in the review, but since I don’t have the book at hand and since it is not described in detail in the review I chose not to criticize it much.

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By Alphysicist, April 24, 2010 at 3:52 am Link to this comment

This review is great food for thought, as I am sure the Nussbaum’s book is as well, which I am looking forward to read.

I do wonder, how much damage does the university system itself do, and how much they contribute in bringing this dire situation about.  Yes, it is horrible when the Bushes and Palins score points in the eyes of some voters by taking pride in their ignorance, but one should not gloss over the fact that what these two are exploiting is a valid point regarding a kind of elitism (as it is often the case in politics: truths are exploited for political goals in which case they become half-truths or outright falsehoods).  Some aspects of this elitism are aptly criticized by Chris Hedges on this website (not exploited!).

I am actually somewhat sceptical as to whether the choices of
literature which are praised in liberal arts studies are always the best examples of critical thinking, or they are the best means to build solidarity.  The modern arts and humanities tend to be very critical of what they consider traditional modes of thinking (religion, but also art and literature of certain ages), but by now they have generated their own “traditions” which they seem to question less.  On empathy and solidarity, I wonder whether the modern lit. demi-Gods: Joyce, Woolf, etc. do as much as the more traditional Dickens, Twain, Chesterton, etc.  The former seem to always center around their own selves (and I as a reader can empathize to a certain degree), whereas a story by Dickens is an adventure set in a different time, place, different walk of life.  I believe that when I as a reader am set in the shoes of an Oliver Twist (and experience his lack of finding solidarity from his surroudings), I cannot but learn to empathize.  I know that this comparison leaves much to be desired, as the intellectual challenge offered by a Joyce is a value in and of itself, and because the line between intellectually challenging works and works which teach us empathy are not nearly as sharp.  An assessment of modern Nobel Prize winning literature based these types of criteria may also result in interesting conclusions.  Many may not fare much better than the Da Vinci code.

What I also wonder in particular is the following: has not for example the culture of political correctness forced some segments of Western culture into an exile of sorts from the liberal arts curricula?  And due to this many works which do encourage critical thinking and human empathy are now less accessible?  I once met a humanities graduate student at a party in an Ivy League institution, and upon relating that as an undergrad this student has studied the works of a list of great French writers (Balzac, Hugo, etc.) it was immediately added that this was a mistake since these writers are now “dead white males”.

This is of course just one experience, but it’s probably not so uncommon.  For one thing, I believe that many of the works of those “dead white males” do strengthen our sense of empathy and human solidarity.  Moreover, relevant to this discussion, is the issue of the definition of “critical thinking”.  When this term is used a difficulty immediately arises for at least two reasons: I think the student was fully convinced that placing French literature in the category alluded to above is an example of critical thinking.  (Of course I am also convinced that my problem with this tendency in academia is one also…)  Another issue is that it seems that the hard sciences (whose practitioners often view themselves as competitors to
the humanities) are trying to claim a monopoly on the term critical thinking as well, whether they practice it (especially when outside of the lab) is another story.

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By Artful Dodger, April 24, 2010 at 3:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

College doesn’t give the payback on dollars invested that it once did. So yes a humanities education would be good, but I would not rely on college to give you that education, especially if the coprporations keep “disemploying” our native talent with guest worker visas, and offshoring. The best education is the one you give yourself, and if you need the structure without the high cost of tuition, our high schools at one time provided teaching Greek and Latin languages as well as classical history and philosophy. But that is not so much provided any more. At one time people could learn humanities at an earlier age without the costly college tuition, but they weren’t teaching “see and say” reading and remedial English grammar grade after grade. Schools have gotten so good at getting back to the basics that that is all they teach. You’ll probably have to teach your child at home if you want him to know how to read Thomas Aquinas’s treatises on the nature of knowledge by the time he or she is 13 years old. I remember the crap about gradating a child’s vocabulary to 6th grade, and cautions about saying “Oh this is college vocabulary.” There are all these artificial expectations placed on what children should know by a certain age. I know that the mind is pretty infinite, and if you keep a child in this sort of strait jacket then of course you are going to have spend loads of money on college humanities to force feed the young cretin Aristotle, world history, art appreciation and linguistics when he or she is past voting age. Then that person is going to get a sheepskin to compete with others on the global plantation. Good luck paying that student loan. The odds are good that a lot of American colleges are going to close down. We had the real estate bubble. Here comes the college bubble. As to college humanities, so much of is attached to identities of certain groups. And the scholarship can be rather shoddy when it comes to shining the tribal reputation. Sometimes it doesn’t seem all that different than the anthropology departments of the early 20th century who were dedicated to studying the uniqueness and specialness of the Nordic race. To conclude, an individual has to decide that learning humanities with his own independent mind is worth his while. Otherwise we just end up indoctrinating people with some version of humanities because it is good for them. You can’t force virtue on people; they learn it as a children from their parents we hope.

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By prgill, April 24, 2010 at 12:24 am Link to this comment

Great book review.

One has to wonder though, how it is the commentary could degenerate so quickly, after only 7 posts. Is it perhaps, because the subject itself is complex and requires a fairly high level of “critical thinking”?

Maybe what is not understood is the idea of “local loyalties”, because surely, to understand and assimilate this text one must “think beyond the pale”, which is not to say, Anarcissie, “globally”. (“Global” is a code word that opens the door all too often to the “globalization polemic” and related issues of “displaced and misplaced authority”.)

Finally perhaps, those who see in this review a opportunity to rail against authority and bemoan their “helplessness” are in fact those who are most in need of a “liberal arts” education.

Whatever…

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment

Well where is the answer at?

The use of Force by Big state is real. Try not buying health insurance in a few years. Try not paying your income tax. Try building an adtion to your house, fire an employee, start a business all things that have force behind them and not free market motives.

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By Gordy, April 23, 2010 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment

‘The use of force’ is a much more abstract, ethereal
concept than ‘big state’ so you shouldn’t identify the
two. 

Power turns a person into a thing; love turns a thing
into a person. 

I am not interested in power AT ALL.  Big state, small
state - I don’t CARE.  That’s not where the answer’s
at.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment

If you don’t consider the use of force a non-essential issue, then I don’t know what is an essential issue. Would you care to enlighten me as to what I and society should be focused on then?

I believe a Nation strong in Humanties, is strong in Math, is strong on Justice, is stong on creating fair and balanced conditions for all its citizens. The Humanities are there to inspire us all to be better people, to look to the moral high, to question authoity and dogmas. A Nation that imposes its political will of the political elite on the many through force is wrong, immoral, evil, foolish and unpoductive.

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By Gordy, April 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

I just think that this big vs small state argument is
an irrelevant smokescreen - nothing will change by
focusing on that opposition.  Either could be done well
or badly.  Both have been done more well or badly at
various times in history.  Don’t be hung up on non-
essential issues. 

The ‘humanities’ are a condescending label anyway - we
should simply live as humane, complete human beings and
not wait for a sub-section of academia to save our
children.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

“If the big state was 100% good it would do good things with taxes in a more collectivist and far-sighted way than ordinary individuals or small groups are capable of, and no one would object.”

Absolutly. But unfortunatly in reality nothing is 100% good. Since that being the case, civilization become more just if force is not used to make people spend their money in ways they do not want it spent in and no threat of force is used to get people to act or not act in personal matters such as sex or drug laws.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm Link to this comment

My point is still out there, which no one has argued against…Big state causes the Humanities to be irrelevant. The reason why is the Big state pays for everything and reduces incentive to work and increases incentive to not work. The state then takes the place of individual in deciding charity, duty and other moral questions, leaving the individual to be but a drone to the states thinking. Because under Big government the individual is not allowed to make choice of how to act personally or economically and if the individual goes against the state, POW! - Raw power to decide the question.

Humanities are a way to enlighten your fellow man to a higher calling. A calling they can find on their own, an inspiration to others to choose or reject freely. The current state of education produces illiterate graduates, as said in this story. The professor admits illiterate kids come into the school and leave illiterate - i.e. - the school system is not working. The system is flawed.

Until the state is out of the way of the people, and free markets are allowed to happen, it will be the political elite forcing everyone else to their will by means of force. They will use the monopolized monetary system, police, taxes and courts to control everyone. This is evil. This is totalitarianism. This is not Freedom.

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By Gordy, April 23, 2010 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment

If the big state was 100% good it would do good things
with taxes in a more collectivist and far-sighted way
than ordinary individuals or small groups are capable
of, and no one would object.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

***Thoses are welcoming to most? I would call those things unwelcoming.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm Link to this comment

Yes you are right, if there was no state. But I never argued for no state. So I’m not sure why you are talking about no state.

The Big state does much to unwelcome people, high taxes, loads of forms, fees, regulations and licenses. Thoses are welcoming to most.

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By Gordy, April 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment

If people were free spirits, the big state wouldn’t be
able to do anything unwelcome to them.  It’s moot.  If
there was NO state we’d endure the force and tyranny of
bandits, barbarians and corporations.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Gordy for such an insightful reply. Sorry my tone offended you.

I’m also sorry you belive my thinking to be some sort of Dogma. Big State - small state arguments are not Dogmas, they are actual positions that have emperical data to show things one way or another. I admit there can be times when the state will want to grow, like in times of war to protct itself or the people from a greater force than itself. But war does not exist in the individual, only the state. So again the only reason for the state to grow would be to protect itself from an agressive and bigger state.

If you believe that the small/Big government debate is simply dogma, I have to seriously disagee. The state is force, the state makes decisions by force. The state is exempt from the market. So if we have a small state, then force is small and limited, but can be gown if need be to combat threats to Liberty.

Big Government consumes all, leaves little to no room for creativity, or innovation. Once that happens the people starve and the government then eats itself because it has killed it’s host.

“The creative, open, dogma-free personality is capable of overcoming novel challenges as life unfolds”, yet is impossible to grow and thrive under Big government because of the burden of having to produce for the non-producer, i.e.-the state. We agree on who is best at being the movers and shakers of society, but we disagree as to implement their ideas.

I don’t belive government should be used to force one part of societies values and morals on another segment of society. That is not enlightenment, that is not creativity, or dogma-free, that is force. Force is wrong for the individual and it is wrong for the state. The creative and open personality will drive society in a way that is benificial for all without goverment forcing others to their will. We have the capability to put the best ideas out there with the internet and mass communication, what we don’t have is a free society to allow for the people to make their best (rational) choices without some law, rule or tax sticking its finger in the way.

So sorry Gordy, I’m not spewing DOgma, I’m speaking truth. Big goverments produce cetian results and small governments produce results that can be quantified.

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By Anarcissie, April 23, 2010 at 5:51 pm Link to this comment

The state is a permanent social institution whose function is coercion, in general to serve the interests of its ruling class.

As I don’t wish to be coerced, I can’t see any fundamental goodness in the state.

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By Gordy, April 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

thinkingman101, I dislike your aggressive tone toward
Firefly and I am not of the view that merely
disempowering the state will make things better for
human beings. 

I am of the view that only the creative, open, dogma-
free personality is capable of overcoming novel
challenges as life unfolds.  This ‘solution’ to our
current woes has no direct bearing on the ‘big/small
state’ debate.  I’m sure that with the right kind of
individuals and implementation, we could have
prosperous ‘big’ or ‘small’ states. 

What I had originally intended to say with my short
comment is that in my view although the Humanities
are great and everything, fighting for them to be
taught in universities is like fighting against one
of the many symptoms of a disease instead of trying
to cure it. 

What will effect real change is a deep-rooted
enlightened and creative personality and the ideas
and movements that emerge from it.  Critical thinking
is a large part of this. 

To my knowledge Noam Chomsky never said, “we should
run the country like THIS” - he just said something
to the effect of, “seek the good and the true,
always.”  Political ideology is always disposable and
transient.  Saying ‘small state good, big state bad’
is just dogmatic and unhelpful.  It will only create
friction, not motion. 

g
T

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment

Gordy is absolutly right. Firefly misses my point. I never said abolish the state, only severly limit it. Firefly doesn’t see her own contridictions in her statements. First her comment about how “Capitalism is just a way of enabling a tiny minority to get very rich”, which might be true, only I’ve never seen a capitalist system in work, i.e. - a free markets. America’s system is fundamentally flawed with a monopolistic monatary system. Since everything runs on the idea of a monopolistic money who ever controls that system controls everything.

Until money is allowed to be just like any other commodity, then no one will escape the heavy hand of the totaltarian Rich. 

Second of all a monarchy? No firefly, you are the one who wants a monarchy. The Democrats are the ones that one to be the monarchy - follow my Royal orders or else! Same with Republicans. A monarchy is nothing but an elitist system that caters to special interests, i.e. - the Democrats and Unions, the Democrats and Corporations, the Democrats and Banks.

What we need is our Constitutional Republic back. What we need is a limited goverment, split amoung the 3 branches. What we need is an education in Liberty.

This brings me to my third point where firefly shows her true ignorance or is just a liar, but either way is not being honest in thought. Firefly says “That all people, regardless of how much money
they have, have the right to education, healthcare,
food, water, shelter and liberty.” This statement is false. This statement is a lie or is ignorant. People cannot have a right to education, healthcare, food, water and shelter and LIBERTY. you either have a right to education, healthcare, food, water and shelter OR, OR, OR Liberty. Did you notice the OR? OR Liberty.

I assume by the statement firefly wants the governemnt to ensure people get those things, no matter what. No matter if they work or not, not matter if they produce or not. Now I’m not talking about the traditional orphans and widows, I’m talking about grown folks, able to work, able to think.

Liberty ensures both success and failure, reward and punishment. Liberty forces real community living where people must act civil, without state actors to police everything. Liberty makes a society where strong work ethic, honor and fairness mean something. Statism - government only ensure that the Rich and powerful can use the arm of government to keep control and take control of everything.

Firefly tells us the point of the state is to make sure the Very Rich don’t take control of everything and make the rest of us bow to them. Well lets look at what’s going on now, we have massive goverment and a police state and the Very wealthy want us to bow. The people have no voice as you calim they have under government. The government is owned and run by the powerful and in return hurts the people.

Take the state away and allow civilization to be civil once again and people will prosper. People will create, work and act fair for the most part; more than they do with a legal form of extortion. Trust in your fellow human, teach freely and belive in Peace and Love. Do not enslave your fellow man in the chains of taxes and Laws.

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By Gordy, April 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm Link to this comment

The state’s been bought and sold.  It’s difficult to
have any hope in movements that propose to tinker round
the edges.  Some form of deep-rooted and uncompromising
movement is needed.

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By firefly, April 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

I completely disagree with anti-state comments here.
I know its a current American thing, but it’s totally
non-sensical. It’s not the state that is bad, it is
individuals.

The problem with so many Americans, is that they have
forgotten what the alternatives to democratically
elected governments are. Would you prefer monarchy?
Because that’s the way this country is going.
Capitalism is just a way of enabling a tiny minority
to get very rich so that eventually you have just one
family that owns the entire country and the army and
everyone bows to them.

The point of the state is to ensure that this doesn’t
happen. That all people, regardless of how much money
they have, have the right to education, healthcare,
food, water, shelter and liberty. That’s what the
Republic is about. And that’s what democracy is
about. You get rid of the state, you lose your say.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

As cansv points out, maybe without realizing it, the state when out of control is evil. Humanities or not, states are not made for doing good and must be kept small and weak. That way evil cannot use force to impose its will upon others. The state must only be used to keep one person from preying upon another, or to keep people safe, and to run the public goods such as water and roads. Outside of that the state has shown itself to be a complete failure. Allow free minds and ideas to compete without force and our world will thrive.

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By cansv, April 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

I wish I could muster the outrage but somehow I can’t. A look throughout history shows those steeped in liberal education are no less vicious and oppressive in positions of power than those without. Pol Pol, after all, was a Sorbonne humanities student. And the manifestos of Surrealist, Futurist and Situationist art circles are full of paens to motiveless violence and blood lust. The list could go on into sad infinity.

Furthermore the irrelevance of so much of the current humanities needs to be addressed here and isn’t. Post-modernism, queer and feminist studies, among others,  have all contributed to the shallowness and willful marginalization of the liberal arts - a trend ignored in this piece.

If only it all were as simple as this consoling binary analysis presents.

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By thinkingman101, April 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

This is a great article, which is rare for Truthdig while a Democrat is in office. Public education is only as good as the public it serves. While there is more than enough reasons to debate about why America declined so severely, it should just be said that the Statist mindset of cradle to grave nanny state has been the great undoing of a once prosperous nation of free people.

Free people do not rely on a state for their well being, education or morals. Free people rely on one another, community organizations, and their own fortitude to live life.

So while Humanities are always needed, being a Social Science major I absolutely know this to be true. But ethics and self determination are what make a strong people, a strong civilization, but not strong governments. When one does not have to worry about self reliance, worry about fixing the problems of one’s society them self and instead rely on the state for solutions and handouts then apathy will curse the lands and people will become lazy, selfish, and dependant.

Think of a parent (the state) who spoils their child with schools, cars, every safety net imaginable and a rather comfortable life compared to the child (free people) who must work for their education, goods and services. The free child must work together to accomplish societal goals and accomplish individual dreams. The vast difference between a statist approach to solving problems and free people solving problems is force. Statist must use force to coerce others to do things they would not otherwise do. Free people on the other hand use persuasion, arguments, and if need be shunning to get others to act voluntarily. Which of these two approaches needs the Humanities? Not the statist approach because there is no need to be nice, have morals or learn anything since the state is taking care of ‘problems’ by force -robbing peter to pay Paul. The statist approach is might makes right.

Stealing money from your neighbor to give to another neighbor is not charity. Giving money of your own to someone in need is charity. Again, see the difference between the statist-authoritarian approach to problem solving and a free society? The Humanities only make sense, only come into play in a free society. Using state force is not humane, using state force is not fair, and using state force is evil – not enlightened.

If America or any other place wants education to work again, wants a society that looks out for itself, then the people must desire and practice freedom once again. Forcing a kid to go to school, and having a kid wanting to go to school are two completely different things. I find it odd that in this article the author blames the uneducated parents for the teacher’s non-ability to teach the student. The old adage ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’ comes to mind. Just because you force kids to go to school, doesn’t mean you can make them learn. The parent, child and teacher are not to blame, only the system is to blame. There are no incentives, which mean no discipline, no desire and no humanities.

People will see the importance or value in education when left to decide for themselves and will seek it if they need/want it; If they don’t, they won’t. Forced State primary education is the problem. State run schools are the problem. Schools and universities would appear anyways, just as they do today if state schools didn’t exist. The problem with statist is they want to force their version of Utopia on others instead of allowing, trusting, markets to do their magic.

Until America embraces the ideas of Freedom again and turns from the state, the Humanities will suffer, education will suffer, and the people will suffer. Freedom is the driving force behind great works, great markets, and great civilizations. Live free or die is not just a battle cry for the warrior, but for the poet as well.

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By prosefights, April 23, 2010 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

Many of world problems to today we attribute to liberal art education. 

Liberal arts education, IMO, stresses memorization and interpretation as opposed to analysis of facts and formulating strategies to solve problems.

“Where do journalists come from?  The are manufactured in America’s universities in a liberal arts cirriculum.” writes Mark Mathis in Feeding the Media Beast An Easy Recipe for Great PUBLICITY. 

‘Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.’

Mark Twain

Knowledge of how liberal arts graduate ‘think’ is being applied to try to get our stolen $22,036 back.

‘Emote’ may be a better term than ‘think.’

Facts and visibility can be used to possibly defeat the liberal arts educated.

Google ‘nojeh nsa lawsuit’ for details.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker, class of 1971 English major, delivered the 2009 commencement address.

Crocker was likely involved in inciting Saddam Hussein to attack Iran in 1980. 

Anthony Robinson characterized A gutsy commencement address.  Google ‘anthony robinson ryan crocker whitman’ for Robinson article.

Selection of Crocker may not have been a good idea?

Google ‘whitman college class of 1959’ to look for
‘Even us Whitman College [liberal arts college] class of 1959.’

and

‘Whitman college. A liberal arts college. The class of 1959.’

to read some of my posts on negatives of liberal arts education.

We have been dealing with the liberal arts educated for 18 years, so far, legal battle.  Not fun, especially when they stole our money.

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By HereGoes, April 23, 2010 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

Great post - you made so many salient points.  I fear, however, you are preaching to the choir - and that is exactly why you need to keep writing on this subject!  As a liberal arts grad, I pine for the days spent sitting around a table with a learned instructor and a gaggle of uninformed - and un-formed - co-eds.  In today’s terms, I spent too much money for that education.  However, for better or worse, I believe it served me well in the world.  As a parent, I spend the afternoon hours with my middle school student re-educating him, filling in the void created by his textbook-driven public education.  Our students are NOT being taught to think critically.  They are hounded by the question “What are you going to do when you grow up?” from the first grade on.  (I mean, they should KNOW by the time they’re 6, right?)  They are segmented into specific learning tracks (ie., gifted,  special ed, etc.) and tested ... and tested ... and tested again.  Those who don’t measure up are made to feel stupid and unvaluable.  Almost 50% of high school students drop out in Los Angeles, so clearly, we’re failing them. I believe it’s because we have crushed the humanity (no coincidence re the Humanities, hmmm) out of them.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, April 23, 2010 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

Education is fundamentally authoritarian and anti-egalitarian; this is obvious from its primary learning model, a one-way channel in which one who knows imparts knowledge to one who does not know, the former generally being credentialed by authority and the latter often compelled to subject themselves to the process by the same or similar authorities.  As such, it is antithetical to democracy, whose presumption is that one person’s opinion, plan or idea may be as good as any others’ and the way to decide contradictions is to take a vote or table the subject, rather than to look to some authoritarian social structure like rank or pedigree.

It’s kind of curious, then, that one hears that education, especially humanities education, which replicates the ideology of the bourgeoisie rather than just keeping the physical machinery going, is being starved by the same authorities which benefit from its efforts.  Of course I have been hearing this all my life and the authorities, far from being in decline, seem more imperious than ever and to have fewer restraints upon them, whether we’re talking of our lords and masters in government, business, academia, or high finance.  It is most curious of all that I read that one of the reasons the University of California has felt called upon to raise its tuition rates more than 30% has to do with the necessity of funding generous pensions, which in a few cases exceed $200,000 per year.  The wages of workers in the education industry may be going downhill generally, but some stars are making out like crazy.  One notes as well that tuitions and university budgets have risen, in the last several decades, much faster than the CPI.  Where the money goes I don’t know, so I can’t carry my consideration of education-industry starvation much further.  In any case, our author and reviewer may be talking about primary and secondary schools; it’s hard to say.

Nussbaum, according to Jollimore, says that democracy requires education to inculcate three faculties in its clients: critical thinking, globalism, and sympathy.  The latter two seem to be highly ideologized in the direction of Western social democracy; I don’t think the author is talking about Islamic, conservative or racial globalism and sympathy.  Instead, we are led piously to Tagore.  In any case, I suspect the ability to globalize local phenomena, and to sympathize or empathize, are natural talents more likely to be damaged than assisted by the clumsy manipulations of the education industry.  One hopes they may be left alone until we are smarter.

Critical thinking is another matter.  The schools might well wish to encourage critical thinking, although not through the Socratic method, in which Socrates tricks his interlocutors into coming to the conclusions which he has already chosen for them. It could be taught, and there is a wealth of material everywhere for the student to practice on.  However, critical thinking is extremely unpopular among almost all segments of the population, for good reason: it makes trouble.  As does its evil but necessary twin, creative thinking.  Perhaps they, too, must be let grow in the wild as they do now, against authority, against public opinion, against education.  It will certainly be difficult to get the taxpayers to pay for their encouragement.

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By firefly, April 23, 2010 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

Sorry, I’m not sure what happened with my previous
comments. Here it is again, please ignore the other
version…………………………………….

When I arrived in the US four years ago, to my
excitement, I got a string of college course
pamphlets coming through the door (I am an eternal
student!), but disappointingly, nearly all were in
uninspiring subjects like computer studies, marketing
and management. I was astounded.

Having lived in many other countries around the
world, where the emphasis is so often on a much
broader range of subjects, and people still read a
lot (in Bosnia, I met refugees who were fluently read
in classic Russian, French, Greek and English
literature at state school – ex Yugoslavian countries
still don’t have private education, so state
education is highly esteemed and invested in).

In Africa there is a surge of interest in sustainable
development and environmental studies, and in Europe
a strong push towards global human rights issues,
sciences and environmental studies. Of course, that
is not to say that there isn’t a large interest in
finance, business and marketing as well, but there is
a balance which seems totally lacking in America.

Perhaps, for the past 50 years, because America’s
wars have been about protecting capitalism - the
grand scheme of profits over humanity - and vilifying
alternative ideologies and ideas, it is small wonder
that it has produced a nation where people idolize
the likes of Sarah Palin.

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By firefly, April 23, 2010 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

When I arrived in the US 4 years ago, I got a
succession of college courses coming through the
door, but nearly all, were in subjects like computer
studies, marketing and management. I was astounded.
Having lived in many other countries around the
world, the emphasis is so often on broader subjects. When I arrived in the US four years ago, to my
excitement, I got a string of college course
pamphlets coming through the door (I am an eternal
student!), but disappointingly, nearly all were in
uninspiring subjects like computer studies, marketing
and management. I was astounded.

Having lived in many other countries around the
world, where the emphasis is so often on a much
broader range of subjects, and people still read a
lot (in Bosnia, I met refugees who were fluently read
in classic Russian, French, Greek and English
literature at state school – ex Yugoslavian countries
still don’t have private education, so state
education is highly esteemed and invested in).

In Africa there is a surge of interest in sustainable
development and environmental studies, and in Europe
a strong push towards global human rights issues,
sciences and environmental studies. Of course, that
is not to say that there isn’t a large interest in
finance, business and marketing as well, but there is
a balance which seems totally lacking in America.

Perhaps, for the past 50 years, because America’s
wars have been about protecting capitalism - the
grand scheme of profits over humanity - and vilifying
alternative ideologies and ideas, it is small wonder
that it has produced a nation where people idolize
the likes of Sarah Palin.

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By Susan, April 23, 2010 at 6:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I believe that the ability to think critically is actively discouraged in American schools.  A constant source of frustration and resentment for one of my children when he was in high school was this:  when asked to express what he thought about something, he was usually told that his thoughts were wrong! His observation was that he had been asked to express his thoughts and not asked to parrot what he had been told.  I agreed and still agree with him that there is a tremendous difference between expressing what one thinks and what one has been told. An education in the humanities is essential in providing us with an opportunity to be truly well rounded and complete.  I also think that a formal education is just one of many ways to achieve an appreciation of the arts; curiosity will result in individuals seeking out answers to their questions, unless it is beaten down and killed by schools that discourage and punish the curious student and try to force him or her to search out “just the facts, ma’am”.

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By ProfBob, April 23, 2010 at 6:23 am Link to this comment

As a retired California professor, now living in Europe, I see the same problems in both places.  In the US it seems that our high school teachers are often hampered by incompetent school boards and uneducated parents so that teachers cannot teach their students to think. At the university level in the states we do seem to require some lower division study in different areas that may give the students a different point of view. The question is how often are they allowed to think, to challenge, and to be challenged in their thinking. At least in Norway, where I now live, there are a number of debate programs on television and daily papers are quite commonly read. We get three a day at our house.
Certainly you have to recognize that high-level jobs today require a great deal of training and education. But we also have to live. We need to understand something of music, the arts, and logic. It is true that if democracy is to succeed we need at least 51% of the people to be able to think. From what I can tell by watching interviews with the American electorate at their demonstrations, we have a long way to go and a huge amount of worrying to do.  I don’t see many Thomas Jeffersons or James Madisons among our elected officials.

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