Keep humanities alive



Let’s go back to the subject of education, already discussed in one of my previous posts and certain to be featured again.This is one of my favourite topics because it regards the future of young people and, therefore, the future of our society as a whole.

Today I want to put forward a point of view that differs from the one most familiar to me, (the relationship between school and enterprise), but one which is equally as interesting. I am referring to the opinion expressed by the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum in Not For Profit, a book published in Italy relatively recently. The subtitle of the book tells us a lot about it: Why democracies need the humanities.

While school and university education is usually discussed in relation to the labour market and job prospects (a very serious problem in Italy), Martha Nussbaum looks at the matter from an alternative and, to some extent, contrasting perspective.

The American philosopher raises questions about the crisis in the education system, tracing it back to the widespread global trend of favouring a technical type of education to suit the needs of the economy, to the detriment of the humanities, which are the victims of relentless spending cuts and silent marginalisation.

According to Nussbaum, we are not just faced with the disappearance of this tradition which must be safeguarded, but also and above all with the weakening of certain skills which must be practised in order to keep our democratic societies in good health: the ability to reason and formulate arguments that can be debated in the public arena, a strong moral awareness in relation to other people, and an imagination cultivated through literature and the arts. In short, everything that, over and above our specific professional responsibilities, makes us mature citizens, able to live responsibly in an increasingly complex and elusive world.