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Higher Education: Martha Nussbaum's Viewpoint

By Edited Oct 26, 2016 0 0

“The systems of university education in Europe have a disadvantage from the point of view of implementing my proposals. All colleges and universities in the United States offer approximately two years of ‘liberal arts’ education…before asking students to primarily focus on a major subject.”

The above passage can be found within Martha Nussbaum’s scholarly journal, “Education for Citizenship in an Era of Global Connection.” This excerpt caught my attention because it emphasizes Nussbuam’s views for creating a better/ideal world while also pointing out the flaws within her recommendations. Nussbaum believes that the rise of globalization and cultural diversity should be taken into consideration by universities across the country. To this extent, she believes that American universities need to adapt their course offering to help students not only function in an ever-changing world, but also to encourage them to tackle world issues that they might have not considered before. Thus, her proposal is for American universities to mandate that all students take at least one course in philosophy or the humanities. Implementing this recommendation is important to Nussbaum because she believes it will lead us down the path toward a more compassionate and united world. The world that Nussbuam envisions is truly ideal, but the creation of this world is, in my opinion, far from our reach.

Nussbaum’s recommendation regarding universities requiring their students to take classes in the humanities can work in theory, but it is not very practical as far as implementation is concerned. For example, a university or college that enforces this policy would do so through large classes of students instead of a concentrated seminar-based classroom atmosphere that is conducive to learning. In addition, this recommendation is also contradictory since Nussbaum favors smaller classrooms over large, lecture-style ones. Moreover, mandating that all students, regardless of major or concentration, take a class is also contradictory to the notion of a liberal arts education in which students determine which classes will contribute to their overall education in college. Thus, this suggestion can have unintended consequences such as a lack of interest in the topics discussed, and can lead to a decline in one’s learning experience.

I am also not entirely convinced about European universities being at “a disadvantage from the point of view of implementing [Nussbaum’s] proposals”. Although European universities are more concentrated in their graduation/major requirements, and lack a general liberal arts education, that does not mean that the structure of these institutions cannot encourage students to work towards a more compassionate and interconnected world. I believe this because the courses that one takes is only one aspect of university life. When considering the impact that a university or college can have on its students, we must also take into consideration the overall student body, extracurricular activities, the background and scope of professors, and the political contexts of the time to name a few.

http://www.akadanetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/blog-education.jpg

However, although I am skeptical about Nussbaum’s approach to creating a better world for us all, I do respect her motivations for doing so. Nussbaum took the time to step outside her reality and focused on world trends (such as globalization) and other pressing issues, and came up with a blueprint for bringing about necessary changes. Thus, even though I do not believe that Nussbaum’s suggestions are practical, I do believe that her work can have a significant impact on society in the future as we will undoubtedly continue striving for the creation of a more ideal world.

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