Monday, December 17, 2007

On liberal education

Shalini Advani, in an op-ed in the Hindu, has a great quote from Amos Oz:

... [A]s Martha Nussbaum writes, education is not simply a producer of wealth; it is a producer of citizens. Citizens in a democracy need, above all, freedom of mind — to learn to ask searching questions; to reject shoddy historical argument; to imagine alternative possibilities from a globalising, service and market-driven economy; to think what it might be like to be in others’ shoes. Recently, the Israeli novelist, Amos Oz, spoke about the importance of reading novels as what he calls an antidote to hate. He said:

“I believe in literature as a bridge between peoples. I believe curiosity can be a moral quality. I believe imagining the other can be an antidote to fanaticism. Imagining the other will make you not only a better businessperson or a better lover but even a better person. Part of the tragedy between Jew and Arab is the inability of so many of us, Jews and Arabs, to imagine each other. Really imagine each other: the loves, the terrible fears, the anger, the passion. There is too much hostility between us, too little curiosity.”

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Tyler Cowen offers his take:

Bias is everywhere, and overcoming bias yields great gains. Empirically, our biases stem strongly from our nationality, our language, and our cultural background. (It is, by the way, remarkable how much libertarianism is an Anglo-American phenomenon.)

To overcome those biases we should travel, spend some time living in other countries, and learn other languages. In other words, the more knowledge is held in the minds of other people, the more competent we wish to be in assessing who is right and who is wrong, and that requires exposure to lots of different points of view.

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Finally, Martha Nussbaum's enthusiasm for liberal education is something I have noted here before; she gets to reiterate her views in this interview in Tehelka; you will have to get past the incendiary headline, though. Don't tell me I didn't warn you! [Thanks to Pradeepkumar for the link.]


  1. Anonymous said...

    This is what Ramachandra Guha thinks why Martha Nussbaums cry for lack of liberal education is a flawed one:

    "As a university professor, Nussbaum thinks that Indian education is not liberal enough, and that a greater focus on the humanities and a feeling for poetry among the educated classes might have prevented the march of the Hindu right. This is questionable - the depth and richness of German humanistic culture did not stop Hitler. And, as it happens, the people of the Indian state of Maharashtra combine a deep love of poetry with an equally deep prejudice against Muslims"

    More in

  2. Anonymous said...

    I got past every sentence in the interview.

    I also noted how Tehelka has put in quotes something she did not even say (although going by the rest of interview she might still be grateful for being misquoted :-) ).

    No comments. :-)