November 6, 2012
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In the Washington Post, with guidance from Martha Nussbaum (Chicago).
Philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s “spirit of the humanities” serves as an outline of the non-economic skills that education reform should promote. She describes this as “searching critical thought, daring imagination, [and] empathetic understanding of human experiences of many different kinds.” The first characteristic, “searching critical thought,” can be interpreted as probing critique. Students must learn to cast a critical light upon those cultural institutions and traditions that familiarity has largely concealed; these include the influence of media, the impact of race, gender, and class on identity, social institutions, cultural norms, and other aspects of existence commonly encountered and largely unquestioned. In other words, students must learn how to “make the familiar strange.”