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A WASEDA Miscellany

Gaye Rowley

Last Chance for a Liberal Education

Gaye Rowley
Professor, School of Law Adjunct Professor, School of International Liberal Studies

Japan’s population may be falling, but the world is an increasingly crowded andcompetitive place. By 2012, there will be an estimated seven billion people on the planet, more than double the number who were alive when I was born. To be“successful” by any measure requires a level of application and an ability to focus that I don’t remember having when I was younger; the effort required to be among the chosen―by schools, universities, employers of whatever sort―seems so much greater now than it used to be. I have nothing but admiration for the young people of Waseda and the way they knuckle down to make their way in the very imperfect world that we, their elders, have created.

Complaining about “young people today” is a sign that one is getting older and so I try to resist the temptation to carp. Nonetheless, occasionally I wish that my students would take more risks. I wish, for example, that they would take more courses for their own interest, not because they think studying X or Y will help them to get a job.
Humanities subjects such as history, foreign languages, and literature aren’t finite blocks of knowledge than can be taught (and tested). Rather, they help us learn how to evaluate arguments and express ourselves clearly, to re-interpret our cultural heritage, and sensitize ourselves to other ways of thinking about the world. As the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has recently reminded us, studying humanities subjects also helps to keep democracy alive, because such study develops citizens’ abilities to think for themselves and to understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements.*

My other wish is that more of my students would go abroad for a period during their university days. In these straitened economic times, I realize that many families struggle to send their children to university and that as a consequence, students feel under pressure to graduate in good time. (We also need to do more to make the benefits of a Waseda education available to those who can’t afford to pay for it.) Waseda offers so many fabulous short and yearlong study abroad programs, as well as the chance to volunteer for a wide variety of good causes overseas. Recent tragic events have reminded us that life is short. Why play it safe? Don’t waste these oncein- a-lifetime opportunities!

* Martha C. Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton University Press, 2010).

2008 Spring Semester with my students






 *マーサ・C・ヌスバウム著『利益のためではなく:なぜ民主主義のために人文学が必要なのか』“Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities”(プリンストン大学出版局、2010年)