Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ethics:  Political Philosopher a Star in China

[Michael J. Sandel, the Harvard University political philosopher is] a rock star in Asia, and people in China, Japan and South Korea scalp tickets to hear him.
Sandel's popularity in Asia reflects the intersection of three trends. One is the growth of online education, where students anywhere now can gain access to the best professors from everywhere. Another is the craving in Asia for a more creative, discussion-based style of teaching in order to produce more creative, innovative students. And the last is the hunger of young people to engage in moral reasoning and debates, rather than having their education confined to the dry technical aspects of economics, business or engineering.

At Tsinghua and Fudan, Sandel challenged students with a series of cases about justice and markets: Is it fair to raise the price of snow shovels after a snowstorm? What about auctioning university admissions to the highest bidder? “Free-market sentiment ran surprisingly high,” Sandel said, “but some students argued that unfettered markets create inequality and social discord.”

Sandel is touching something deep in both Boston and Beijing. “Students everywhere are hungry for discussion of the big ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives,” Sandel argues. “In recent years, seemingly technical economic questions have crowded out questions of justice and the common good. I think there is a growing sense, in many societies, that G.D.P. and market values do not by themselves produce happiness, or a good society. My dream is to create a video-linked global classroom, connecting students across cultures and national boundaries — to think through these hard moral questions together, to see what we can learn from one another.”

For more, see Justice Goes Global by Thomas L. Friedman, June 14, 2011 at NYTimes.com.

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