Lights, Camera, Ethics!

The ethics lectures of Harvard’s Michael J. Sandel are getting high quality video presentation and dissemination:

it is the first time that public broadcasters can remember a regular college course’s being presented on television. What’s more, it is also a highly produced multimedia event, with high-definition video, interactive Webcasts, podcasts, a new book and a speaking tour.

“We looked at what other universities had done and realized that they didn’t have the full classroom experience,” said Mr. Sandel

Watching a video that looks as if it were made with a convenience store security camera, as most Internet courses do, without the slides, syllabus and other materials available to actual students, dilutes the experience, Mr. Sandel said.

So, for “Justice,” Harvard set up extra lights and microphones in Sanders Theater, a stately, stadium-style hall. The classes were recorded in high-definition with three cameras to catch the student exchanges that are an essential part of the classroom experience.

The article also discusses the relationship between Dr. Sandel and The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns.  And then, finally, there’s this fun tidbit about the challenge of teaching Rawls’s challenge to the idea of merit to Harvard students:

In class, affirmative action arouses the strongest feelings, Mr. Sandel said, because students, who have worked very hard to reach Harvard, believe their own merit is being rewarded. They are disquieted, he said, by the philosopher John Rawls’s idea that many of their advantages have nothing to do with merit: American citizenship, fortunate family circumstances, a society that values what they are good at, whether it is telling jokes or having a great jump shot.

He tells the class that many psychologists think that birth order makes a lot of difference in one’s work ethic and degree of striving, and then asks: “How many here are first in birth order?” There are gasps and laughter. About 80 percent in the auditorium raise their hands. “Is it your doing that you are first in birth order?,” he continues.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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