Students in classrooms across three continents met online Friday morning to discuss questions of ethics as part of Michael J. Sandel’s efforts to create a global learning environment.
The “Justice” lecture—which was the last of three international lectures—brought together students in Sao Paolo, Shanghai, New Delhi, Tokyo, and Sanders Theatre.
“The global classroom experiment takes the distance out of distance learning,” Sandel said. “It uses new technology to invite the world into the Harvard classroom.”
“Justice” teaching fellow Joshua L. Cherniss said that the presence of international students in conversations has provided valuable new perspectives and insights for Harvard students.
“I think it is important that whenever talking about issues to avoid parochialism and narrow mindedness,” he said. “Certainly talking to people from other cultures is valuable in protecting from parochialism.”
Cherniss also said that the experiment has been effective at revealing the common ground between students from different cultures.
“[It has been interesting to see] how similar what students from other countries say [is] to what students in our sections say,” he said.
Despite the opportunity for discussion with students from across the world, “Justice” teaching fellow Sungho Kimlee said that he believes that including extra global classroom lectures has led to a drop in enrollment for the course.
This year approximately 400 students enrolled in Justice as compared to 800 or 900 in past years, he said.
Daniel A. Schwartz ’16, a student enrolled in the course, said that he was interested in hearing more from Sandel and less from other students regardless of whether they hail from Sanders Theatre or Shanghai.
However, he said that he thinks the addition of global perspectives makes the class stronger overall.
“The experience of each group’s responding to the questions in its own cultural context is a powerful tool for forcing individuals to question the source and validity of their convictions,” said Schwartz.
Sandel said that this sort of questioning is what the development of the global classroom was meant to facilitate.
“It was exciting to see students wrestle with these hard ethical questions across national and cultural boundaries,” Sandel said. “It offers us a glimpse of what a global public discourse might be.”