Professor Michael Sandel gives keynote speech at "Glocal Education Fair 2024"

Harvard University's political philosophy professor addresses young students at Yeosu, Korea

Esther Baek 승인 2024.06.04 14:36 | 최종 수정 2024.06.05 01:05 의견 0

Michael Sandel gives keynote speech on first day of the Glocal Fair

Competition and money can be good motivators but they “might also distract students from the love of learning for its own sake.”

Michael Sandel, a renowned professor of political philosophy at Harvard University, attended the Korea Glocal Education Fair 2024 held at Yeosu. He inaugurated the first day of the fair on May 29th with his lecture titled “The Tyranny of Merit: Can We Find the Common Good?” This lecture was live-translated and streamed on YouTube where people who could not attend in person could also listen in.

The lecture began by Sandel asking young students in attendance if they would like to be rewarded for studying hard with money. He then opened up the floor to allow students to discuss back and forth regarding whether or not students should be rewarded at all, and if money is a good motivator to study. There were points made by several students that while money may be a good motivator, only more affluent families may be able to afford giving their children extra money.

An elementary school student responds to Sandel's question of whether or not money is a good motivator

Sandel then discussed the option of motivating students via competition amongst themselves. He pointed out the intense competition between Korean students to try to get into top universities and how much stress and anxiety it can cause.

“Is it a good thing or not a good thing that students and their parents compete for admission to top universities for the sake of getting high paying jobs when they graduate?”

The results were mixed in response to that question, where half of the attendees thought it was a good thing and the other half did not. Sandel brought up to the audience that the system of education contributes to a just society and living together as a community - therefore such competition may be doing more harm than good.

Bringing the conversation back to the monetary motivation, he noted that most Korean students go to “hagwons,” or private tutoring. Sandel mentioned that Korean parents spend 26 trillion Korean won a year on private education, which is one of the highest educational expenditures in the world. This led to him specifying that money allows students from wealthier families to have a better chance at attending top universities, no matter how much the schools support low-income students.

A high school student asks Michael Sandel a question on what he thinks of Korean parents being so involved in their children's education

Who does well on standardized tests, such as the “Suneung” in Korea, directly reflects how affluent the student’s family is. Most Korean students are told from a young age that the “Suneung” will prove just how hard they studied and will grant them admission to a good school and a high-paying job. When a child’s life seems to depend on such a high-stakes education system, it can further distract from why a student should be learning.

He concluded the lecture by emphasizing the importance of learning together in a spirit of “mutual responsibility.” Education must ideally give everyone an opportunity to think, reflect, and develop our character.

“Good society doesn’t require perfect equality,” he stated. However, it “does require broad democratic equality of condition.”

Michael Sandel’s ideas pose a great question of whether or not the current Korean education system serves its purpose well. However, due to the rigid structure of Korean societal norms, such drastic changes may require quite significant cultural upheaval.

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