You probably missed the recent special issue of China Newsweek, so let me bring you up to date. Who do you think was on the cover — named the “most influential foreign figure” of the year in China? Barack Obama? No. Bill Gates? No. Warren Buffett? No. O.K., I’ll give you a hint: He’s a rock star in Asia, and people in China, Japan and South Korea scalp tickets to hear him. Give up?
It was Michael J. Sandel, the Harvard University political philosopher.
Friedman goes on to point out that the response to Sandel throughout Asia has been phenomenal. He describes Sandel as a professor with an extraordinary speaking style using real life examples to illustrate the philosophy of the likes of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill and relating them to the immediate questions facing all of us, but especially the young.
And the young are responding both in Asia and in Boston. Friedman gives a number of examples but his main point that he documents is 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. “Students everywhere are hungry for discussion of the big ethical questions we confront in our everyday lives,” Sandel argues. “…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.”
Anyone familiar with Roman Catholic social theology would recognize the accuracy of those sentences. Let’s wish Dr. Michael Sandel every success in his extraordinarily effective teaching.