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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Arguing Affirmative Action; What's The Purpose

05/15/2009

EPISODE NINE Lecture Seventeen: Students discuss the issue of affirmative action and college admissions. Is it “just” for schools to consider race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions? Does it violate individual rights? Or is it as equal, and as arbitrary, as favoring a star athlete? Is the argument in favor of promoting diversity a valid one? How does it size up against the argument that a student’s efforts and achievements should carry more weight? Lecture Eighteen: Sandel introduces Aristotle’s theory of justice which, simply put, is giving people what they are due, what they deserve. Aristotle argues that when considering issues of distribution, one must consider the goal, the end, the purpose of what is being distributed. For him, it’s a matter of fitting a person’s virtues with their appropriate roles.


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Series
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do
Program
Arguing Affirmative Action; What's The Purpose
Program Number

109

Series Description

This 12 part series invites viewers to think critically about the fundamental questions of justice, equality, democracy and citizenship. Each week, more than 1,000 students attend the lectures of Harvard University professor and author Michael Sandel, eager to expand their understanding of political and moral philosophy, as well as test long-held beliefs. Students learn about the great philosophers of the past — Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Locke — then apply the lessons to complex and sometimes volatile modern-day issues, including affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism, loyalty and human rights. Sandel's teaching approach involves presenting students with an ethical dilemma — some hypothetical, others actual cases — then asking them to decide "what’s the right thing to do?" He encourages students to stand up and defend their decisions, which leads to a lively and often humorous classroom debate. Sandel then twists the ethical question around, to further test the assumptions behind their different moral choices. The process reveals the often contradictory nature of moral reasoning.

Material co-owned by Harvard and WGBH. Need both consent to reuse for any other purpose. Contact Amy Tonkonogy in Educational Productions. Series release date: 9/20/2009

Program Description

PART ONE: ARGUING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Sandel describes the 1996 court case of a white woman named Cheryl Hopwood who was denied admission to a Texas law school, even though she had higher grades and test scores than some of the minority applicants who were admitted. Hopwood took her case to court, arguing the school’s affirmative action program violated her rights. Students discuss the pros and cons of affirmative action. Should we try to correct for inequality in educational backgrounds by taking race into consideration? Should we compensate for historical injustices such as slavery and segregation? Is the argument in favor of promoting diversity a valid one? How does it size up against the argument that a student’s efforts and achievements should carry more weight than factors that are out of his or her control and therefore arbitrary? When a university’s stated mission is to increase diversity, is it a violation of rights to deny a white person admission?

PART TWO: WHAT’S THE PURPOSE?

Sandel introduces Aristotle and his theory of justice. Aristotle disagrees with Rawls and Kant. He believes that justice is about giving people their due, what they deserve. When considering matters of distribution, Aristotle argues one must consider the goal, the end, the purpose of what is being distributed. The best flutes, for example, should go to the best flute players. And the highest political offices should go to those with the best judgment and the greatest civic virtue. For Aristotle, justice is a matter of fitting a person’s virtues with an appropriate role.

Duration

00:56:46

Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type

Video

Genres
Educational
Topics
Social Issues
Citation
Chicago: “Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Arguing Affirmative Action; What's The Purpose,” 05/15/2009, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 10, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1E7C20B7842F431AADC3F66028C56397.
MLA: “Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Arguing Affirmative Action; What's The Purpose.” 05/15/2009. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 10, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1E7C20B7842F431AADC3F66028C56397>.
APA: Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do; Arguing Affirmative Action; What's The Purpose. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1E7C20B7842F431AADC3F66028C56397
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