Saturday, 14 January 2012

Objective Proficiency p 106. Should Universities Give Preference to Applicants from Poor Backgrounds? Extra Listening



"We're going to engage in an experiment ....an experiment in public philosophy. We sometimes think that philosophy is remote, abstract and distant from the world we actually inhabit. I think otherwise". So says the eminent Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel as he challenges an audience to examine the big ideas, the big philosophical questions that lie behind our views.
In this discussion, he delves into the thorny issue of access to universities. "Should students from poor backgrounds be given priority in admissions?" he asks. He demands a show of hands. The brave ones volunteer to explain the thinking behind their views.
Throughout, Michael Sandel acts as referee, thinker and devil's advocate.
His lectures to Harvard undergraduates have been described as "spellbinding...an exhilarating journey". They are popular, provocative and interactive.
Listen to the same discussion on the Radio 4 programme called The Public Philosopher: Should Universities Give Preference to Applicants from Poor Backgrounds?  
In this programme the audience is swept along. "Who decides if you're from a poor background...what does that mean to come from a poor background? The way our system works right now is fair because we're just numbers" says Georgia, arguing that academic results are all that matter.
Fazal's view, reflecting his experience of American universities, is very different. "On one piece of paper you're writing down your experiences, your grades. On the other you're writing down your financial background...how much money you can potentially pay".

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