Justice as a Theme for Critical Thinking

Harvard University professor and noted political philosopher, Michael Sandel, has taught his legendary moral reasoning course, Justice, for nearly 30 years. Now, Harvard has made this excellent course available (free) over the Internet.

This course is a real exercise in critical thinking. Sandel prods his students to not only think deeply about some of the thorniest moral dilemmas that humans face, but to also rethink their positions from an alternative perspective. After all, important moral questions are "never black and white."

As noted on the website:

"Sorting out these contradictions sharpens our own moral convictions and gives us the moral clarity to better understand the opposing views that we confront in a democracy. . . Professor Sandel believes the process of thinking one's way through the difficult moral questions of our day—figuring out what we think, and why—helps make us better citizens."

If gifted students are mature enough to discuss deep moral dilemmas and examine their own thinking, then this course will be well worth their time. The course also presents an excellent opportunity for gifted students to engage in challenging discussions, both at school and at home.

The Internet version of Justice includes 12 very interesting lectures. During the lectures, Professor Sandel engages his students at Harvard by calling upon them in class and asking for responses to the dilemmas that he presents.

Before viewing a lecture, students can read a synopsis on the website. Then, after viewing the lecture, they can create a private Discussion Circle online and invite their peers to post answers to Sandel's questions. For those who want to extend their learning even further, several of the lectures offer additional readings that can be found right on the website—no need to buy books or search for materials—in addition to interactive quizzes and discussion guides for beginning and advanced students.

If you know of a mature, gifted student who would benefit from this course, I highly recommend that you take a look at all the materials available. The Justice lecture series also can be found on some public television networks.

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