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ON COURSE by Scott Aubrey he nine students seated about the conference table in the basement of Cochran Chapel had been presented with what could have been an unenviable task: build a better society. Using the philosophy of the late John Rawls as springboard, the “lawmakers” discussed essential governing principles—some easily conceded, some ever slightly more divisive. The students agreed theirs would be a tolerant secular state in which universal health care and Social Security would be guaranteed. But what of publicly funded day care? Or required military service? In Tom Hodgson’s Global Justice class, general agreement was not too difficult to reach: the students, like-minded in their views, laced their conversation with laughter and smiles. The U.S. Congress, it was not. But then Hodgson raised the stakes. Instead of representing a single community or country, the students would be asked to apply the same questions on a global level. Consensus surely would be more difficult to find in a world of diverse nations than a classroom of consonant teenagers. Such is one principle driving a central question of this philosophy course: “What does the search to understand and promote justice entail in our increasingly interconnected world?” Hodgson, chair of the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies, says thinking about the economic, environmental, and political dimensions of justice on a global scale is nothing new, but the concept has gained momentum in the last 10–15 years. Contributing factors to the increase in discourse reach back further: two world wars, battles (ideological and military) between Communist and capitalist states, and growth of a global marketplace. “Technology has made the world smaller,” he adds. “It has also made us more productive, more dangerous, and more knowledgeable about the broad and deep consequences of our individual and collective actions.” Hodgson developed Global Justice, now in its fourth year, as a reaction to growing humanitarian concern about worldwide issues of genocide, poverty, the ecosystem, and the use of military strength to spread electoral democracy and capitalism. “I felt I had a responsibility to help myself and my students better understand our place in the interconnected world we share,” the longtime Andover instructor says. “I was excited to see a reference to something like global citizenship in the Academy’s Strategic Plan, and I wanted students to help me think through just what that might entail.”

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Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders to Work toward Global Justice Simone Hill, a senior from Atlanta, says she opted for the fall term course as a means of gaining a more eyes-wide-open perspective on global living. “Global Justice has prompted me to think about what my own contribution to the world should be—and take into consideration how my everyday actions can impact the world as a whole,” she says. “The course has definitely heightened my global awareness, encouraging me to think about current issues and controversies I had never really had any interest in before.” Fellow senior Lydia Dallett came to Global Justice already interested in countries’ economic and political interactions. But a few weeks into fall term, the novice philosopher admitted some frustration with what she describes as the hypothetical nature of the class material. “Global leaders are not going to get together to discuss the moral rights and wrongs of their individual or collective actions,” says the Andover day student. “Those who have gotten together have produced documents, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that set out wonderful notions of harmony that governments can choose to ignore. If recognizing and following the declaration was a prerequisite for engaging in the United Nations or aspects of global trade, countries might be more inclined to improve human rights.” Hodgson surely appreciates such desire for forward action. Despite assignments hinged upon building societies, global change cannot be fully realized in an Andover classroom—but seeds for the future can be planted. “We know our students will be influential,” says Hodgson, “but for them to be the best kind of leaders, they will need to understand a wide range of relevant facts, be familiar with a useful set of normative concepts, and continue to follow the effects of different policy initiatives on the lives of others and on the overall health of the planet.” This is part of a continuing series of Bulletin articles spotlighting courses currently offered at Phillips Academy. 9


On Course: Winter 2008