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The challenges that our young people will need to face as they go forward into this brave new world are truly formidable—exponential population growth, terrorism, war, extreme poverty, AIDS, lack of clean water, lack of sufficient food, climate change, resurgence of religious dogmatism—just to name a few. How can we properly educate our students to meet these challenges?

First, we must endeavor in our curriculum to inculcate in our students the virtues of compassion and empathy for other human beings, wherever in our increasingly interconnected world they may live.

Second, we must encourage our students to become aware of moral dilemmas and acquire the dispositions and vocabulary to engage these. We have a categorical imperative to develop a civic ethic to guide humanity through the many trials that we are facing in the twenty-first century. We need to think very deeply indeed about what constitutes a good education, a just society and a world that is friendly to all life that flourishes here.

It’s not common in Japanese classrooms to engage in open debate about moral issues. However, many Japanese people are becoming convinced that this sort of debate is essential. By engaging in dialogue about the major challenges facing humanity, young people can refine their values and step forward with confidence to take a leadership role in solving the problems that confound us.

Recently, NHK broadcast a series of lectures by the eminent Harvard moral philosopher Michael Sandel. It was, in fact, so popular that NHK decided to rebroadcast the lectures.

Professor Sandel is an immensely popular lecturer. About one thousand students crowd into Harvard’s Sanders Theater for these lectures on justice. What has astounded many of the Japanese who have watched these lectures is how active Harvard University students are, even in such a large class. They express their opinions freely. They take exception with certain of the Professor’s points. They are the opposite of passive learners. They take responsibility for their learning and proudly take an intellectual and moral stance.

This is what we need in modern Japan. This is what Nagoya International Junior and Senior High School seeks. We want to educate young men and women who can stand on the international stage and, with empathy and intellectual courage, address the challenges that face us all.


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