Thomas Friedman at the NY Times seems quite amazed by the treatment a Harvard philosopher received in South Korea:
I just spent the last two days at a great conference convened by M.I.T. and Harvard on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education” — a k a “How can colleges charge $50,000 a year if my kid can learn it all free from massive open online courses?”
You may think this MOOCs revolution is hyped, but my driver in Boston disagrees. You see, I was picked up at Logan Airport by my old friend Michael Sandel, who teaches the famous Socratic, 1,000-student “Justice” course at Harvard, which is launching March 12 as the first humanities offering on the M.I.T.-Harvard edX online learning platform. When he met me at the airport I saw he was wearing some very colorful sneakers.
“Where did you get those?” I asked. Well, Sandel explained, he had recently been in South Korea, where his Justice course has been translated into Korean and shown on national television. It has made him such a popular figure there that the Koreans asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game — and gave him the colored shoes to boot! Yes, a Harvard philosopher was asked to throw out the first pitch in Korea because so many fans enjoy the way he helps them think through big moral dilemmas. [NY Times]
I think what Friedman misses is that in South Korea education is highly valued, some may think to valued considering the hyper competitive educational atmosphere in the country. With such a hyper competitive educational environment a visiting Harvard professor who puts his classes online translated into Korean is big news. Such classes would have in the past only been available to elite in Korean society that had not only the grades, but the money to attend Harvard. So him being a big deal during his visit to Korea and throwing out a first pitch at a professional baseball game is not surprising to me, but I can understand why it would be surprising to people back in the US. Maybe we Americans should appreciate educators and scientists just as much as the celebrities, reality TV stars, and politicians that usually can be seen throwing out first pitches at US Major League Baseball games.