English Professor Visits from Overseas

  A prominent London professor traveled across the Atlantic to visit UVM. Professor Michael Otsuka of University College London gave a speech on political philosophy titled, “Risking Life and Limb: How to Discount Harms by Their Improbability” on Sept. 7. Otsuka addressed students and faculty in the John Dewey lounge.  He is the author of the book “Libertarianism Without Inequality” and said he endorses the principle of equal opportunity for welfare.  He was highly inspired by great political philosophers before him, such as John Rawls and Robert Nozick, who revolutionized political philosophy with their ideas about equality in society, Otsuka said.  John Rawls is taught frequently in Philosophy and Political Science classes at UVM; his style of thinking is so unique it received its own name, Rawlsian Philosophy, Otsuka said. “The main point of Rawls’ theory is the most reasonable principles of justice are those everyone would accept and agree to from a fair position,” he said.  Otsuka began discussing the degrees of fairness and equality in our societies concerning education.  In England professors admit or reject students based on their own personal evaluation of that particular individual, Ostuka said. When I was growing up things were not so different than they are now; public school districts with more money simply provide better educations than ones with less money, he said. “The quality of education you got was based on parental income.” Unfortunately, children do not get to choose what the average family income of their parents will be before they are born, he said. Otsuka said a new phenomenon in the UK has been standardized testing that measures thinking skills and assessment ability for politics, philosophy and economics.  “It’s not clear how well it predicts how well people will do at University,” he said.  For a lot of students, getting accepted to a college or university is the first step; trying to figure out how to pay for it is next. The cost of college education has only continued to rise over the past decade, not just in the United States but internationally as well, according to his speech. Universities in the UK began making students pay tuition for the first time in history.  On average the fees are a lot lower than what American students pay, he said. Otsuka said that the student loans system in England is very fair. The rate is simply an educational rate that everyone must pay; it was introduced by Tony Blair and was originally 1,000 pounds.  ” They subsidize schooling, but when you graduate and when you start making money you begin to pay,” he said.  “When you earn above the medium income you just pay 9% over 35 years.” This stands in contrast with the US, where the average cost of college is double that of the UK’s and you must begin paying off loans as soon as you graduate, Otsuka said.