The Good Class: How an innovative Notre Dame philosophy course gets undergrads excited about contemplating — and constructively debating — life’s big questions

Author: Carrie Gates

The Good Class 1200

On a quiet, foggy November morning on campus, a spirited debate is already in progress in Meghan Sullivan’s philosophy class.

In a large auditorium on the Notre Dame campus, more than 100 undergraduates lean forward to watch as two teams present arguments on whether Notre Dame students should participate in more protests.

With references to Aristotle, Plato, and Martin Luther King Jr., the speakers take turns arguing about whether seeking to change the world through activism ultimately gives life meaning.

The audience drums their hands on their chairs to show appreciation for particularly strong points and tracks the flow of the debate on score cards. At a break, students from the audience stand to weigh in on the topic with their own arguments.

When it’s over, two large screens on the walls give live updates as students text in votes on the value of a life of activism.

The course, God and the Good Life, is not only transforming the way students are introduced to philosophy — it is changing their perspectives, trajectories, and lives.

Nearly 1,200 students have enrolled in the course since Sullivan launched it two years ago, and for many, it has become a defining experience in their undergraduate education.

“It is safe to say that GGL has changed my life,” said junior Samuel Kennedy. “Because I took this course, I realized that philosophy is my greatest passion, that there were no compelling reasons not to spend these four years studying what I love, and that my calling in life is to teach.”

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