Hong Kong and mainland China need graduates who want a society not ruled by greed or guns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 5:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 11:20pm

Hong Kong and mainland universities have a vital role to play in striving for peace in the community and the world.

This idea may seem strange, since universities have typically been viewed as paths to wealth, fame and national security. Most universities spend heavily on courses with a profit potential. They are often subsidised by corporations benefiting from their research. Some universities have close links to military men seeking advanced weaponry.

The atomic bombs and missiles that threaten humanity would never have been developed without the input of university-trained researchers.

Although the word “university” implies a search for universal truths, common values and shared human dignity, these goals are ignored, underfunded and absent from students’ lessons.

Instead, they are taught to beat their rivals in business or on the battlefield. The result? Graduates who care little about their communities, their nation’s true destiny or world peace.

Early universities in the West were often founded by religious groups, as part of their quest for truth and a common morality. We owe our respect for the law to dedicated educators and scholars. But, over the centuries, the link to religions has weakened and most universities follow a secular, money-driven agenda. China at one time had institutions with religious ideals which produced many graduates whose lives and example were a boon to their country.

Universities’ desire for autonomy has grown from a well-founded fear of control by external forces, such as monarchs, police states and venal commercial enterprises.

Many German students who saw the evils of Hitler’s ideology struggled to maintain decent values but they suffered for their ideals. In the US, students at Kent State University were killed because they opposed US involvement in Vietnam.

The current age calls for less division and more solidarity among young people and students. They see that our world is divided by ideology, race, wealth, extremists, worshippers of “national security” and wielders of fearsome weapons.

Is that the kind of world we deserve? What can our universities in Hong Kong and the mainland do about it?

Scholars and teachers must work together so that our institutions of higher learning fulfil their true mission. Is that mission to make people rich or design more fearsome weapons? Or is it to prepare our young people for a better Hong Kong and China, a society and people not ruled by greed or guns?

J. Geitner, Sham Shui Po