by CHENG Chun-Yin, Translated by Tse Yiu Chun from 2019 Orientation Issue of the CUHK Student Press

The University, General Studies, and Education 

by CHENG Chun-Yin, Translated by Tse Yiu Chun from 2019 Orientation Issue of the CUHK Student Press

It was in July when I was writing this series on University General Education, and Hong Kong was experiencing uncertainty in the grip of a storm. In the afternoon of July 21, 430,000 Hong Kong people went on the streets to protest against the corrupt and incapable government. The protesters suffered retaliatory attacks of tear gas and rubber bullets. I was doing news coverage work at the university and could not go to support the protest. In the evening of the same day, a terrorist attack by white-clothed people occurred in Yuen Long. Innocent citizens fell victim to violence. The triads were on the rampage, while the police stood by without any attempt to rescue.[1] I learnt the news when I was busy writing articles. At that moment, anger and helplessness rapidly overwhelmed my mind. I asked myself, “Should I continue to prepare the orientation special issue and write about General Education while countless Hong Kong people are fighting against totalitarianism and tyranny with their flesh and blood?”

I did not feel like writing, so I turned my attention to the bookcase and my eyes fell on John Dewey’s Democracy and Education. Flipping through pages, I read Dewey’s words,

“A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of other to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity.”

What kind of relationship exists between democracy and education?

Democracy is not just the practices of “one person, one vote” and universal suffrage. It is more than a kind of system: democracy embodies a belief in community relationships and an imagination of a political community. This belief is based on our notion that everyone is born free and equal, with the ability to think rationally. Therefore, we are willing to respect, understand, and communicate with each other in the hope of finding an ideal way to get along in an environment where everyone has a voice. However, we are not born with a critical mindset. Rather, we are nurtured to think critically, understand others’ perspectives and make value judgments.

The importance of General Education is clearly revealed through the past interviews of this series. At this critical juncture, it has never been more important to discuss General Education, because education is the mechanism by which communities pass on their values and beliefs to the next generation. Forming an education that trains our critical thinking is the first step of resisting ignorance, foolishness and absurdity. The ideas of “becoming a man of freedom” by Dr. Wong Bon-Wah[2] and “respecting differences” by Dr. Ng Ka-Chiu[3] are exactly the messages General Education should bring out, especially in this deteriorating era.

There are thousands of words in this series, but in the end, what we want to convey is just one simple original intention: we hope that the University General Education is not merely 15 course credits of “gaining nothing but a pass.” If you are equipped with a mindset ready for exploration and experimentation, you will certainly discover a brave new world through the University General Education.

The Great Learning,[4] [an ancient Confucian classic,] pointed out that “The Great Learning consists of the illustration of bright virtues, the renovation of people and the endless pursuit of excellence.” The Chinese University of Hong Kong may not have the best General Education, but it has sound ideas, enthusiastic teachers and abundant resources. Since its founding in 1963, CUHK has been an important base for promoting social progress and education development in Hong Kong. Like what it has been in the past, CUHK certainly will continue to be so in the future.

[1] On 12 July 2019, at the Yuen Long MTR station, triads of over 100 rod-wielding men indiscriminately attacked pro-democracy protesters and passers-by. The police were criticised for arriving at the scene 39 minutes after the initial reports and were suspected of colluding with the triads. Public opinion felt that the incident reflected badly on the police.

[2] Dr. Wong Bon-Wah (黃邦華博士) : Former Lecturer, General Education Foundation Programme at CUHK, currently the Assistant Professor of Social Science in the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, specialized in ethics and political theory. 

[3] Dr. Ng Ka-Chiu (吳啟超博士) : Currently a Senior Lecturer at Department of Philosophy in CUHK, specializing in the history of Chinese philosophy and Confucianism. 

[4] The Great Learning《大學 》(Cantonese jyutping: daai6hok6; Putonghua pinyin: da4xue2):  Is a classic and foundational Confucianism text, and a recommended source for learning Confucianism. It consists of a short main text attributed to the teachings of Confucius and ten commentary chapters accredited to Confucius’ disciples. 


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