Scientific and Technological Literacy
The well-being of our society owes much to science and technology, which have transformed our living conditions tremendously and have contributed to profound changes in our society. However, while some of these changes bring great benefits to us (such as health, security and economic prosperity) some other changes bring damages and threats to the world (such as environmental degradation, weapons of mass destruction, and wealth inequities). Because of the high stakes involved in all of these issues, all of the members of our community need to be literate in science and technology.
A scientifically and technologically literate individual is better able to cope with the demands of everyday life in an increasingly technology-dominated society, better positioned to evaluate and respond critically to the supposed “scientific evidence” used by advertising agencies and politicians to promote particular products and policies, better equipped to make important life decisions, and more ready and willing to engage in debates on contemporary socio-scientific issues.
Scientifically literate individuals benefit not only intellectually but also aesthetically and morally. A scientifically literate individual is better able to appreciate the beauty and wonders of the natural world, just as an individual who is knowledgeable in music and fine arts can better appreciate the mathematics and science without which music, painting, or film would be impossible. An understanding of the ethical standards and code of responsible behaviour that should be observed within the scientific community also enables individuals to make better decisions in their personal and professional lives as responsible citizens.
Increased scientific literacy will also benefit society as a whole, in that citizens will share a more holistic knowledge that can serve as a unifying force for democratic decision-making that is more effective as they participate with others on issues of scientific and technological public policy.
The humanities engage with the fundamental questions of human existence, explicating how humans make sense of the world from critical, creative, historical and analytical perspectives. The issues that the humanities have always grappled with pertain to the intellectual, material, moral, aesthetic, and spiritual aspects of human existence. Understanding how humans are related to each other, both individually and culturally, and the moral responsibility of humans to earth, their fellow humans and to the communities to which they belong is fundamental to the study of the humanities.
Today we live in a world with an unprecedented level of interdependence. Our lives are profoundly affected by decisions and events that occur in places far away from us. Capital, products, services, information, ideas and people move across national borders much more easily and rapidly than before. Such domestic issues as food, energy, health, environment, the arts, economic development and national security have acquired a significant global dimension. How are we to comprehend the complex nature of globalization that significantly shapes our personal, social, cultural, economic, and political lives? What are the pros and cons of globalization? What duties and rights do people of this global village have towards each other? What are the opportunities and challenges that confront the contemporary world? These questions merit careful thinking by every HKU student, as one of the University’s six educational aims is to develop capabilities in intercultural understanding and global citizenship.
China: Culture, State and Society
China is a rich, enduring, and progressing civilization. Understanding China from past to present enables students not only to see how a major civilization in the world has experienced both grandeur as well as setbacks, but also to understand the historical processes and international forces that have shaped the conditions of the Chinese across time and space. In order to comprehend the complexities of China’s changing fortunes and the fundamental challenges confronting the nation today, one has to examine how the Chinese have lived their lives, formed and debated their values, identities and heritage, and survived dramatic changes over the centuries.
Since the late 1970s, China’s achievements in carrying out economic reforms and open door policy have not only improved the livelihood of the majority of the Chinese people, but also created enormous opportunities for many countries in the world. Its phenomenal economic growth has laid the foundation for China’s recent rise as a major power on the world stage. Hong Kong is the most cosmopolitan city on Chinese soil today, yet her history reminds us of modern China’s precarious quest for modernity and the city’s role in bridging China and the West. The future of Greater China, comprising the Mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, will have far reaching repercussions for Asia and the world. Hong Kong, being a unique and dynamic part of China, is privileged intellectually, culturally and geographically to engage in a critical, intellectual inquiry of China’s civilization, people and environment. Reflecting upon China’s past, interpreting her present, and exploring the prospects of her progress and future pose a series of intellectual puzzles that merit the attention of every student at HKU.