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Our Future Depends on Education in Humanities and Cultural Understanding

chinadaily 2013-11-04

Yang Yuilang, the Chairman of Fudan University gave a recent interview where he characterized the state of the world, cross-cultural understanding, and education’s place in it.

He argues that the process of globalization binds our vast world into a ‘global village,’ necessitating a connected outlook and vision for the future of our planet. However, people's visions are falling short of the promise of tomorrow.

Yang believes that education has a role to play in solving this, as does increased cultural understanding and exchange, particularly between Eastern and Western philosophies.

“I said to my students: ‘A country, though owning much stronger economic and military power, cannot become a real super power in the world without first-class philosophers and thinkers.’

He continued, “Similarly, without first-class philosophers and thinkers, humankind as a whole will find it impossible to solve the problems of today or the issues of tomorrow that vow to confront our future world. This is one of the most important reasons to strengthen research and education in humanities and social science.”

Yang hopes that in the new century, we can transition from the era of knowledge into the era of thinking. Learning to listen when listening is required and thinking before speaking, as first-rate philosophers should, will characterize this new era in his opinion.

Yang explained that we need to better know our neighbors – both near and far – in order to combat perceptions of strangeness and otherness that frequently divide the globe into ‘us’ and ‘them’ corners. He argues that due to human instinct and inappropriate educational outcomes, people are accustomed to indulging in the process of "othering' when considering the thoughts and behaviors of others. This leads to the frequent occurrence of conflict between civilizations.

“I am of the opinion that the surest way to end human society is to allow it to be dominated by a single civilization or culture. The future is in multiculturalism. We, the Chinese, believe all civilizations should be proud of their achievements, but also be willing to share their beauty with other civilizations and learn from them in kind. This is the way to a Datong (harmonious) world – a world system based on the peaceful coexistence and collaboration of different civilizations and cultures.”

“Why do we set up platforms for international cooperation and exchanges? It is based on the need to consider and understand the differences between Eastern and Western cultures.”

Today major world issues are extremely complex. Yang thinks that the key to understanding and eventually solving these issues may lie in blending Eastern and Western philosophical thinking and cultures in the arena of world affairs.

“Recently, Fudan University and the Global Climate and Environmental Research Center of British Tyndall University collaborated to establish the Global Climate and Environmental Research Center, and we expect that the center will be able to set the model for assembling both Eastern and Western problem-solving apparatus’ in order to solve the complex problems of the world, now and in the future,” he concluded.

Interview from Xinhua.

Translated by Jin Xin、Yang Xin & Callie

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