英文

Editorial : The subject of Liberal Studies

【明報專訊】THE storm of protest against the amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance has reignited debate over the subject of Liberal Studies. It is undeniable the younger generation has shown a tendency towards political radicalisation. However, careful study will be needed to determine whether this trend is attributable to the subject of Liberal Studies.

 Political controversy over the subject of Liberal Studies has existed for six to seven years. In 2013, a pro-establishment lawmaker queried whether the subject was increasingly political and suggested that it no longer be included as a compulsory subject. Since the outbreak of the Occupy Movement in 2014, critics of the subject have become even more vociferous. Some of them argue that some of the teaching materials contain political bias, while the others think that the subject is poorly organised and poorly regulated, allowing some teachers to inculcate some radical political ideas and opposition to China into their students. Some people in the education sector, however, believe that it is wrong to politicise the issue concerning the subject. As the city has been swept by the firestorm provoked by the controversy over the amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance recently, with radical protesters occupying roads, besieging the police headquarters and storming into the Legco building, the subject has attracted renewed controversy.

 We believe that a commission of enquiry should be established and tasked with the investigation of the firestorm of protest against the amendment, especially the clashes on June 12 and the storming on July 1. This is the best way to uncover the truth. As for the issue of the subject of Liberal Studies, it must be handled with caution. Political situations change from time to time, and they should not be allowed to sway the judgement of the teaching profession. The government introduced the subject of Liberal Studies mainly to encourage thinking from multiple angles and enhance students' knowledge of and ability to analyse current affairs in Hong Kong, mainland China and other parts of the world as well as the related topics. The Education Bureau remains convinced that the subject is important, as it helps students think from multiple angles and the global perspective.

 Social media may have a greater political influence on young people than the subject of Liberal Studies. Very often the most effective means of political mobilisation is not impartial analysis but incendiary remarks. Social media provide a platform that allows people to spread prejudice and hatred, take what others say out of context and popularise radical political discourses. In recent years, many scholars in the West have been studying the relationship between social media and political radicalisation. All the indications are that social media and post-truth politics are "made for each other", as social media make it easier to magnify social conflicts and make people go to extremes. The effects of political radicalisation are manifest not only in some Muslims but also some conservative whites. Though research in this area is lacking in Hong Kong, the city is facing a similar situation judging from the profusion of messages that incite hatred and that are of doubtful accuracy on social media platforms recently.

 True, how to ensure that the subject of Liberal Studies will not be used for the purpose of another form of brainwashing is a matter that we have to face. However, teaching students to think from different angles remains a principle that should be upheld. In the post-truth era that is dominated by fake news, young people have a special need to equip themselves with the ability to think from multiple angles and differentiate what is true from what is false. The subject of Liberal Studies can play an important role in this aspect if its design can move with the times.

明報社評2019.07.05:社交媒體助長激進化 後真相時代須通識科

反修例風暴再度引發有關通識科的爭議。香港年輕一代無疑出現政治激進化傾向,然而是否可以簡單歸咎於通識科,需要細議。

圍繞通識科的政治爭議,持續已有六七年。2013年,有建制派議員質疑通識科政治色彩愈來愈濃,建議不應再將它列為必修科。2014年佔領運動發生後,批評通識科的聲音顯著增加,有意見認為部分教材存在政治偏頗,亦有人指通識課程內容鬆散欠缺規管,令一些教師有機會向學生灌輸偏頗政治主張,又或「反中」「抗中」一類意識,然而亦有教育界人士認為,不應將通識科問題政治化。最近《逃犯條例》修訂爭議鬧得滿城風雨,有激進示威者佔領街道、包圍警總、衝擊立法會,通識科爭議亦再起。

我們認為,成立調查委員會,對反修例風暴特別是「6.12」衝突和「7.1」衝擊展開獨立調查,是還原真相的最佳方法。至於通識科的問題,則要審慎處理,避免因為一時一地政治形勢,影響教育專業判斷。當年政府引入通識科,主要是鼓勵多元思考,培養學生對香港、中國大陸以至全球時事及相關議題的認識及分析能力,至今教育局仍認為,通識科有一定重要性,有助培養學生多角度思考及國際視野。

比起通識科,社交媒體對年輕人的政治影響可能更大。政治動員最有力的手段,往往不是客觀分析,而是靠煽動情緒,社交媒體正是散播偏見仇恨、斷章取義、宣揚極端政治論述的地方。近年不少西方學者都在研究社交媒體與政治激進化的關係,種種迹象顯示,社交媒體與後真相政治「天生一對」,容易將社會矛盾放大,令人走向極端。這種政治激進化效應,不僅在一些穆斯林青年身上發生,同時可見諸一些保守白人。雖然香港缺乏這方面研究,然而只要看看近期社交媒體充斥大量煽動仇恨、真假難辨的信息,相信香港也與其他地方一樣,面對相似情况。

如何確保通識科不被用作另類洗腦,亦是要面對的問題。然而培養學生多角度思考,仍是一個值得堅持的原則。後真相時代,假新聞假消息充斥,年輕人尤其需要懂得多角度獨立思考、判別真偽,通識教育設計若能與時並進,可以在這方面發揮重要作用。

■Glossary

query : to express doubt about whether sth is correct or not

caution : care that you take in order to avoid danger or mistakes; not taking any risks

brainwash : to make someone believe something that is not true, by using force, confusing them, or continuously repeating it over a long period of time

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