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







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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