Ken Chu says he’s not yet ready to give up on our university students despite their latest rowdy behaviour and suggests that working with the underprivileged might give students new perspectives
In the past few years, some of our university students have repeatedly displayed mob-like, rowdy and insensitive behaviour on campus, leading some people to conclude that our young people are hopeless. Defending these students, others argue that our young people face more pressure and frustration and so hold more grudges than their parents. They argue that our young people do not have opportunities for upward mobility or to earn enough to afford a flat, let alone fulfil their political aspirations for greater democracy.
The value of a university degree has depreciated sharply over the years. The number of full-time bachelor degree graduates has risen almost 50 per cent in the past 20 years but their median monthly income has fallen by about 10 per cent during the same period, according to a study published last year.
I admit that our young people face tremendous challenges, but being frustrated does not give one licence to violate the law or to be rude. There are certain lines that should not be crossed in a civilised society. Disrespecting another human being and the law, dishonouring one’s own family and country are some of these lines.
During the recent drama at the language centre of Hong Kong Baptist University, some of the students crossed these lines by displaying rude behaviour and using profane language when interacting with staff and teachers.
Respecting your teachers is an integral part of Chinese traditional values. More than 2,400 years ago, Confucius not only taught us the need to respect our teachers but also many other virtues – such as benevolence, filial piety, honesty, humility and compassion – needed to live a cultured and righteous life. Confucius taught us the basic criteria for being a decent human being – being honest with ourselves, kind to others, and humble in seeking knowledge.
Posting a banner on the Education University of Hong Kong campus to “congratulate” our deputy secretary for education on the death of her son goes against Confucian teachings. Indeed, any sensible human being would not imagine doing this. Some employers vowed not to hire the university’s graduates, but if all employers did so, the rest of the student body would be hurt as innocent bystanders.
To err is human. If one is truly remorseful for one’s wrongdoings, one deserves a second chance. It seems that because of their limited experience and sometimes youthful impulsiveness, young people tend to make silly mistakes growing up.
Because they still have a long way to go, they should be given a second chance. I have yet to give up hope on our young people. I am convinced that only a handful are bullheaded while the majority are bright, hardworking, intelligent and reasonable.
Didn’t we act impetuously once when we were young? If we never had passion for something, we were never young.
To help our younger generations become decent, respectful and responsible, we must get to the root of the problem and identify solutions. Some people blame their unruly behaviour on the education system which fails to teach them morality. They claim our schools and universities are unduly concerned with examination results and place little emphasis on teaching ethics and morals.
If business ethics can be taught in MBA programmes, why not introduce general ethics courses at our universities? Indeed, Stanford University requires all undergraduate students to take courses that will enable them to be responsible global citizens, including a course on moral and ethical reasoning.
However, I suspect that this model might not work because students might see this as just another course to tackle without immersing themselves in the deep meaning of ethics.
Perhaps it would be more practical to encourage our students to volunteer to help underprivileged people. In this way, they will see others are a lot worse off so they may be inspired to think positively and act humbly and responsibly.
Dr Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group and a National Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference