Cultivating a Humanistic Mind: A View from Taiwan
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On May 21, 2014 Zheng Jie, a 21-year-old college student, made headlines for a random killing spree with a 30-cm-long fruit knife on the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). Under interrogation Zheng, showing no signs of remorse, told the police he had aspired “to do something big” since elementary school. The trigger effect of the tragedy was brewing at Internet speeds: many youngsters romanticized Zheng’s killing spree as a “heroic” deed, a template for their lives. Information showed that Zheng was a loner and a fan of video combat games. I will take this incident as my point of departure to discuss university-level liberal education in Taiwan. The paper is also a response to budget cuts in humanities and to dwindling enrollments in related departments in Taiwan and worldwide. I will first identify three major crises of the current situation, such as dehumanization in the cyber age. I will then survey the realities of teaching and studying the liberal arts in Taiwan, mainly with reference to the curriculum of Liberal Arts and General Education courses offered at National Taiwan University (NTU) and cross-listed at her partner universities. Finally, I will explain how these preliminary findings support an argument that liberal education is not an educational luxury. Rather, it addresses life’s enduring, perennial questions. Chances are we may redeem other lost souls like Zheng Jie.
KeywordsHumanistic education Liberal arts education Taiwan higher education Dehumanization
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