Why Read Classics?

[An excerpt from "Letter to Students" by Prof Leung Mei Yee, Programme Director of the General Education Foundation Programme, included in the programme’s textbooks.]

In Dialogue with Humanity and In Dialogue with Nature constitute the core component of the General Education Programme at CUHK. These courses are theme-based seminar courses guided by the reading of classic texts, and can be seen as "core" courses for a few reasons.

In terms of content, the GEF courses cover a few key—or "core"—domains of human knowledge and endeavor: the search for meanings, the value of being human, and the achievements and limitations of human understanding. The ideas contained in the classics we will be reading address critical problems and issues in human existence and knowledge, and define long-lasting beliefs and values which are relevant to contemporary existence.

In addition, both courses facilitate the development of important skills such as active engagement in reading, discussion, reflection, and writing, the indispensable attributes of a lifelong learner, and the intellectual toolkit required for a fulfilling experience at university and beyond.

Above all, the GEF programme is a space in which "core" attitudes can begin to develop. First and foremost is a sense of fearlessness before intellectual challenges. We will engage in direct dialogues with and make sense of original texts from very different traditions, cultures and disciplines.

Equally important quality is a spirit of open-mindedness. As we engage in dialogue with the texts and with one another, we will find our views are often contrastive. Our beliefs and values may be challenged. We may come to see that, for many important questions, there is no definite or final answer; that human knowledge and endeavor is a never-ending process of search and research. And in this process we will lay the foundations for responsible and proactive participation in the quests for knowledge and well being.