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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Substance and character are created within and emerged in form

Creating students of substance and character


SOCIAL science subjects undeniably play a vital and pivotal part in harnessing the full potential of our young.

It is precisely through such courses that students broaden their horizons and thinking.

The most suitable place for young minds to be developed and cultivated is undeniably at university.

A university is where we pursue excellence, character, harmony and wisdom.

It has been said that truly outstanding minds are usually cultivated from within, and emerge from, a conducive environment.

They take shape when their intellectual capacity and potential is supported, encouraged and cultivated.

An intellectual is a person who uses thought and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.

These people are involved in abstract, erudite ideas and theories.

They are also in professions which involve the production and dissemination of ideas.They could also be people of notable cultural and artistic expertise whose knowledge grants them intellectual authority in public discourse.

There is no doubt that among intellectuals are philosophers, teachers, writers, poets and artists.

The French philosopher and revolutionary, Jean-Paul Sartre pronounced that the intellectuals are the moral conscience of their age.

He passionately believed in this, as he himself lived his life the way he wrote and taught.

The task of the intellectuals, he said was not limited by merely observing the political and social situation of the moment, but undeniably to be involved and engaged actively in all of society’s issues and concerns.

Finally, he also maintained that part and parcel of the duty of an intellectual was to serve as a voice of the marginalised, the oppressed, the idiots, the exploited, the lowest members of the society and indeed to speak out freely, in accordance with their conscience.

Standing up for truth

Philosopher and activist Professor Noam Chomsky, like Sartre also subscribes to the belief that a true intellectual must not be silenced nor cowed.

They must always stand for the truth and condemn all the injustices and inequalities in the world.

An intellectual therefore is not only a member of a community, but a citizen of the world. Intellectuals are truly necessary and indeed important in any society or political community. Their ultimate function is to serve as the critic of their society’s malaise.

It is not an exaggeration to state that intellectuals are precisely the eyes and soul of the community.

As such, universities should encourage critical thinkers who lead and are responsible citizens in society.

Hence, we must engage in a two-pronged programme which involves the development of the mind and cultivation of the inner spirit. These two elements must concur in order for us to mould and create students and citizens who have substance and good moral character.

The writer was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in the Klang Valley. 

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