[Campus Commentary]How did campuses lose their intellectuals?Francis Bacon, the 16th century English philosopher, left us with the famous saying, “Knowledge is power.” Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer, authors of “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow ... Yet!” which has been translated into a recent best-selling novel in Korea, also pointed out the power of knowledge and the importance of using it. Indeed, knowledge equals power.
But the definition of knowledge has gone through many changes on college campuses. From as far back as I can remember, college students believed that joining demonstrations, even disrupting political rallies with Molotov cocktails, meant they were being progressive intellectuals. Many thought that was the reason the young went to college.
Also in the past, a typical way for a college student to relax was to sit in the sun on the campus green playing folk music on a guitar and singing campaign songs. College students then eagerly sought wisdom and philosophy through extracurricular activities that reflected their intelligence. It’s natural that college students were regarded as intellectuals.
But these days, the majority of students are not interested in the activities of their predecessors. Student leaders who say they are apolitical are more popular among their fellow students. Many students support them because they think the mission of student governments is to enhance student welfare, not to get involved in political movements.
Nowadays, the new definition of intellectuals can be found in school libraries, which arepacked with students, most of whom are studying for certificates of qualification or for higher English language test scores for employment. Their desks are crammed with reference books, ranging from their majors to philosophy, and from education to history, in a scramble to gain more knowledge, fast.
This new definition can also be found in school clubs. Many campus activities, which have been popular for their variety of extracurricular offerings, have disappeared over the past 10 years because students these days are not interested in participating. They are more interested in events hosted by large corporations that promote their products or internships for university students. For some time now, such events have settled as the new “intellectual” university culture.
The mission of the university is to foster intellectual thinking, not as a training ground for employment. To maintain the formula that knowledge equals power, students should remember Francis Bacon once said: “Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel and fitter for new projects than for settled business.”
If the formula “Knowledge = Power” and “University students = Intellectuals” is right, so should be a new formula: “University students who are intellectuals = People who have power.”
But from what we see on school campuses, the new formula does not work. Students are all too quick to judge instead of search for answers, while they would rather compromise and seek stable jobs than pursue new challenges. I see them more as a group of weak people than true intellectuals.
*The writer is a reporter for The Kwangwoon Annals, the English newspaper of Kwangwoon University.
by Han Yu-na