In the 2019-2025 strategic plan of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, one of the university's missions is
stated as "To nurture holistic professionals for the future".
In summer-fall 2019 there were ongoing political protests in Hong Kong, and in November 2019 protesters occupied
several university campuses for about two weeks. At that time the president of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
sent an internal e-mail saying, among other things, "Universities are venues for advancing knowledge and
nurturing talents. Universities are not battlegrounds for political disputes".
When students participated in the abovementioned protests, some people in Hong Kong (including some university
professors) criticized them and said that Hong Kong students are not well educated, and that good students
should focus on studying and learning how to be a good worker, rather than focusing on protesting outside.
For example, at a meeting of the faculty Senate at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, one professor argued
that the presence of students at protests was evidence that the university was not doing a good job educating
Some people consider education a path to "social mobility". i.e., there is an idea that if someone comes from a
poor background, they can use education to get access to a better job and improve their socio-economic status.
Here is a quotation from an article
in Jacobin magazine, describing the Humboldtian
idea of education that originated in the 19th century:
"[University education] was to be an institution that would produce better citizens, aware of their duties,
responsibilities, and (crucially) rights. The idea of liberating education from a religious straitjacket, nurturing
a scientific outlook and the values of secularism, had the potential to deepen democracy. If realized, it would
equip students with the necessary attributes of an engaged citizenry, able to question established forms of
oppression and inequality. Universities were meant to be spaces that would allow students to develop as autonomous
human beings, sharpening their ideas and critical skills in an environment of academic freedom."
In her book Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks (an American author and professor) describes education as
"the practice of freedom". She talks about how, as a Black girl growing up in the south of the United States
with few rights (when it was expected that women can only be teachers, cleaners, or mothers), school was what
gave her the inspiration to imagine other things she could do with her life, and to question and challenge
the biases/prejudices of society.
Sparky Abraham and Nathan J. Robinson write, "Students should be finding out about all of the fascinating things
in our big, wonderful world, not being fitted and measured for future drudgery. What is education for?
It's for becoming a person, not a worker." (This quotation is from an article in the May/June 2018 print
edition of the Current Affairs magazine; a similar argument is made in a short online article
worms its way into your brain."
On an episode of the Bad Faith
podcast, Sparky Abraham says the following (starting about 51:30 minutes into the episode) in response
to the idea that university education is an "investment" meant to lead to a higher income later in life, which
I quote at length here: [That claim] about college is also true of high school, and was particularly
true of high school before the free high school movement [the 20th-century movement in the United States
to make high school education free and publicly available] started. High school was something that not everybody did;
the people who did it could see a massive increase in their expected income over life.... [But] it seems to
me when I talk to people about this, the notion of making people pay or take out loans to go to high
school is unthinkable, but college... it's like we've switched our thinking, we now understand that high
school education is a necessity, it's a public good, but higher education is still seen as something else.
I think that higher education should be seen the way that all education should be seen, which is the same
as elementary school and high school and everything else, which is that education in general is a public good....
I went to three very different institutions for higher education. I went to a community college, and then
I went to a big public university to get a bachelor's degree, and then I went to a small, private,
ultra-prestigious law school.... but I think that the times when I felt like I was getting the most out
of my higher education, and the times that I've called back the most throughout my life and that have
been the most useful to me, have been the times that I was there having fun, when I wasn't trying to follow
a particular program, when I wasn't so goal-oriented toward my future career. And particularly when I was
at Santa Barbara city college, I didn't know what the fuck I was doing, I was just working full-time and going
to college for fun, I didn't have any sense that I was going to transfer or anything like that, that was when
I managed to learn the most useful things about, like, how to write and how to interact with people and what
this other world kind of looks like. That's, I think, the experience that I would want higher education to
be for everybody. I think that requires not just a financial divorcing from the idea that you're doing it for
your future boss, but an entire mental shift from that outlook. Education is not to prepare you for the labor
force, education is something else, and it's very important.