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亚太区必须走出自己的路 — 专访诺贝尔化学奖得主李远哲教授
Asia-Pacific Needs to Find a Different Path to Sustainable Prosperity
Chu Luo Jun
Photos courtesy of Dr Lee Yuan Tseh
Published: EduNation, Issue 5, September-October 2013
Twenty years ago, Nobel Prize Laureate (Chemistry) Dr Lee Yuan Tseh was tasked with gathering members for the National Education Reform Committee in Taiwan. Twenty years later, EduNation had the honour of interviewing the newly-appointed President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and asking him to share his views on the current state of society and education. “I am a rebellious type,” he said. “I constantly reflect upon the current situation and rules in order to challenge them. I believe that without challenges, society will not advance.”

In an interview lasting almost two hours, Dr Lee not only provided EduNation with an analysis of the current situation from social, educational and Singaporean perspectives, he also shared his vision of leading the ICSU and influencing both Asia and the rest of the world in crossing boundaries and implementing reforms.

Globalisation of the Economy Causes Social Inequality

The globalisation of the world economy has caused increasing disparities in wealth. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, ideals like “all human lives are equal”, and “no discrimination among professions” have been slowly eroded. Dr Lee remarked, “It seems to me that such economic globalisation only benefits a few, namely those who can make the international stage a platform for their success. It is unfavourable to the rest.

“While wealthy entrepreneurs can capitalise on globalisation to make profits, members of the working class are often trapped by their circumstances. Large companies are constantly shifting their sites of operations, the implications of which include the loss of jobs for local workers. Wealthy players with vested interests can and do exert significant political influence by supporting candidates and policies that work in their favour.

“Many countries now have representatives in governments that have effectively been put there by large corporations. These office holders often neglect the public good in favour of protecting the interests of their sponsors. I think the demands for social equality and justice will escalate and the result will be reminiscent of the Arab Spring revolution.”

In terms of educational systems Nordic countries such as Finland seem to have found a way to buck this trend towards inequality. The question on everyone’s minds is therefore: how has Finland succeeded where others have failed?

“Nordic European countries incline in some ways towards socialist principles. For instance, they all employ progressive taxation, meaning that higher salaries naturally incur higher taxes. High-wage workers typically find that they lose 70–80 per cent of their wages to tax and the resulting discrepancy in actual disposable incomes across the entire spectrum of the working population is thus minimised. The government then uses this money to fund things like public infrastructure.

“On the other hand, capitalist principles will widen the imbalances in the wealth distribution of any society, as the pursuit of riches and power become the population’s main driving force. In the year before last, 67 per cent of Harvard and 70 per cent of Princeton graduates went on to get jobs in Wall Street. Everyone is obsessed with the race for wealth, and with wealth comes power and authority — and therein lies the potential for money to cause social fractures and class divisions. If only the motivation for wealth could come from altruistic and philanthropic sentiments, what a difference it would make,” Dr Lee said.

The Education System of Today Puts Too Much Emphasis on Imparting Knowledge

Dr Lee has been involved in research and education for decades, and he thinks that there are many problems with our current education system. He referred to an anecdote shared by Professor John Fenn, one of the 2002 Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry, at his 90th birthday dinner. “Professor Fenn told us that when he was in university, a General Chemistry textbook would be around 200 pages thick. At that time, students wanted to learn, and would fill those textbooks with notes detailing their own growing knowledge. The students today, however, walk into their classrooms with textbooks a thousand pages thick, and openly proclaim their contempt for Chemistry.

“Many educators think that imparting the accumulated knowledge of mankind to the younger generation is a priority. But it is unreasonable to expect students to absorb such quantities of information. When every teacher in every subject wants to impart their knowledge, it becomes an overwhelming burden on the students. And because they have to cope with exams they spend so much time learning that they have no time left to mature as individuals.”

The advent of the Internet has ushered in the age of information overload. Everything we want to know, it seems, is at our fingertips. “Now, students have countless sources of data. But a lot of this data is fragmented. Guiding the students in arranging this data into coherent information is one of the challenges a modern educator faces. Thus, an educator needs to impart the techniques of learning — he or she needs to teach the vital skills, so that the students can build upon their own base of knowledge. Teachers should not attempt to spoon feed today’s students.

“New media channels facilitate a rapid flow of information. By comparison, a teacher’s lesson in the classroom can seem abysmally slow, and will not hold the students’ attention. Teachers need to adopt original approaches and present their course materials in ways that can arouse their students’ interest.”

Dr Lee recalled a speech he gave at a high school in Berkeley, California. His co-speaker was Professor George Pimentel from the University of California, Berkeley. “I went first,” he said. “I dished out a whole lot of information on that podium, but I was unable to grab anybody’s attention. I was overcome with a sense of frustration. The principal even tried to reassure me that the students were talking because they were trying to verify the information I was giving them, and that they weren’t uninterested. But I knew better.

“Then came Professor Pimentel’s turn to speak. In came a figure dressed as Ronald McDonald, holding a telephone in his hands. That figure was Professor Pimentel. All eyes were on him. He placed the telephone on the desk, pretended to make a call, and said: ‘Hi, am I talking to Mr Einstein?’

“The students were immediately captivated by the riveting conversation between Ronald McDonald and Einstein. Their attention was very focused for the whole presentation. That’s when I realised that students are very different now. There needs to be an aspect of performance if you want to attract and retain their attention. This professor was very successful in doing so.

“Many students tell me that they want to become scientists. I tell them that even if they learn fervently from their teachers, all they are doing is learning the accrued knowledge of mankind. If one really wants to be a scientist, then one needs to be able to seek new knowledge, to gnaw at the very boundaries of the field one studies, and to explore the unknown.

“Even if you learn well from your teachers and get a 100 per cent score for your examinations, it means nothing to the world of Science. You are at best an excellent student. If we want Science to advance, then we need students who can see further than their teachers. We need students to think differently from their mentors. Challenging what is established is the path for advancement and improvement. Of course, there is a contradiction here between telling the teacher, ‘You are wrong.’ And the teacher telling you, ‘You are a good student. You know everything.’ Both can define a good student but they are inherently very different.”

Teachers Must Inspire

In trying to put together an ideal picture of how education should work, Dr Lee recalled another one of Professor Fenn’s anecdotes. This one was about the novelist John Steinbeck. “His son was already tired of lessons in primary school. So he asked his father, ‘How long more do I have to go to school for?’ His father told him he still had ten years of school ahead of him. Steinbeck’s son reacted by exclaiming, ‘Oh God, I have to endure this torture for ten more years?’ Steinbeck responded by saying that if you can find a good teacher, your time in school will be anything but torture.

“Steinbeck then said, ‘I have had three excellent teachers. They all had something in common. All of them loved their jobs, and all of them had a burning desire to educate.’ His Mathematics teacher in high school was one of them. Her lessons were not restricted by the curriculum, and her discussions with the students were expansive and lively.

“Steinbeck continued, ‘This teacher ignited my desire for knowledge. I detested Mathematics at the beginning. But after being inspired by her, I felt that the subject was as precious as beautiful music. If a student’s desire to pursue knowledge is ignited, learning becomes a joy. It is regrettable that the teacher was sacked after the term. The reason for firing her was that she did not teach the syllabus.’

“Steinbeck said, ‘I had countless teachers over my many years of being a student. I have forgotten almost all of them. Yet I can never forget this particular one who was sacked. She was the one who ignited my desire to learn. She inspired me to realise that everything you see has a much deeper dimension that begs to be probed and studied.’”

Dr Lee believes that if teachers can cater to the students’ interests and inspire them to learn, then students will realise that the academic journey is as stirring and reinvigorating as a joyful melody. This way, they will never tire of learning.

“In the slum areas of New York, students don’t care about their studies. One particularly thoughtful teacher considered his students’ love of basketball and told them, ‘Alright, we can play together, but on the condition that we finish our revision.’ As a result, the students were naturally motivated to learn, and eventually they developed a passion for studying. Thus, a good teacher must know how to reward and motivate his or her students.

“Another example involves a group of students who had no love for learning, and were only interested in gambling and earning money. Their teacher capitalised on this, and stimulated their interest in schoolwork by introducing them to the concept of probability. From probability, he moved on to teaching permutations and combinations. By teaching them to gamble effectively through the application of mathematical concepts, the teacher inspired the students’ interest in figures and mathematical analysis.”

Building an Equitable and Fair Society

Dr Lee’s ideal society is one where “everyone is equal, and all professions have equal value”. He said, “It takes monumental effort to achieve this ideal. Relatively speaking, Finland’s society is very equitable and fair. Their progressive tax system minimises the impact of income disparity. Every profession is respected, and every person has an equal chance of distinguishing himself or herself regardless of their job. In a society where teachers and bankers receive the same respect and similar material benefits, there are many who are willing to follow their passion and become educators.

“But in places like Singapore and Taiwan, salaries in the education sector are lower than those in the corporate, finance and research sectors. This naturally puts a lot of people off teaching. Within the profession itself, those with a doctorate won’t be paid much if they teach at lower level schools like kindergartens. Naturally then, they aim to become university lecturers. If we wish to have equality among professions, then we need salaries and tax systems that reflect this desired equality.”

All parents want their children to be happy and successful; this is completely understandable. But in the eyes of parents today, the very first prerequisite for happiness is a high and stable income.

“Many parents overly idealise the white collar profession. When my son was young, he used to say, ‘Dad, I won’t become a scientist in the future.’ When I asked him why, he replied, ‘You look like you have a tough time Dad, you don’t get any off days on weekends or even time to rest at night.’ I responded by telling him that I enjoy my work. But at the time he could neither understand nor accept my response. Years later, he ended up being a doctor. When he was an intern he once told me, ‘Well Dad, now I’m working just as hard as you!’ The job might be taxing, but he clearly enjoys it.

“Taiwanese dancer Lin Hwai-min is the founder of the world renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. When he first wanted to become a dancer, his father told him dancing was a beggar’s profession. Hwai-min responded by saying, ‘Even if I become a beggar, I will at least be a happy one.’ One’s profession should also be one’s passion. Those who love dancing should dance; people should be allowed to follow their passions, and still be accorded the respect and reward they deserve by society.”

However, ideals often have a tough time in the face of brute reality. Dr Lee lamented that in today’s world, it is difficult to persuade others to share these high-minded aspirations. “When we talk about changing the mindsets of parents today, we are talking about changes that must occur throughout society. Otherwise, it is pointless to preach to the young about ideals when wealth distribution is still so heavily polarised. The harsh reality they face dictates the choices they make.

“You can try telling the parents that there is no difference between professions. No one will be convinced. A mother told me, ‘I have two children. One is a manual labourer, the other a white collar employee in a high-tech company. There is a ten-fold difference between their salaries. The manual labourer cannot buy his own house or support a family of his own.’ This kind of situation should not happen. That is why we must change, we must oppose the institutions that allow such inequitable circumstances. If we keep silent on the injustices in our society, and still have the cheek to tell the younger generation that all professions have equal value, we are doing nothing more than telling them lies.

“When I was a young man, China was going through the Communist Revolution. Many people then had high hopes of creating a society based on equality and fairness. When the revolution ended, however, economic advancement came at a cost: the propensity for corruption. Wealth distribution became further polarised, and living conditions worsened. Sunlight was blocked out in Beijing, water sources were tainted, and food was unsafe for consumption. The people started questioning the purpose of the revolution. For the younger generation today, socialism and communism represent collapsed and meaningless ideals of the past. They end up believing only in money and power, and have no ideals to speak of. This is terrifying.”

Earth Overburdened

Beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the West the drive for development has been a widespread and intensifying phenomenon, and as a result natural resources that once seemed inexhaustible have been driven to the brink of depletion in recent years. The problem mankind now has to face is finding a solution to sustainable development. Dr Lee said, “Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland once said that sustainable development is defined by the ability to fulfil the needs of the current generation without starving the next generation of resources.

“I grew up in Asia. After reading Dr Brundtland’s statement, a question came to my mind: what is sustainable development? What constitutes ‘development’? The United States is clearly considered developed. But the Earth is already overburdened — if every country aims to have American living standards, then we would need five and a half Earths’ worth of resources. If everyone on Earth lives like Singaporeans, four Earths wouldn’t be enough. The same goes for Taiwanese living standards: three Earths wouldn’t be enough.

“Thus, I am sceptical about the term ‘development’. What constitutes development? Economists will say that continuous production and consumption constitutes economic development. China adopts this definition as well. China sees that the American automobile market is a strong driving force of the western economy, and therefore thinks that having its own automobile industry is a priority. The average car ownership level in the United States is such that there are more than 500 cars registered to every 1,000 citizens. China aims to have at least 300 cars to every 1,000 Chinese citizens. By the time China achieves this aim, everyone will have cars, but there will be none of us left to drive them.

“Thus, the modern perspective on ‘development’ is not right. A high consumption model does not equate to development. Mankind cannot continue to develop like this. First World countries need to acknowledge that the Earth is already overburdened, and stop imposing their own trajectory of development onto developing countries when helping them. While developing countries must still continue to advance, their path of progress should not seek to repeat the European history of development. Developing countries of today need to find a new path. There is no future for Asian countries if they blindly follow European models of development. On the contrary, we will all suffer the consequences together.”

The Future Earth Project

Dr Lee asked us to direct our attention to an issue that is more pressing than any other — our environment. “Human societies have been developing for a few thousand years, and yet it is only within the last fifty years that we have started to seriously overburden Earth’s resources.

“Human beings are a part of nature. Our lives depend on the Sun and its ecosystem. In the past 50 years, the environment has undergone drastic changes. The world’s population has increased from 1.5 billion in the last century to the 7 billion of today. This quadrupling of the number of people on our Earth has resulted in the over consumption of its resources. At the same time, we are also producing excessive waste materials, and the Sun can no longer reintegrate these, especially carbon dioxide, back into the ecosystem through its photosynthetic processes.

“In a nutshell, our Earth is overloaded, and is on the path to destruction. There is no future in continuing our current state of development. Because our capacity for self-reflection is lacking, our world will soon come to an end.

“What worries me the most is how some academics have the opinion that global warming only causes an increase in global temperature of two degrees Celsius, and has a minimal impact on our environment. Europeans, especially, may see this as a coming of spring, and think that they can adapt. This is a misconception. Darwin’s theory of natural selection popularised the usage of the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’. Contrary to the contemporary application of the phrase, the word ‘fittest’ does not refer to the strongest or the most intelligent organisms, but the organisms that can best adapt to changes in their surroundings. However, the current rate at which changes in our atmosphere are occurring is not something that any human can keep up with.”

In the month of November last year, the ICSU held the Future Earth Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the opening of the ceremony Dr Lee remarked, “This region holds around 70 per cent of the world’s population and has some of its fastest growing economies. Its rate of urbanisation is faster than the global average. The disparity between rich and poor is enormous. And Asia-Pacific also represents a huge portion of the world’s carbon emissions — different estimates put it at more than 40 per cent of the total figure.

“What this means is that the Asia-Pacific region has the potential to decide the fate of human sustainability. If it continues with business as usual and follows the western way of development, this region has the power to make human development unsustainable. The good news, however, is that Asia-Pacific also has the vitality and creativity to blaze a new sustainable path for the world. It’s fully capable of kick-starting transformations that put humanity on a pathway to sustainability.

“I truly believe that where the Asia-Pacific region goes from here will heavily influence the future of humanity. We know that it cannot copy the western way of development and way of life. If it does, the environmental consequences will be catastrophic. We know this for a fact. Asia-Pacific needs to find a different path to sustainable prosperity.”

Population Control and Collaborative Policies

Other than changing development models, Dr Lee also stressed the importance of population control. “The world population is too large, and needs to be curbed. Third World countries like India, for example, need to implement family planning and birth control. They also need to educate the female population, so that young women develop a sense of independence both in their thinking and in their lifestyle choices.

“In my parents’ generation, it was common to have many children. I have nine siblings, and my neighbour was one of ten. Children are often seen as retirement insurance. But Taiwan, for instance, now has a National Health Insurance policy. Everyone has health polices and retirement pensions. When there is no dependence on the younger generation for support, the need to have large families disappears.”

Overpopulated countries need to restrict their population growth. But countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Japan are facing a different problem — an ageing population that results from slower population growth. If these countries also curb their population growth, they will further diminish the size of their young talent pool — and how then will they be able to survive?

“We can only solve this problem through collaboration. If Singapore’s talent pool is waning, then talented people from overpopulated countries should be allowed to move and contribute to Singapore. My suggestion is for governments to practice open-door immigration policies, and assist in the integration of foreigners in new countries. We should respect every individual and all their differences. Taiwan often complains about its lack of youngsters and its decline in productivity and competitive strength. If we view the workforce and military strength of countries from a solely competitive perspective, then an ageing population will indeed pose a very difficult problem.

“Additionally, as we face the prospect of an ageing population, we must stop thinking that we should depend on the younger generation. Older people must learn how to support themselves financially, and how to maintain a healthy body. This way, they can take care of themselves and not rely on the young.

“Take me as an example, I am 77 years old this year. I am still working at the ICSU, and I share the burden of doing household chores with my wife at home. My wife does the cooking, and we shop for groceries together. My wife sweeps the floor while I wash the dishes. Of course, we leave the laundry to our washing machine, though my wife handles the drying. If we stretch the definition of the ‘elderly’ to mean those above 80 years of age, I am still considered young! I have many friends who retire by the age of 50 to 60, sit at home, and refuse to work or handle the household chores. This is not acceptable,” Dr Lee said.

Standing Firm for Revolution

Dr Lee has been reflecting on social ills and advocating reforms for the betterment of society for a long time. He has also participated regularly and passionately in social movements. Even at his age, he still spares no effort to help bring about good. He said, “The reason why I am the President of the ICSU is because I want to forge a bright future for our world with like-minded people from all around the world. I am currently travelling the world in order to help change society.”

As Dr Lee remembered his younger years, he reiterated the importance of sustainability. “During the Second World War, I had to take refuge in the mountains with my family. There was no electricity in the wild. There was only sunlight. Our survival depended entirely on the Sun.

“And when I used to live in Hsinchu, Taiwan, I could do everything I needed to do on foot or by bicycle. There were large grass fields near my house where I could play baseball. Those days were blissful. But Hsinchu of now is a totally automobile-dependent community. You cannot get around without a car. Then, after you buy a car, you realise that you still cannot get around because you find yourself trapped in traffic.

“I often tell the young that if you want to save the world, you cannot just adhere to a herd mentality and conventional knowledge. You need to walk a different path. Our values, philosophical perspectives, concepts of development, and relationship with nature need to change.”
 


精选文章 > 亚太区必须走出自己的路 — 专访诺贝尔化学奖得主李远哲教授
亚太区必须走出自己的路 — 专访诺贝尔化学奖得主李远哲教授
丘珞君
图:李远哲教授提供
刊载:《新学》, 第5期,2013年9月-10月
20年前,诺贝尔化学奖得主李远哲教授受委为台湾教育改革审议委员会召集人,为台湾的教育改革献议。20年后,《新学》新加坡教育双语双月刊访问这位刚出任国际科学理事会理事长的科学家,请他再为现代社会和教育把脉。他说:“我比较叛逆,经常通过不断反思来挑战现有的制度或体制。我认为没有挑战,社会不会进步。”

近两小时的访谈,李远哲除了从社会、教育及家庭角度分析现象,指出问题外,他有另一个更大、影响更深远的关怀。他要带领国际科学理事会,影响亚洲,以至引领全人类实行改革,走出新的路。

经济全球化导致社会不平等

经济全球化后,富者更富,贫者越贫。贫富差距越来越大,导致人们和“人生而平等”、“职业不分贵贱”等理想渐行渐远。之所以会这样,李远哲评论说:“看来全球化经济只对少数能够把地球当舞台的人有利,对一般人却是不利的。

“有钱人,企业家可以把整个世界当舞台赚大钱,劳动阶级却只能在自己的土地上默默耕耘。大公司四处搬迁,迁出后,当地的劳工就失业了。这个情况,让很多既得利益者开始操纵政治,支持有利于他们的候选人,以维护自身利益。

“如今很多国家的民意代表往往是大公司推举出来的,立法前他们罔顾选民的诉求,先考虑保护大公司。就像阿拉伯之春革命一样,我认为大家追求公平合理的诉求会越来越多。”

在这样不平衡的发展下,一些北欧国家,如芬兰却能办出让各国欣羡的理想教育。很多人因此纳闷:“为什么芬兰行,我们不行?”

李远哲说:“北欧社会比较接近社会主义,它采用累进税制,收入越多,赋税率越高。如此一来,薪水高的人,70%至80%的薪水都用来缴税,扣税后,每个人的净收入都差不多。而国家所收的税都用在公共设施上,让全体人民得益。

“反观奉行资本主义的社会,财富分配不均情况日趋严重。金钱、财富、权势,变成年轻人的追求和推动力。前年有67%的哈佛大学和70%的普林斯顿大学毕业生到华尔街从事金融工作,大家都在追求钱。有钱,就有权,由此产生阶级分裂。如果赚钱的动力,是为了大家的幸福,而不是把钱放在自己口袋里,这样会有很大的差别。”

现代教育过于注重知识的传授

李远哲数十年从事科学研究以及教育工作,发现现代教育有很多问题。他谈到2002年诺贝尔化学奖得主之一,约翰·芬恩教授(Professor John Fenn)在2007年庆祝90岁生日时说的故事。“芬恩教授说,他念大学的时候,普通化学的课本只有200多页,学生都很喜欢上学,课本上满是笔记。现在的学生,普通化学的课本有1000多页,学生走进教室就说‘我讨厌化学’。

“很多教师认为应该把人类累积的知识传授给年轻人,可是我们不可能要求学生在中学吸收人类所有的知识。大家都想教,越教越多。学生为了考试,忙着学,却没有时间成长。

“如果大学只有单一模式,全国50所大学都按教育部的指示办学,排名起来,在前的一定是名校,在后的一定是‘烂学校’了。这不是正常的现象。好的教育,是让每个人依照自己的兴趣和才华来发展。在一个多元化的社会,我们需要各种各样的人,每所大学应该各有特色。有的专门培养餐饮业人员,有的培养技师体系人员,有的培养政治人才、科学家。这样一来,社会才会得到改善,整体素质才会得到提升。”

互联网时代,是讯息爆炸时代,所有的信息和资讯都在弹指间可取。李远哲说:“学生的资讯来源多,很多是断裂性的讯息,如何指导学生整理这些资讯是教师的一大挑战。所以教师只需教学习的技巧,只教重要的东西,让学生举一反三,不是样样都教。

“现代媒体消息很快、流动性高,相形之下,教师在教室里面教书很慢,无法引起学生兴趣。教师必须别出心裁,设计能够引起学生兴趣的课程呈现方式。”

李远哲谈到他在美国加州伯克利一所中学,和加州大学伯克利分校化学教授乔治·皮门特尔(Professor George Pimentel)一起演讲:“第一个演讲由我主讲。我在讲台前讲了一大堆,无法吸引年轻人的注意。当时我有很大的挫败感,校长还安慰我,因为学生之间要互相验证我所说的,才交头接耳,不是没在听,我不相信。

“接下来到皮门特尔教授演讲了。只见一个身穿麦当劳叔叔服装的小丑拿着一个电话走进来,原来他就是皮门特尔教授。这时,每个学生都停止谈话,定睛看着他。他把电话放在桌上,开始打电话,说:‘请问您是爱因斯坦先生吗?’

“只见所有学生都在注意麦当劳叔叔跟爱因斯坦谈话,想知道他们讨论什么。学生从头到尾都聚精会神地听他们对话。我才知道现在的学生跟以前不一样了,要引起学生的注意,必须有很多表演。这位教授很成功,一小时的演讲,他以打电话的方式呈现,之后引起很多讨论,每个学生都听进去了。”

教师要有启发性

李远哲再举一个芬恩教授的故事,说明他心目中理想的教育。故事是关于美国作家约翰·斯坦培克(John Steinbeck)的经历。

斯坦培克的孩子不想去学校。有一天,他问父亲:“爸爸,我上学还要多少年?”父亲回答,至少还要十几年吧。儿子的反应是,“天啊,我真的还要受苦十几年吗?”

斯坦培克对儿子说:“只要遇到好老师,学习的生活会完全改过来。我有三位好老师,他们有一个共通点,就是都喜欢自己在做的工作,很热爱教育。”他举中学数学老师为例,说她天马行空地讲课,每堂课提些课题,全班同学都很兴奋地讨论,大家什么都谈。

“这位老师点燃了我的求知欲望。我原本很不喜欢数学,但经过她这样启发,数学对我就像美妙的音乐那么可爱。学生的求知欲望被点燃后,学习起来就觉得愉快。很可惜学期结束后,这位老师却被学校解雇,校方说她没有教应该教的东西。

“我一辈子求学这么多年,有那么多老师,却全部都忘光了,只记得这位被解雇的女老师,她启发了我的求知欲望,使我看到每一件事都要进深一层地探究。”斯坦培克认为老师启发学生,点燃学生求知的火花是最重要的。

李远哲说:“我由此发现,现代的科学教育、现代的教育是不理想的。现代教育只注重知识的传授,这是不对的。很多学生告诉我,他们要做科学家。我跟他们说,你跟老师学,只不过把人类累积的知识学会了。如果要成为科学家,是要寻找新的知识,到新的领域里面探求一些新的、未知的东西。

“你跟老师学,在学校考100分,科学是不会进步的。你顶多只是个好学生。科学要进步的话,做学生的必须要纠正老师,要和老师有不同的想法。挑战成功,科学才会进步。这里存在两个矛盾:一个是学生说,‘老师你不对’,一个是老师说,‘同学,你很好,你全都懂’。这是两个方向,是不一样的。”

李远哲认为,教师若能投学生所好,进而启发学生的探究之心,感受到学习旅程像悦耳的旋律般有趣,这样,学生是不会厌学的。“在纽约贫民区里,学生都不想念书。一个好老师看学生喜欢打篮球,就告诉他们,‘好,我们打篮球,但要先温习功课,温习好了才打。’学生只好先学习,后打球。结果,学生慢慢喜欢上学习。所以好教师要懂得怎样奖励学生。

“还有一个例子,是一群不喜欢学习的学生,却对赌博、赚钱非常有兴趣。老师于是用赌博来教他们学习或然率。从或然率,教到排列组合,教学生怎么赌博,好好分析输赢的或然率,结果启发了学生对分析数字的兴趣。”

打造公平、合理的社会

李远哲的理想社会是“人人平等,职业不分贵贱”。他说:“要达成平等社会的理想,需要很大努力。相比之下,芬兰的社会是比较公平及合理。他们的税率随收入增减,富人和穷人所得差距不大。行行出状元,每个行业都有值得尊敬的地方,人人平等。银行家和教师都得到尊敬、生活环境相似,所以很多人愿意从事教育工作。

“但在新加坡和台湾,教师薪水比企业、金融、科研等行业都来得低。造成人们不热衷于教育行业。即使同在教育行列,拥有博士学位的人,到幼稚园教书的很少。得到博士学位都想当大学教授。若要实现职业不分贵贱,薪水或税制就要反映这个观念。”

父母希望儿女幸福、出人头地,原是无可厚非,但在现代父母眼里,孩子日子要过得幸福快乐,首要条件是收入高且稳定。

李远哲说:“很多家长以为当白领阶级就是坐在那里享福。我儿子小时候对我说,‘爸爸,我将来不要做科学家。’我问他为什么。他说,‘我看你很辛苦,每个周末都没得休息,晚上也没得休息。’我告诉他,我享受我的工作。他不理解,也不能接受。后来他当了医生,在实习的时候,他对我说,‘爸,我现在工作跟你一样努力!’工作虽然辛苦,他却很享受他的工作。

“舞蹈家林怀民是世界知名现代舞团‘云门舞集’的创办人,当年他决定跳舞的时候,他父亲说这是个乞丐的行业。林怀民回说,‘我当乞丐也是个快乐的乞丐。’工作既是享受,喜欢跳舞的,就让他去跳,喜欢做什么就让他去做,社会必须让他们受到尊重,得到应有的报酬。

“如果我们的社会像芬兰一样,税收用在公共建设,税制使人净收入相差不远,职业不分贵贱就好。其实,在多元化的社会里,大家各司其职,没有谁比谁更了不起,人人应该都受到尊重。”

李远哲的心中有这些理想,但他知道,在现在的不合理环境下,任谁都无法接受他的说法。他说:“要改变现代父母的观念,社会要同步改变才行得通。否则,在一个财富分配极端化的世界里,一直叮咛年轻人要有理想,是没用的。因为现实在拉着他们往不同的方向走,连哈佛毕业生都追求财富,都失去了对社会的理想。

“跟父母说职业不分贵贱,没有人会相信。一个妈妈告诉我,‘我有两个孩子,一个是劳工,另一个受雇于高科技公司,薪水相差超过10倍。做劳工的买不起房子,养活不了一家人。’这种情况原本不该发生,所以我们要改过来,反对现有的不公平制度或体制。如果我们默默接受现在的一切不公平和不合理,然后告诉下一代说,职业不分贵贱。我想这是骗小孩的。

“我年轻的时候,正是中国经历社会主义革命的时候,很多人曾怀抱同样的理想,要打造公平、合理的社会。然而,中国革命后,经济是进步了,却造成腐败,贫富差距拉大,环境变坏。北京看不见太阳、水源受污染、食物也不安全。他们在质问,革命是为了什么?对现在的年轻人来说,社会主义和共产主义都破产了。结果,他们只相信金钱和权势,没有了理想。这是很可怕的事。”

地球已经超载

西方工业革命后,人类无止境地开发、取用地球上的天然资源。看似取之不尽,用之不竭的天然资源,如今却即将被人类消耗殆尽。人类和世界要如何持续发展的问题迫在眉睫。李远哲说:“挪威前首相布伦特兰说过,可持续发展,或永续发展的定义,是这一代人满足自己生存需求的同时,不影响到对下一代的供应。

“我在亚洲长大,看到这段话,就提出一个问题:什么是可持续发展?如何定义‘发展’?美国是发达国家,但是地球已经超载,如果大家像美国人一样生活,要五个半地球才足够。像新加坡人这样生活,大概四个地球也不够。台湾也是,三个地球也不够。

“所以我怀疑大家所说的‘发展’。何谓发展?经济学家以为不断生产、不停消耗,才是经济生产的路。中国也是这么想的。中国看到美国汽车工业带动经济,认为汽车工业是最重要的。美国每1000人有500多辆汽车。中国的目标是每1000人起码要有300辆汽车。当中国达到目标的时候,大家有车开,却没有人类了。

“所以,现代人对‘发展’的看法是不对的,不是高消耗模式才是发展。人类不能再这样继续下去。发达国家应该认清地球已经超载的事实,不要一味以自己的模式来帮助发展中国家进步。发展中国家是要发展,但不是欧美的发展模式。发展中国家应该要自己走出不一样的路。亚洲如果跟着欧美走,是没有前途的,大家死在一块儿。”

“未来地球”计划

李远哲拉远视角,放开眼界,谈比社会、经济、教育、家庭困境更棘手的环境问题。他说:“地球就像一艘太空船,里面养活着很多人,很多生命。人类社会发展至今数千年,却在过去的50年,第一次使地球超载了。

“人是大自然的一部分,是靠阳光普照大地,物质循环来养活。过去50年,环境发生很大的变化。世界人口在上个世纪从15亿增加到60亿,增加三倍,并且消耗太多。物质消耗过度,同时制造大量废物,太阳已经不能把我们产生的废物,尤其是二氧化碳,经过光合作用回归自然。

“一言以蔽之,我们的地球已经超载,正处于沉沦的阶段。这样走下去是没有希望的。照这样的情势发展,因为人类的反省能力不够,世界很快会终结。

“最令我恐惧的是,很多学者以为温室效应使温度上升两个摄氏度,无伤大雅。尤其住在北欧的人,他们以为春天到了,认为能够适应,这是完全不对的。达尔文曾说过,‘物竞天择,适者生存’,世界上能存活的物种不是最强的,也不是最聪明的,而是最能够适应环境变化的。但现在地球气候变化之快,人类根本跟不上。”

去年11月,国际科学理事会在马来西亚首都吉隆坡举行“未来地球”计划的亚太区工作坊。李远哲在开幕典礼上说:“亚太地区人口占世界的70%。一些亚太国家是全世界增长最快的经济体,超速城市化。超速城市化的后果,使亚太区产生的碳排放量占到世界总碳排放量的40%以上。

“这意味着亚太区‘有能力’决定人类的命运。如果亚太区追随西方的工业模式发展,将有可能使人类灭亡。可幸的是,亚太区有能力也有创意,成为开路先锋,为人类开创一条永续发展的康庄大道。

“我相信亚太区今后的发展将大大影响人类文明的未来。它不能照搬西方国家的发展和生活方式。如果照做,对环境将造成毁灭性的灾害。这是千真万确的。亚太区必须走出自己的路,以确保永续的繁荣。”

控制人口,协调政策

转换发展模式以外,李远哲也主张控制人口。他说:“世界人口太多,需要控制。第三世界国家,如印度,需要实施家庭计划,计划生育,并教育女性,有自己的想法,过自己的生活。同时改变价值观,建立安全感,不要为了依靠下一代奉养,而生过多孩子。

“我父母亲那一代,每对夫妻都生很多孩子。我家里有九个兄弟姐妹,隔壁邻居大概有10个。很多人生孩子都为了‘老有所养’保障老年的生活。台湾现在有全民健保,大家都有健康保险、退休金制度,人们不须依赖下一代,就不必生这么多小孩。”

人口过多的国家需要控制人口增长,但新加坡、台湾和日本,却面对人口增长缓慢,人口逐渐老化的问题。若这些国家也要控制人口,以致没有年轻人,缺少人才,国家如何生存?

李远哲说:“只有通过合作来解决。譬如新加坡人口少了,人口多的国家的年轻人可以到新加坡帮忙。我建议各国政府开放对外移民政策,帮助外来人融入社会。我们应该尊重每个人、每个差异。台湾常说缺乏年轻人,生产力下降,削弱竞争力。如果我们还是从互相竞争的角度看国家之间的军力、劳动力,人口老化的确很痛苦。

“另外,在人口老化的过程里,还要灌输上一代不靠下一代生活的观念,老人要学习养活自己,要养好健康的身体,有能力照顾自己,不要依赖下一代。

“以我为例,今年77岁了,还在国际科学理事会努力工作,在家和太太分工做家务。太太负责煮饭,我们一起买菜。扫地太太做,洗碗由我帮忙。衣服则用洗衣机洗,太太来晾干。如果把‘老人家’的定义拉长到80岁,我还是年轻人!我有很多朋友五六十岁就退休,赋闲在家,不工作、不做家务,这是不行的。”

坚持改革

借用意大利中世纪诗人但丁的著作《神曲》中对地狱的描述,李远哲曾说:“地狱最底下一层,是留给看到可以改变,或者不对的事,却不讲话的人。”相信李远哲一定不会去到那里。一直以来,李远哲为了改善社会现况,不断反思,不断推动改革,并热心参与社会运动。如今即便已是古稀之年,对这项推动工作仍不遗余力。他说:“我现在出任国际科学理事会的理事长,也是希望能够跟世界各地有理想的、志同道合的人一起打造美好的世界。目前我还在世界各地跑动,都是为了改变人类社会。

“过去50年,地球超载,现在是在往下沉沦。现代年轻人并没有这个意识,还以为要赶快生产,赶快促进经济。这是不对的。我们一定要想办法回归到太阳,回归到大自然。

“我常常跟年轻人说,为了拯救地球,不要听信一般人所讲的一套,要走出自己不一样的路。很多价值观、哲学观点、人类与大自然的关系,以及对发展的概念都要改。

“第二次世界大战时期,我和家人到山上避难。山上没有电,只有阳光。我们衣食住行都靠太阳,一个人用的能源大概是一个200瓦电灯泡所用的分量。后来到了美国则大量使用能源,一天可能会用到1万瓦的能量。我不相信我们一天需要消耗这么多能量。

“以前我住在台湾新竹,靠走路、骑自行车,什么事都可以解决。家附近很多草地,可以打棒球,很快乐。现在新竹发展成汽车社会后,没有汽车走不通,有了汽车,却被困在车龙中,还是走不通。

“美国地广人稀,发展时期需要汽车带动城市成长,美国城市才变得这么大。现在亚太区人口已经这么多,如果还跟着美国的发展模式走,是欠缺思考的,走不通的。即便是大城镇,也要有不同的小社区,大部分事情可以在里面解决,自给自足。亚洲人走自己的路,这是值得大家思考的。”

李远哲教授 / Lee Yuan Tseh (Dr)
1936年出生于台湾新竹,台湾大学化学系学士毕业,清华大学获得硕士学位,1965年获美国加州大学伯克利分校化学博士学位,在劳伦斯·伯克利国家实验室与哈佛大学从事博士后研究。1968年应聘至芝加哥大学化学系执教,六年后,即1974年转任母校加州大学伯克利分校化学系教授,同时担任劳伦斯国家实验室主任研究员。1994年,李远哲回台湾担任台湾中央研究院院长。2006年卸任后,受聘为特聘研究员。2008年,李远哲被票选为国际科学理事会(ICSU)理事长,于2011年接任职务。

李远哲获奖无数,其中重要奖项包括1986年的诺贝尔化学奖、加州大学伯克利分校颁发的哈斯国际奖、法国“国家功勋勋位——大军官勋章”及巴拿马共和国的最高荣誉,“阿马多尔大十字勋章”。此外,他还获得38所大学颁发荣誉博士学位。

Dr Lee Yuan Tseh was born in Hsinchu, Taiwan in 1936. After receiving his PhD in 1965 from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr Lee began to conduct reactive scattering experiments in ion-molecule reaction as a post-doctoral fellow in Dr B H Mahan’s laboratory.

After his retirement from the University of California, Berkeley in 1994, Dr Lee became the President of Academia Sinica. He became President Emeritus and Distinguished Research Fellow at the same institution in 2006. Dr Lee was elected President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) in 2008 and took up the appointment in 2011.

Dr Lee has received numerous awards and honours, including the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award from the University of California, Berkeley, the Grand Officer of the French National Order of Merit, and the Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero from the Republic of Panama. He has also received the Doctor Honoris Causa from 38 universities.

The good news, however, is that Asia-Pacific also has the vitality and creativity to blaze a new sustainable path for the world. It’s fully capable of kick-starting transformations that put humanity on a pathway to sustainability.

I often tell the young that if you want to save the world, you cannot just adhere to a herd mentality and conventional knowledge. You need to walk a different path. Our values, philosophical perspectives, concepts of development, and relationship with nature need to change.

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