Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 121-125
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.37B032
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The Unity of Scientific Literacy Education and Humanistic
Spirit Education in Higher Education*
Shixin Pei, Fenping Cui, Tingting Sun
College of Physics & Opto-electronic Engineering, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology,
NUIST, Nanjing, China
Received 2012
In view of the irrational phenomenon of many highly educated intellectuals showed non-rational behavior;
it consider that the reason for this non-rational behavior is caused by the artificial fragmentation of scien-
tific attainment education and humanistic spirit education in modern China higher education. This article
maintains that healthy higher education should be based on scientific literacy, oriented by humanistic spi-
rit, and to aim at the promotion of students personality perfection. Based on these, this paper ideal is the
unity of human spirit education and science literacy education in modern Chinese colleges and universi-
ties is need urgently, that is to fully integrate the human spirit and science literacy, practice the way of the
combination of science and humanities education. Focus on the combination, the connotations, objectives
and ways to realize are disscussed in this paper, it is thinking that practices the combination of science
and humanities education way should develop education theory, establish the educational methodology
suitable for the science and humanities education, and seek the reuniting of science and humanities educa-
tion from the history of science literacy education and humanities spirits education, reform the probleme
in the combination of science education and humanities education, to carry out the education of science
and humanities at the same time, reshaping the values of today higher education.
Keywords: Teaching Reform; Scientific Literacy Education; Humanistic Spirit Education; Science &
Humanities Education
There is a true story widely quoted saying that a survivors
from Nazi concentration camp after World War II became a
school principal, whenever a new teacher came to the school,
the principal would give the new teacher a letter: "dear teacher,
I saw human beings should not to see the scene: Poison gas
chambers were built by engineers with expertise; children were
poisoned to death by the learned doctor; chil dren we r e kil l e d by
trained nurses. When I see all this, I doubt: education, whether
it is for what? My request is please help students grow as hu-
mane. Only our children grow up to be a really humane people,
the ability of read, write and count have value. "
This true story, not only convey to us is awareness of the
fundamental value of respect for life education, but also reveals
the importance of the unity of natural sciences and human spi-
rits in education. If education put aside the moral values, just
talk about "knowledge", this "knowledge" is most likely to
evolve into heresy, may become machinations, even nightmare.
Nightmare emerged continuously in recent years such as sui-
cide, homicide, killing teacher, matricide ... some highly edu-
cated people and college students despise the human life and
lack of life awarenesse should arouse people's alertness, this is
not only the topic about respect life, take responsibility and
improve the anti-frustration force[1], but also the distorted hu-
man nature caused by no humanistic spirit, which are closely
related to the long lack of humanistic spirit in higher education.
Einstein said that the core values of education is to let human
nature to be improven, he believe that students could be a use-
ful machine by professional education, but not necessarily to
become a harmonious development man, to make students un-
derstand the value and produce warm feelings, obtain a clear
cut discrimination of beauty and moral, therefore, it is not
enough only professional knowledge education.
Asymmetry of Science Literacy&Humanistic
Spirit Education for Modern College Students
Human spirit reveal the meaning of human being existence,
reflect the life value, it is cultural values of an era [2]; Science
literacy is the knowledge and ability people should have to deal
with the relationship with nature, that is people use scientific
knowledge to deal with the problem [3].
Fragmentation of Human Spirit and Sci enc e Literacy
Before the mid-19th century, the fundamental purpose of
universities was training physical and psychological developed
people, the purpose of higher education is to search for truth
and perfect personality, even Cambridge and Oxford, did not
develop intellectuals, but train service personnel for the church
or government.
With the development of science and technology, human spi-
rit education in universities was challenged since the start of the
industrialization, because human society need expertise who
master science and technology urgently, the University's mis-
This work was supported by the 7th & 8th teaching building and reform
project of NUIST (No.10KC012 & No. 11J Y053).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
sion shift to train technical personnel, science become an im-
portant part of university education, the function of science
education gradually replaced the humanistic spirit education.
Universities in China established in the late 19th century and
early 20th century, although the main motivation of the Univer-
sity's establishment is to make country rich and to build up
military power, main content is to develop the natural science
education, but retains part cultural education, especially tradi-
tional Chinese humanism education. To the 1950s, for one
sided learning the Soviet Union, the faculties were adjusted
across the country, the implementation of the humane and
science separated education across the whole country, some
universities which were focus on the development of science,
even cancel humanities and social science departments, science
and human spirit were artifici ally separ ated.
Adverse React io ns of Human Spirit and Science
Literacy were Artificially Fragmen ted
Tsinghua University professor Peng Lin pointed out that the
phenomenon of "having high scores but poor ability" is only
one expression caused by the lack of humanistic spirit for the
20th century students, the phenomenon of “knowledge, no cul-
ture” is more serious[4]. In 2011, Jiangxi province carried out
the first event about “Survey of Jiangxi Province Public Hu-
manities and Social Science Literacy”, and published an inves-
tigation report[5]. The report shows that, although people
thought to enhance the humanistic quality had a significant
meaning, but the test results about the basis human knowledge
is a bit worrying, Taoism and Confucianism in China has more
than two thousand years, but the people actually accepted the
test, 27.1% consider LAOZI was a representative figure of
Confucian, 4.2% consider LAOZI is a representative figure of
the Legalists, and another 4.2% choose "I Do not know".
If anybody think about the case of Ma Jiajue who become to
a campus butcher from a merit student in 2004, Fu Chengli who
become a violent killers from a unshine boy in 2008, Yao Jiax-
in who changed to a “cruel murderer” from “God's favored
one” in 2010, and recently the killing teacher case occurred in
Jiangsu university of science and technology, and other unrea-
sonable and irrational things like “World of Warcraft Trading”,
abortions of female college students and so on demonstrated
that people do not know Taoism representative figure is not just
the lack of cultural knowledge, but the higher education long-
term lack of humanistic spirit is terrible. The root cause of this
situation is caused by higher education long-term exercise a
high degree of differentiation of specialized education, and this
is concentrated expression of humanism and literacy artificially
Universities Urgently Need the Unity Education of
Human Spirit and Science Literacy
The history and reality of human society education has
proven that humanities should have valuable natural science,
the decline of the humanities today show that the humanities
without natural science is incomplete; however, natural science
without human spirits is also incomplete, even dangerous, drug
professors' case is a typical crime case that use the professional
knowledge, and endless stream of suicide, homicide, killing
teacher and matricide happened in the universities force us to
ponder, what makes the students, even scholars accepted higher
education, disregard life like that? This is not just the life edu-
cation topic about fear and respect life, take responsibility,
improve the resistance to the life frustration[1], but are closely
related to the absence of humanistic education in modern higher
education, colleges and universities urgently need the unity of
human spirits and science literacy.
Integrate Humanities and Science, Implement
Science & Humanity Education
The Connotation of Science & Humani ty Hi gher
Science and humanity had great contribution to society
progress and personal liberation, but because of the narrowness
of humanistic spirit and the utilitarian of science & technology,
humanities is helpless when it face science and technology.
Today, science and technology is developed rapidly, but it is
more and more apparent that this decelopment can bring disas-
ter to mankind, in order to avoid the human destruction, people
must control this development, making it with a human face,
and let it service for humanity, this is to make science and hu-
manity adapt to the development of times and technology re-
Science and humanity not only believe science, but also ad-
vocate the humanity, where science and technology as a basic
mean, the humanistic spirit as the value of the objectives, the
purpose is to promote the harmonious development of natural
science and human spirit. Science and humanity not only con-
cern the humanity in science and technology, but also pay at-
tention to the scientific value of the humanistic spirit, in the
field of science and humanity education, natural science is the
foundation, humanistic value is the objective, development of
natural sciences and the human spirit is coordinated, and com-
plement each other, real service for the human life.
Therefore, higher education with science and culture should
combine the core of the human spirit and the natural sciences, it
should based on natural science, oriented by humanistic spirit,
focus on the personality development, and emphasis a blend of
science & humanity in professional development, reshape the
individual and coordinate the role of social through education,
to promote educational innovation through the science research,
and highlight the humanity through science and humanities,
therefore, the concept of science and humanity education fully
reflect the human values and imbued with a strong sciences and
humanities spirit.
Objective of Science & Humanity Higher Education
In 21st century, human society is facing four trouble, they are
all life will be eliminated by the nuclear war on Earth; whether
mankind can survive from the ecological destruction for conti-
nuous development of industrialization; population growth and
the North-South confrontation is likely to cause global conflict,
structural unemployment as a result of the rapid expansion by
production automation. Education in 21st century must culti-
vate the ability to resolve these challenges.
United Nations experts in education, S. Rasskh and G. Vai-
deanu, noted, "We do not forget that the beneficial effect of the
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
philosophy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment period in the
transformation of education, in particular, should keep in mind
the precious example of ancient Greece. As Karl Marx pointed
out, in ancient Greece, an ideal objective as a strong and lasting
yearning physically and spiritually successful in shaping the
human. In any case, educational activities and educational in-
stitutions only follow one of the highest purpose only reason to
exist"[6]. The ultimate goal is to "perfect personality" by inte-
grate science and humanity education.
The Realization of Science & Humanity Higher
Artificial fragmentation of science literacy and humanism
spirit education is biased, some people is increasingly inclined
to the coordinated development of the human spirit and science
literacy, practice to carry out an active exploration and research,
and achieved significant results[7, 8].
1) Establish the education methodology for science and hu-
manity education. Research of educational theory started in the
1920s, in the development process, it is bound by the semi-
colonial and semi-feudal society for a long time, therefore, the
theoretical development has been in a state of brief introduction
and imitation for the foreign theory, the main content was the
study of educational theory in the United States and Japan.
After the founding of new China, due to the impact of political
factors, since the 1950s, higher education in China began to
learn, even copy the Soviet Union education theory, but in the
1980s, once again study western educational theory, all of these
indicate that our educational theory lack of self-consciousness
and subjective consciousness, and our own educational theory
has not well established.
After the reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping proposed
that education objective should be face modernization, face the
world and face future, China's education once again on track; In
the 1990s, Jiang Zemin proposed that education should achieve
“two important changes”, he pointed out that the education
necessary to change the development way from extension and
expansion to the connotation elevation, and pay close attention
to the quality of education; Change the low efficiency class-
room but increase burden outside classroom to improve high
efficiency classroom but decrease burden outside classroom,
create effective classroom, "China Reform and development
Outline" and "facing 21st century China Education Revitaliza-
tion Action plan” has promulgated since 1993, the outline and
the plane pointed out the direction to improve the quality of
education, and set forth requirements for the development of
China's educational theory, also brought the opportunity to
develop by leaps and bounds.
In human society start the second decade of the 21st century,
people should summarize the results of education in China
since the reform and opening up, establish education metho-
dology with a connotation of science and humanities, provide
strong support for Chinese education.
2) Build combination of science and humanity education
from the two history. In history, the main content of Chinese
education is traditional humanity education and the education
content is Confucianism. Science literacy education was gradu-
ally rise up after the Western education system was introduced
into China, the concept and definition of the word “SCIENCE”
gradually clear after the argumentation such as China's know-
ledge is the fundament and the western learning to use, it can be
said that modern Chinese education from a humanisty educa-
tion to science education was directed by the value of the
science literacy education, therefore, there is superiority in the
field of the combination of science literacy and humanism spirit
in China. But the education system did not coordinate the rela-
tionship of humanism spirits and science literacy, especially
since the Opium War, "Behind will be beaten" dee ply rooted in
it, exaggerated the role of science, but negated human spirit,
these cause the serious deficiencies of the human spirit in today
higher education.
Higher education should summarize the education history of
humanities and science, it is necessary to strengthen the scien-
tific knowledge, and promote the scientific literacy.
3) Establish new order of science and humanity education.
There are some significant problem in modern Chinese higher
education, mainly reflected as the five field: the first is higher
education has been divided into liberal arts and science, and the
classification began to adopt from secondary school, there is
almost no communication among various subjects; The second
is the course settings cared more is the professional features,
rarely take into account the role of the humanistic spirit in pro-
fessional training; The third is emphasis on the professional
knowledge too much, makes students' disciplinary perspective
and academic atmosphere has been greatly restricted. The
fourth is the impact of various trades and industries emphasize
economic construction in recent years, the utilitarian invade the
education system; The fifth is no matter what kind of students,
the same teaching programs and the same curriculum was used
in the school education, which affect students’ overall quality
training and suppress students’ personality development.
All of these questions show that university education quality
and efficiency can not match the times requirements, it need to
find and establish new educational order which based on the
science and technology, oriented by the humanistic spirit.
The Implement of Science & Humanity Higher
1) Set general courses for science literacy & humanistic
spirit. Based on these ideas, university should set up some gen-
eral courses, such courses should include humanity, social
science and natural science, such as science and technology
philosophy, basic science, astronomy, geography, aesthetics,
psychology, art, history, economics and so on; such courses
teaching, on the one hand, emphasize on ethics and responsibil-
ity, respect for personal believes and cultures, on the other hand
to highlight the human spirit and scientific literacy to help stu-
dents to establish a correct world outlook, values and aesthetics,
while focusing on students correct view of science and rational
wisdom. In addition, the general courses should pay attention to
inspire, enlighten and infected students, the pursuit of macro
knowledge and vast nature, giving prominence to improve the
educational goals of personality.
Set up general courses could not just focus on professional
courses, it need to emphasize the integration of the human spirit
and scientific literacy, the courses need to connect with the life,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
and have a strong science, humanities and openness, they are
able to accommodate the development in all aspects of the stu-
dents. Based on these, the author opened a general course of
"physical thinking and humanistic spirit” in NUIST, the course
tried to introduce the human spirit in the process of physics
development but not to appear formula, the course examination
was mainly in the form of attendance and course paper, the
teaching effectiveness is very good.
2) Create a campus culture for scientific literacy and the
human spirit education. The spirit of the students humanities is
to rely on the development, practice has proved that construct a
variety of campus culture with strong humanistic atmosphere is
an effective way to cultivate the humanistic spirit of college
students. To create a campus culture, on the one hand should to
organize series lecture that is conducive to improving the scien-
tific qua lity, crea te a free acade mic atmosphe re tha t without t he
pressure of examinations, therefore, the speaker gives such
talks need to take a meticulous planning, not only the topic has
a distinctive theme, but also the speak has the passion during
the speech, so as to producing the effect of human spirit; On the
other hand, the University should regularly organizes cultural
festivals, science and technology festival, cultural salons, book
clubs, film and television reviews, poet friends and other such
activities in the campus, and advocate the students participate in
various activities, by this way, let the students feelings to be
sublimated in the college campus, and let the students' sense of
responsibility, sense of mission, sense of obligation and dedica-
tion to be strengthened from these activities. Third, colleges
and universities as talent training base should increase funds
input, improve the teaching conditions, updated laboratory
equipments and supplement library resources, at the same time,
colleges and universities should strengthen the campus land-
scape construction and create cultural landscape in campus, so
that students both in first-class laboratory with advanced
equipment, early exposure to advanced science and technology
to improve the scientific quality, but also thought provoking,
cultivate character and sublimate the spirit in a beautiful cam-
pus environment.
In May 2012, NUIST organized the international students
from and hold the first International Cultural Communication
Festival, the activities conducted only one morning, but it has
played a positive significance for the communication of Chi-
nese stedents and the international students, and it also played a
positive meaning of the promotion of Chinese students under-
stand the culture of other Third World countries.
3) Implement t eaching reform of science education combine
humanity and humanity education combine science. On the
basis of carring forward the fine traditions of the humanities, it
should restraint the radical voluntarism and extreme romantic-
ism in the humanities, and fully integrate into the scientific
thinking, such as inject logical spirit, enter the scientific world
outlook and respect for the rules of nature science laws, let
science promote the progress of humanities education and dis-
cipline self-improvement, make it as an important symbol of
liberal arts education endeavour. Apart from these, liberal arts
education also needs to draw on the scientific method, such as
scientific empirical reasoning, and the critique, innovation and
enterprising based on scientific method. Some specific content
of science education is abstracted and decomposed by science
liberal arts education, and this content is integrated into the
humanities education and research with the use of scientific
creativity, reasoning and critical, so that liberal arts students
obviously feel the appeal of science in their own professional,
and to understand the compatibility between science and liberal
arts education. By this integration of science and liberal arts
education reform, it can can remedy the pragmatic awareness
and utilitarian mentality of the traditional liberal arts.
By the way of setting general courses, NUIST has done a lot
of work for the combination of science and humanity education
in recent years, the school set “College Language” as a general
course, and every science and engineering students must elec-
tive it; according to the school in advantage of the atmospheric
sciences, require all discipline set up two “meteorological cha-
racteristics” courses as the must elective courses. In addition,
the science and engineering students must select a "humanism"
kind course and all liberal arts students are asked to select a
“Science Literacy" kind course during the college, there are
over 60 general courses for students to select every semester,
the general courses involved in history, arts, literature, philos-
ophy, science, engineering, agronomy, medical, business,
management science and other various disciplines, this kind of
course set up can promote the integration of students' scientific
literacy and humanistic spirit, it play a positive role of right
extend the students' cause.
Improve the Science Literacy of liberal arts students and the
humanistic spirit of science students, the integration of the hu-
manistic spirit and science literacy is becoming a consensus.
The combination of science literacy and humanistic spirit in
higher education based on the science education, oriented by
the humanistic spirit, it is performance as infiltration of science
and humanities, it stress the unity of the moral, sciences and
humanities, the ultimate aim is to shape a complete personality.
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