Journal of Futures Studies

Message from Founder

Message from the founder of TKU and JFS

THREE DECADES OF FUTURES STUDIES AT TAMKANG UNIVERSITY

Clement C. P. Chang* 
Founder of Tamkang University
Taiwan, Republic of China

While Europe and America were vigorously promoting Futures Studies, Taiwan was unfamiliar with it and unaffected by its impact. The moment Taiwan began to notice Futures Studies, we raised the field to the international arena. This is the nucleus of the tri-orientation policy that we are currently developing: globalization, information-oriented education and future-oriented education. This paper illustrates the development of Futures Studies at Tamkang University and our expectations for its future in Taiwan. It also deals with the challenges of promoting the “Futures Studies Movement,” the evaluation of the movement, and its plans for the future.

Tamkang University has been promoting Futures Studies for thirty years.

These three decades of development are full of bittersweet experiences. We feel joyful because Futures Studies has finally won its due reception and is widely applied in our society today; we feel bitter because looking back to the past when we were propagating Futures Studies, many people were suspicious of the scientific value and significance of this field. Nevertheless, our bittersweet efforts have finally borne fruit: we have laid a firm foundation for the further development of Futures Studies in Taiwan, the Republic of China.

The Intellectual’s Sense of Responsibility and Awareness

The inception and development of Futures Studies come chiefly from two main sources: the intellectual’s responsibility and awareness; and the social reflection on social changes in the US and Europe #1.

While I was conducting research in the United States between 1968 and 1969, I found that the Republic of China on Taiwan was faced with a formidable challenge never experienced before: Communist China was plotting against us more gravely, and more and more countries drastically changed their diplomatic policies against us, thus making the ROC more isolated internationally. Moreover, our country by then was being changed from an agricultural society into an industrial one; our society was at the transforming stage, so we had to make some adjustments agriculturally, culturally and spiritually.

At that time I assumed that since I was an intellectual devoted to creating knowledge, an educator who disseminated knowledge, and a government officer who served the public, I had the responsibility a Chinese scholar was supposed to have– a broad-mindedness and an ambitious vision. I thought that an intellectual in a modern time must have not only the ability “to project future changes,” but also the ambition “to create future changes” and, especially the intelligence and courage “to make things happen for the tomorrow that we expect to have.”

At that same period, “automation” was vigorously developing in American and European society. I could feel that American and European intellectuals in general were influenced by the concept of a “knowledge explosion,” and that they saw the “future” as a progressive age in which their achievements would continuously surpass their previous ones #2 . For this reason, intellectuals experienced greater pressure from scientific knowledge; at the same time, they were faced with the challenge of higher standards in both behavior and values.

I was convinced that at that time the ROC was at a loss when it came to addressing these trends, and that pressures from foreign and domestic surroundings were looming. I then determined to engage in educational reforms so that we could adjust ourselves to this wave of pressure. I also promoted the “knowledge explosion” concept, awakening the public to understand and adjust themselves to the new trends, to grasp the golden opportunity to create the future #3.

Turning a New Page of the Futures Studies Movement

The seed of Futures Studies took root and flourished in the soils of Tamkang University. Ever since its founding in 1950, Tamkang has faced the future and human beings with a global perspective and broad-mindedness. This is exemplified in the line of its University Anthem: “Oh, grand Tamkang, roll out to sea.”

To begin with, I selected from among numerous books on Futures Studies The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-three Years, by Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Wiener, the leading scholars on Futures Studies, and asked Tamkang faculty, especially those in charge of Futures Studies, to study the book intensively and expound its main ideas to Tamkang students. I also introduced another important book by Kahn, Things to Come: Thinking About the Seventies and Eighties, with the aim of encouraging intellectuals and the general public of the time to give attention to Futures Studies and to the development of future trends. I felt by doing so we could seize the opportunity earlier than others and narrow the distance between our country and the US, Europe, Japan and other developed countries in regard to science and technology.

The two great works I mentioned above were included in our “Works of Tomorrow” Reading List. Other volumes covered in this booklist were By Bread Alone; Innovations: Scientific, Technological and Social; Reach for Tomorrow; Only One Earth: the Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet; Man and the Future; New Forces in World Politics; Political Science and the Study of the Future; Loosing Ground: Environmental Stress and World Food Prospects; American Higher Education: Its Future and Prospect; Knowledge Explosion; and The Coming Boom: Economical, Political and Social. Moreover, it took me more than ten years to complete four volumes of Education in a Changing Society.

Accelerating the Dissemination of Futures Studies: The World of Tomorrow

With the advent of the 1970s, intellectuals in the US underwent a great ideological changes: they found that growth was not without limits. They consequently proposed the “limits to growth” concept, believing that if the natural resources kept on being explored and developed, then within one hundred years people would reach the limit of their growth.

At this time I made the following appeal to the ROC society: Politically, we had to build up a commonwealth system based on Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People; ideologically, we had to establish a symbiotic system based on individual well-being; economically, we had to set up an international joint venture system based on a regional division of labor; academically, we had to integrate the sciences; and technologically, we had to develop an immediate international communication system based on the information industry. All these would enable us to grasp the explosion of knowledge and to break through the limits of growth.

Accordingly, to encourage our citizens to pay more attention to the future, to accelerate the building of the concept on the future, and to broaden the level as well as the scope of research on the future, in 1974 Tamkang University prepared for the publication of a journal devoted to the study of future trends: The World of Tomorrow.

With the publication of this journal, I hoped to gather the strength, wisdom, and knowledge of the elite from all sectors to arouse the general public to be concerned about and deal with the future; I also hoped to provide the public with a common forum to voice their views and to discuss various issues, thereby accomplishing my aim of making people regard discussion of “the world of tomorrow” as an integral part of their lives. The World of Tomorrow was thus inaugurated in January, 1975.

The editorial board of this journal was divided into several sections, inviting scholars and specialists from various fields of research to contribute their wisdom; they formed the nucleus of our Futures Studies organization. The World of Tomorrow had sponsored various seminars, offering constructive suggestions about or drawing the future blueprints of our social system and its institutions. During our visits to many cities and counties in the ROC, we sponsored numerous seminars on municipal affairs, eleven seminars on national affairs and other thematic seminars, such as “the Youth and the Country,” “Children’s Theater,” “Doctoral Education in the Republic of China,” “Current Economic Issues,” “The Future Development of Enterprise,” “The Fifth Generation of Computers,” and “Intelligence Property Rights.”

Ever since its publication, The World of Tomorrow had fulfilled its goals: the enterprising world has paid more attention to the concept of “looking forward to the future,” and the academic world has noticed the development of Futures Studies. At least as importantly, the ROC government has also begun to adopt a “future view” in their decision-making , and so the “future” concept has spread, taking root deeply in the major strata of our society and government.

Spreading the Futures Studies Movement

Futurist Alvin Toffler once commented that “Education was derived from future images; it also produces future images.” The function of education is far-reaching, so I believe that it is only through the strength of education that we can rapidly promote Futures Studies. If we can systematically cultivate the future-concept among our students, then they will become the disseminators of this concept. Moreover, our society will sooner or later be handed on to these young men and women, so if every stratum of our society is populated with young persons with future concept, then our society will be renovated faster, thereby creating bright prospects #4.

For this reason, beginning in 1976, I offered a course on Futures Studies at Tamkang University. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a very popular course, with crowds of students struggling to be enrolled. I took this as evidence that students have a dreamy vision of “the future,” and are interested enough in it to study it in the classroom #5.

My course was offered as a lecture series, and it included scholars and specialists who were invited to speak on their respective professionals. This method served to establish a firm foundation in Futures Studies, and allowed students to browse among various fields of study. The course applied the idea of “inter-science integration” emphasized by Futures Studies 6, which encompasses such wide areas as information science, management, technology, ecology, nature protection, economy, society, culture, life science, humanities and literature. Thematic issues within these areas are addressed in alternate semesters.

To meet students’ ardent demand, Tamkang University rapidly opened more classes on Futures Studies. Class attendance also grew steadily; the number of students per class even soared to as many as 360 , resulting in the opening of five daytime classes, and another five in the evening. Over one thousand students were taking this course every semester! To help students who were interested in this subject to study further, we opened a more advanced course called “Research in Futures Studies” in the graduate school. The class was offered in the form of seminars, which were jointly conducted by different professors specializing in different fields.

In 1985, with the ending of this period of disseminating the “future” concept, the curriculum on Futures Studies underwent its first renovation: adjusting the percentage of the lectures series. From then on, a professor’s teaching hours were increased to five sixths of the whole semester period, with the aim of deepening and strengthening students’s comprehension of Futures Studies, as well as to emphasize theory and methodology, so as to cultivate students’ research abilities.

The approach of 1994 witnessed another renovation: big classes on Futures Studies were reduced to smaller ones with a maximum of seventy students per class. Since the academic year 1996 there have been no more big classes on Futures Studies; as a result, the quality in both teaching and learning was under total control.

No sooner than this latest renovation, the “Futures Studies” course was directed toward deeper and more specialized branches. The course was subdivided into “The Future of the Economy,” “The Future of Society,” and “The Future of Technology” — each offered by a professional. Up to the present, more than thirty classes have been opened per semester–approximately seventy classes per academic year–making them the most popular courses among students. Furthermore, the College of Business itself opened its “Futures Studies and the Economy” in 1996.

“Futures Studies” courses are not limited to undergraduates ; they are also taught in the graduate schools, held alternatively by the College of International Studies and the College of Business: “Futures Studies” is given in the first semester, while “Futures Studies in the Twenty-first Century” is offered in the second semester. This lecture is presided over by me. Besides inviting full-time professors to give lectures and conduct small group discussions in their specialized fields, I also invite off-campus scholars to my class. Students taking my course are strictly required to present a research paper.

In addition to Futures Studies offered on campus, Tamkang University also renders social services through contributing articles or giving lectures on Futures Studies.

I have been invited to give long-term lectures on Futures Studies at the Sun Yat-sen Institute on Policy Research and Development, and at the Taipei Municipal Government Officers’ Training Center. Moreover, in my capacity as the Taipei speaker I initiated an academic forum at the Taipei City Council to promote the concept of the future.

In addition, our university’s professors of Futures Studies are often invited to deliver lectures for social organizations, enterprising institutions, private and public institutions; to give lectures or offer classes at other universities; and to contribute articles to many newspapers and journals–all of which contribute immensely to promoting Futures Studies in Taiwan.

Establishing the Global System of Tamkang Futures Studies

With a view to accelerating the promotion of Futures Studies teaching and research, Tamkang University established a Division of Futures Studies in the University’s Educational Development Center in 1995. The Division is in charge of planning a Futures Studies system. It is responsible not only for the planning of the university’s Futures Studies curricula, but also for the promotion of a Futures Studies movement in Taiwan, Asia, and around the globe. In its two-year history, the Division has prepared several enhancements of the existing Futures Studies interests of the University as follows:

  1. To establish good relations between Tamkang University and the World Future Society (WFS) and the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF).
  2. As a follow-up to sending two of our full-time professors to attend the annual convention on Futures Studies four years ago, we have selected two students and sent them on a delegation led by a professor to attend the annual convention, thus cultivating students’ ability to participate in the international conferences, encouraging faculty members to present papers at the conferences, and collecting the latest first-hand information and materials.
  3. To publish books on futures studies in a series entitled “The Great Futures Series.” So far we are on the process of publishing for the Series such books as Futures Studies; Winners in the Year 3,000; Great Trends of Asian Economy; Economy Futures Studies; Global Economy Futures Studies; etc. Moreover, Another Kind of Future is expected to be published at year end.
  4. To set up systematically a Futures Studies library. Currently we have purchased two thousand volumes of books from the WFS, actively expand our lines of collecting information, and file the summaries of world’s major dissertations on Futures Studies.
  5. To continue publishing the Journal of Futures Studies, a scholarly journal in English. Up to the present, we have issued two numbers. Besides, we are going to publish a newsletter entitled The Great Futures so as to exchange information on Futures Studies and to keep contacts with people concerned.
  6. We are preparing an annual “week of Futures Studies” to introduce major themes on Futures Studies to on- and off- campus people, who are concerned about Futures Studies. This year’s main theme is “The New Futures: Values and Culture.”

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Journal of Futures Studies

Tamkang University, Tamsui Campus
Taipei, Taiwan 251
Tel: 886 2-2621-5656 ext. 3001
Fax: 886 2-2629-6440

ISSN 1027-6084